In a tightly contested race, Laura Alvarado was able to squeak out a victory with a single-digit margin to earn a second term as the District 1 representative.
The unofficial vote count is 213 votes, or 50.96%, for Alvarado and 205 votes, or 49.04%, for challenger Mercedes Renteria. The votes will not be made official until council convenes for a canvassing session during a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 18.
If the vote count is made official, Alvarado will have defeated Renteria for a second time. The two first met during the District 1 council race in 2013, when Renteria won.
Alvarado was gracious to those she said helped her edge out a win.
“It was a close one District 1, but we still came out on top,” Alvarado said. “I’m truly proud of all the work my campaign did. We ran with facts, heart, and dedication to our community. I appreciate all the voters who turned out in support and recognized that it wasn’t just me they were voting for, but for themselves as well.”
Alvarado said she wanted to recognize her campaign manager, Fred Aguilar, and Treasurer Agustin Loredo III.
“I also had support from several District 1 and other citywide residents knocking on doors, placing calls and just getting the word out,” she said. “Our campaign also included our hardworking Baytown Professional Firefighters Association led by Daniel Calhoun and Dallas Webb, who all spent numerous hours on the ground knocking on doors with me, as well as with multimedia voter outreach. I was honored to be the first candidate endorsed by the Baytown Municipal Police Association. Our community overall is strengthened by the mutual partnerships we garner.”
Alvarado spoke in Spanish to thank her family, who she said was “very supportive of my passion to serve.”
“Mama- gracias por estar aquí conmigo! Y papa tambien por su apoyo y horaciones desde Alamo,” Alvarado said.
Alvarado said District 1 had come a long way since she first came into office three years ago.
“It has taken time and dedication to get projects going, and I’m excited to continue on that journey,” Alvarado said. “We still have several drainage and street improvements to work on, the Historic West End redevelopment, hotel conference center, the possibility of the USS Texas Battleship coming here and much more. I’m ready to keep going.”
Renteria said he does not plan to ask for a recount despite the close vote count.
“I would like to congratulate the other team. They did a good job. They did a job well done,” Renteria said.
Renteria was asked if he expected the race to be so close.
“Honestly, I was expecting to win,” he said. “But, it says a lot that we got that close.
“She had the fire department working for her and the police department working for her, and nevertheless, we only came up short a few votes.”
Renteria also made reference to Alvarado’s vote on an issue involving the cancer-stricken battalion chief, Patrick Mahoney, who was sued by the city over coverage for medical treatment. Both the city and Mahoney signed an agreed judgment in October.
“It was beyond me how the fire department would support her when she voted against giving one of the fireman insurance when he needed it for his cancer,” Renteria said. “
The loss has not dampened Renteria’s spirit.
“I am not really disappointed,” he said. “I served 14 years (on council). I was retired, and I was asked to come back because they said she was not a voice for a lot of people in Baytown. And a lot of people are angry. It goes to show that we were able to get that close, and that is why. I am not disappointed, but it just didn’t work for us this time, and it is what it is.”
The former councilman said the race was like David versus Goliath.
“If she didn’t have all those people doing the work for her, it would’ve been a different story,” Renteria said. “I fell short, but I was proud of our team, and we left everything on the table. Sometimes it happens that way. Look at the Astros. They were in the World Series, and they were the better team, but they didn’t win. That is just the way it is sometimes.”
Renteria said he plans to stay visible within the community.
“I always keep my eyes and ears open,” Renteria said. “People come to me and talk about stuff they feel needs to happen in Baytown, with me being a former councilman. So, I do plan on staying focused on issues with things going on in the city. I would like to see some positive changes. A lot of people in Baytown would like to as well. And it will come, it is just a matter of time.”
Renteria was more specific on what changes he meant.
“I think we need a lot of changes to be made at City Hall,” Renteria said. “We probably need to get a new city manager and a new assistant city manager there. It is just time for change. Just like council people come and go, sometimes city managers need to come and go also. It is just the way it is.”
In the eight precincts that voted in the District 1 race, there were a total of 4,827 registered voters, according to Harris County Clerk Diane Troutman’s website. There were 429 votes cast and an 8.89% voter turnout. Alvarado had eight absentee votes, 103 early votes, and 102 votes on Election Day. Renteria had 11 absentee votes, 115 early votes, and 79 Election Day votes.