After taking time for Christmas, hot election took center stage again

The election of 1888 continued to rile folks long after Election Day. But in December the community took a deep breath to enjoy the Christmas season.

Father Bard celebrated the midnight Mass or misa de gallo to a full church with more than half of the town in attendance and many standing outside of church because it was packed. After Mass, the people enjoyed some eggnog and a fireworks display of shooting rockets, Roman candles, and firecrackers. There was also plenty of drinking, but no one got into trouble.

The next day, on Christmas, the Gun Club held a shooting match in which Juan Puig was the subject of everyone’s jokes after he missed all his shots. Townspeople also enjoyed some horse races and had the choice of two or three dances, one put on by John Buckley, Jr. for the young people and another by Willie Rallston at the old Spann Building.

Bad weather did not keep people away from a New Year’s dance at the Garfield House. Even though the streets were in terrible condition, more than 100 San Diego residents showed up. The San Diego Club sponsored the ball and invited families of any social standing without regard to politics. Some did not attend, however, because of politics. Later in the week, the Martinet Hotel held a house-warming party for its new building. The new spacious hotel was built adjacent to Mrs. E. Martinet’s house for travelers and boarders.

In January 1889 politics and the recent election with its attendant issues came back to the forefront. District Judge J. C. Russell impaneled a grand jury and in his charge reminded them that the law on illegal voting and election fraud was very clear. Judge Russell appointed former state senator N. G. Collins as foreman of the grand jury.

Rumors about town were that the grand jury was going to consider some 50 to 60 indictments for illegal voting. La Bota charged that Republicans had imported voters from Nueces and Starr Counties and even from Mexico. They brought quo warranto proceedings against the county judge, county attorney, county clerk, sheriff, assessor, county surveyor, and the hide and animal inspector. A quo warranto proceeding was a legal maneuver requiring somebody to state by what authority he or she acted or held a position. 

One political observer noted that “Lame election law has brought this expense upon the county, and will no doubt send many a poor Mexican to the state prison.”

La Bota members filed affidavits claiming they could not get a fair trial in Duval County so the cases were transferred to Nueces County. While La Bota claimed they had been elected by majority vote of Duval County citizens, they also claimed these same citizens would not give them a fair trial.

Authorities arrested Juan Zardiente, who had been elected commissioner from Precinct 2 in Benavides on charges of illegal voting because he allegedly was not a citizen. The mater was quickly cleared up when Zardiente provided proof of citizenship and of having lived in the precinct the required number of days before the election.

The election controversies were still not over.