Baja California residents go to the polls on Sunday to elect a new governor and state legislature. Voters will also cast ballots for new mayors in Tijuana, Mexicali and the state’s three other municipalities.
The fight over the governor’s seat is being closely watched in Mexico because of the position’s historical and political significance in the country’s democratic evolution.
The conservative National Action Party, or PAN, has ruled Baja California since 1989 when Ernesto Ruffo Appel (now a senator) became the first state governor in the country to win against a candidate of the dynastic Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
The PRI ruled Mexico for 71 years following the country’s 1910 revolution. Last year, the party took back the presidency from the PAN after a 12 years hiatus. (Enrique Peña Nieto was sworn in on Dec. 1, 2012.)
In Baja California, the latest independent poll shows PAN gubernatorial candidate Francisco Vega de Lamadrid with an eight point lead over his main rival Fernando Castro Trenti of the PRI. But the vote is expected to be close.
The race has been fraught with accusations and formal complaints on both sides. On July 2, Mexican newspaper El Universal reported that a court deposition obtained by the paper revealed a 2003 deal between drug traffickers and the brother of Castro Trenti.
At the time, Francisco Castro Trenti ran Baja California’s criminal-forensics unit. He’s now the public security chief of Rosarito.
The witness, who the paper identified as a former leader of the Tijuana Cartel, said the cartel paid Francisco Castro Trenti $200,000 to frame another man for a murder committed by a cartel hit man.
Francisco Castro Trenti denied the accusations. His brother, the candidate, dismissed the accusation as a smear campaign.
Thirteen other Mexican states are also holding elections on July 7, including the border states of Chihuahua, Coahuila and Tamaulipas.