The Texas attorney general’s office has opened an investigation into a contested election in the Rio Grande Valley won by a client of Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa two years ago, according to a lawyer for the losing candidate. Houston attorney Jerad Najvar said Thursday that Attorney General Ken Paxton‘s office is acting on a criminal complaint filed by his client, Letty Lopez. She lost to Lupe Rivera, Hinojosa’s client, by 16 votes in a November 2013 election for a spot on the Weslaco City Commission. More than a year ago, a visiting judge ruled that some of the votes for Rivera were illegally cast and ordered a new election held as soon as possible, according to local media. Legal wrangling has kept the new election from taking place, and Rivera has remained in office while Hinojosa has defended him in court.
In an interview Friday, Hinojosa said he had no comment about the investigation but questioned the motivations of Najvar, a prominent Republican lawyer who specializes in campaign finance and political law. The case has no doubt provided fodder to the Texas GOP, which has latched on to reports of corruption in the Valley to accuse Democrats of hypocrisy on voting rights.
Lopez’s challenge made its way to the attorney general’s office via the secretary of state’s office, with which she first filed a complaint alleging voter fraud in the original election. In a letter dated May 13, the secretary of state’s office asked the attorney general’s office to get involved, saying Lopez’s complaint “demonstrates that it is likely unlawful voting occurred.”