BND election features one tight race

One Brownsville Navigation District Board incumbent, Sergio Tito Lopez, appeared to easily manage to fend off a challenger in this year’s election, though BND Board Chairman John Reed was just slightly ahead of his challenger as of press time with 97 percent of precincts reporting.

Those unofficial election results from early voting and Election Day show BND Place 3 Commissioner and Chairman John Reed with 24,442 votes compared to 24,432 for challenger Julio Graña. Place 5 Commissioner and Vice Chairman Sergio Tito Lopez received 36,039 votes compared to 12,134 for challenger Bill Berg.

The totals do not include mail in ballots.

Early voting resulted in 20,346 votes or 50.7 percent for Reed and 19,773 votes or 49.3 percent for Graña. Lopez received 29,395 early votes or 74.4 percent, while Berg received 10,102 or 25.6 percent.

Lopez, first elected to the board in 2010, during the campaign touted his 30 years of international trade and logistical experience as a reason he should be reelected. Lopez owns Jonick-Lopez International Transport, a freight-forwarding firm with warehousing and shipping assets in Brownsville and Matamoros and a payroll of more than 100 employees. He has also served as the local president and national vice president of the Mexican transportation group Camara Nacional de Carga.

Lopez pledged if reelected to continue the port’s growth and fiscal transparency while seeking out new investment and creating jobs “directly and indirectly.” He attributed his victory firstly to God, but also to the BND commission’s record.

“With God everything is possible,” Lopez told the Herald Tuesday night. “I think the people have seen the work that we’ve done at the commission. It’s a team effort. It’s not a one-person thing, so I think that’s very important.”

He said he intended to continue working with his fellow commissioners to “move the port forward.”

“I think the port is a huge generator of employment,” Lopez said. “We just need to continue to look for appropriate niche markets.”

Reed, who was elected to his first BND term in 2008, ran on his record during the campaign, pointing to nearly $100 million invested in docks, roads, water lines, lighting, cranes, buildings and other facilities during his 12 years on the board. He said his top priorities for the port if reelected would include securing funding for a project to deepen the Brownsville Ship Channel, attracting companies that would bring ship traffic and high-paying jobs.

Reed also said he would keep prioritizing investment in infrastructure necessary for the port’s growth, and help finalize a steel mill expansion project in Monterrey, Mexico, that would greatly increase the port’s slab steel business.

Graña during the campaign accused Reed of complacency and not fully taking advantage of the port’s potential for economic growth and job creation. The longtime Brownsville resident touted his experience of growing up in his family’s hotel business as giving him the skills necessary to “grow a business.” Graña also described himself as a job creator who manages more than 100 employees and an effective team builder.

Berg had argued that he was the better choice to represent BND Place 5 in part because he would have been the board’s sole voice against climate change. Berg is staunchly opposed to proposals for liquefied natural gas terminals to be developed at the port, though the BND commission is unanimously in favor of such developments.

The former chairman of the University of Texas at Brownsville engineering department said during the campaign that his goal in running for Place 5 was “to keep our port clean and protect the environment so that we can eat the fish we catch there, enjoy the view as we drive past and smell the ocean, not petrochemicals.”

sclark@brownsvilleherald.com