By Juan Montoya
As recently as the election of Justice of the Peace Erin Garcia Hernandez last year, the vote-Hernandez Family vote-harvesting machine could count on Margarita Ozuna and her fellow politqueras to deliver the votes Ernie and Norma Hernandez needed to put their candidates in office.
Yet, when the tendrils of the law in the form of an indictment from a grand jury sought by the Texas Attorney General for her involvement in catapulting Ernie to Cameron County Pct. 2 commissioner snagged Ozuna, the Hernandezes gingerly sidestepped any involvement on her behalf. It fell on the lot of defeated (and former Asst. Cameron County District Attorney) Carlos Masso to step in and defend his campaign helper who had also brought in the votes for him in the form of mail-in ballots from the southeast corner of the county.
Only the fact that it was a countywide race and the heavy vote from the northern precincts neutralized her votes made Luis Saenz the eventual winner.
Now, as Ozuna struggles to pay her fines (totalling more than $1,000 with court costs and fines combined), she is being forced to sell tamales in the same barrios where she collected mail-in ballots for Erin Hernandez and before that, her father Ernie against Ruben Peña.
It is the only ource of income she has to pay her fines, they say.
Her friends and associates say that the response from the Hernandezes – Ernie, Erin and Norma – to Ozuna's financial plight after she agreed with Masso and pleaded no contest to the charges brought by the state has been repulsive.
"The reason Erin and Ernie are in those positions now is because Mage walked the barrios picking up the mail-in ballots and taking her votes to the polling places," said an associate who has worked the votes with her before.
They say that when Ozuna and her friends approached Hernandez, he said he could not help her pay the fines (or even with a measly $100) because business at his sign-shop was "down."
"Can you imagine that?," asked one. "Here Mage helps Ernie and Erin get their $60,000 salaries and they can't help her pay her fines? Hell, if it was me, I'd pay all her fines just to keep her quiet."
It's not bravado behind this statement.
Given the notoriety that Ernie, his daughter Justice of the Peace Erin Garcia and Norma, his wife and her mother, have earned for themselves, it is highly doubtful that the electorate will return them to their positions come the Democratic primaries next Spring of 2014.
Here's another bit of bad news for Ernie and Erin.
Those harvested votes that politiqueras Margarita Ozuna and Herminia Becerra delivered to get them over the hump – the write-ins from, elderly, impaired and the illiterate – will probably not be there this time around. Ozuna was indicted and pleaded no contest to illegally assisting a voter in the Hernandez contest against Ruben Peña in 2010, the same year that the politiquera votes helped him beat Peña by 149 mail-in votes votes after losing in the early and walk-in voting.
The same goes for Erin who overcame a 500 vote deficit against Yolanda Begum in 2012. She also runs in 2014 because she was serving the unexpired term of Tony Torres, who died in office.
Now word has reached us that none other than Ozuna and her associates have said that just as she and her cadre of political operatives helped put him and his daughter in office, they will use those same energies to give them both "vacations."
That's not all the IEDs awaiting the Hernandezes in 2014.
Given the fact that they cannot count on these women's votes to fix their respective elections, how can they promise Ernies's Admin Asst. Raul Salazar that they will be able to help him beat the rap for his indictment for allegedly trying to fraudulently have Robert o Cadriel – Ernie's brother-in-law and Norma's brother – bypass the county's Civil Service exam by having another county employee take the test for him and pass it?
At least a few of Salazar's relatives have said that they are advising him to to take the fall for the Hernadezes and tell prosecutors of their role in the affair.
"It's the perfect storm that's brewing for the Hernandez vote-harvesting machine," said a source close to the family. "Miran la tormenta y no se hincan."