PORT LAVACA – The board member who directed port staff to hire former Congressman Blake Farenthold as a lobbyist was trounced Saturday, and so was his staunch ally.
Luis De La Garza will now represent District 4 on the board while Jasper “Jay” Cuellar will represent District 2.
Both men beat the longtime incumbents, Randy L. Boyd and Dell R. Weathersby, respectively, by wide margins. De La Garza earned 70% of the vote, while Boyd earned 20%. Cuellar earned 76% of the vote, while Weathersby earned 24%.
Boyd and Weathersby garnered challengers because of the decision to hire Farenthold and because of their handling of a lawsuit about the hiring.
Because Farenthold was hired without the public’s knowledge, the Victoria Advocate sued the port.
At the same time, Advocate reporters investigated Boyd and discovered that while in office, Farenthold had tried to steer a federal dredging contract to Boyd’s company.
Farenthold eventually resigned and the lawsuit was dismissed, but not before the port racked up significant legal bills and public scrutiny.
At a debate last month, Boyd said his background in dredging was an asset to the port and he hadn’t done anything improper. He said Farenthold was hired to get Congress to authorize funding for the failing Matagorda Ship Channel jetties and to lessen what the port would have to pay to fix them.
“With the dysfunctionality going on in D.C., I’m not sure anybody could get anything through right now,” Boyd said during the debate.
In addition to De La Garza, Paul Lauterbach, Roger Hochgraber and Alvin Bland ran against Boyd.
Cuellar was Weathersby only challenger, and the port’s rules were such that the person who received the most votes won.
When the votes were returned, De La Garza’s friends and family cheered and hugged.
“I just knew he would get it,” De La Garza’s wife, Pam, said at the Calhoun County Courthouse. “He is such a good person and anything he does, he gives it 100%.”
His friends and family had spent the day going door to door and handing out flyers. In all, his campaign spent about $2,000, while Boyd’s spent about $13,000.
De La Garza, who is retired from STP Nuclear Operating Co. and owns an apartment complex in Port Lavaca, said he was humbled by the results and promised to educate himself about the issues facing the port and make the best decisions possible. He also vowed to make those decisions transparently.
“I think it’s a new day for us and that new day starts with credibility and integrity for the port, and I’m happy to be a part of that. I really am, so thank you,” De La Garza said.
Boyd could not be reached for comment.
There are about 2,000 registered voters in District 4, an area of the city loosely bound by Half League Road on the north, Lavaca Bay on the south, SH 35 on the west and Lake Placido Road on the east.