Tijuana Could Make History, If Voters Show Up

Voters all around the country are focused on the 2016 presidential primary, while California is getting ready to vote on June 7. At the same time, our neighbors south of the border are also going through their own electoral process.

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Voters of sixteen states in Mexico will head to the polls Sunday, June 5, to elect their governor, mayor, and other local legislators.

Given that this election cycle does not include the presidential election – which will take place in 2018 – voters are mainly focused on gubernatorial and mayoral races. The lack of a presidential candidate is likely to lead to low turnout in the midterm election.

As many Mexican voters are rejecting party control of elections, more independent candidates are getting their name on the ballot.

Just miles from San Diego, in the city of Tijuana, Gaston Luken is running for mayor without the support of a political party, challenging the major parties – PRI and PAN – who have passed control of the city back and forth between them since 1953.

As many Mexican voters are rejecting party control of elections, more independent candidates are getting their name on the ballot.

As it stands today, Mexican election laws still make it extremely difficult for candidates and voters to participate in government without joining a political party. Because electoral rules in Mexico severely limit access to local television, Gaston Luken’s campaign has focused on social media.

What started as a small citizens movement, has slowly grown into a progressive campaign (perhaps Tijuana’s first progressive campaign) that touches on many of the city’s social and cultural rights issues. This has resonated with young voters who want an alternative to the two-party system that controls the political arena.

In the most recent poll by El Tijuanense, a local newspaper, Gaston is leading the electoral race with 32%, followed by Leyzaola, a well-known right-wing former military colonel, with 27%. The candidates for the major parties trail the independent with 17% for PRI and 12% for PAN.

With less than a week left before election day, Gaston is on track to make history and become the first independent mayor of Tijuana, and the first independent to hold an office in the State of Baja California. But it will only happen if young voters and other independents actually show up to the polls.

In one of his last campaign messages, Gaston told his followers:

“It is possible to beat the parties. The only thing we need is for everyone to head to the polls this Sunday, June 5. We all share the same cause, the same wish, the same dream. To have a better city for us, for our kids. On June 5, it’s not about winning a seat; it’s about transforming a city.”

Note from author: Mexico’s electoral laws require all candidate to stop campaigning five days before the election.