Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr.

Alice Echo-News Journal

South Texans take their politics seriously, and when it comes to families, political divisions sometimes run deep. For San Diego residents Mark Anthony and Tracey Lopez, political betrayal came from an unusual source.

In late January, the couple was tipped off that a mail-in ballot application had been forged in Mark Anthony’s name. Tracy would not say who that source was, but the couple was aware of the connections Mark’s stepmother, Cindy Lopez, has to Jim Wells County politics.

As a “politiquera,” Cindy Lopez worked as a canvasser for several candidates in the March 4 Primary election.

During the election contest trial between Juan Rodriguez and Justice of the Peace Precinct 1-elect Guadalupe Martinez in the 79th District Court this week, Lopez admitted working for Martinez, Tax Assessor Collector-elect Mary Lozano and District Attorney-elect Armando Barrera.

Tracey Lopez said Mark Anthony’s mail-in ballot application was part of a package of applications Cindy Lopez allegedly delivered to Barrera in the months leading up to the Primary.

Lopez said part of Cindy Lopez’s job involved picking up mail-in ballot applications from voters and taking them to candidates.

“When we confronted her about it, she said she had other people working, but I heard that wasn’t true, that it was her,” Lopez said. “She (Cindy) is my husband’s stepmom, she isn’t going to admit it.”

The couple called Barrera’s office in February, demanding to see Mark Anthony’s application, which was in Barrera’s possession, Tracey Lopez said.

“By the time we got there. It was already on the table. So I don’t even know who, she wasn’t there when we got there, so I’m assuming it was already there in his office,” Tracey Lopez said. “It was already on the table when he took us to the back. He (Barrera) was telling us that he didn’t want us to think he had any part to do with it, because he didn’t. We told him ‘we believe you, that’s why we’re here.’”

Cindy Lopez arrived shortly thereafter with her husband, Gilivaldo Lopez, and a large box containing lists of names and other election related paperwork, Tracey Lopez said.

Tracey Lopez said her husband voted with Cindy Lopez in the last election in 2006, and Cindy Lopez said during the meeting that she was familiar with Mark’s signature, and that the application’s signature didn’t match.

According to Tracey Lopez, Barrera asked who had signed the application, but Cindy Lopez said she didn’t know. Later, she claimed to the group that she did know but wouldn’t say. Tracey Lopez said Barrera then scolded Cindy about the application.

“He’s not even disabled,’ Tracey Lopez recalled Barrera saying. “Why did you put disability?”

“We didn’t do anything in the beginning, because she is his stepmother and it’s hard,” Tracey Lopez said. “But yesterday (Thursday), when she was in the paper, I thought she had gotten in trouble because of this, because of what she’d done, but she didn’t,” Tracey Lopez said.

Tracey called her husband over the phone to let him know about what happened in court from reading the Alice Echo-News Journal. He was furious, Tracey Lopez said. “He told me to go ahead and come forward,” she said.

Lopez said there are two different writings on the mail-in ballot application, neither one in her husband’s handwriting. The signature on the document showed “Mark A. Lopez,” while Lopez himself always signs his full name, “Mark Anthony Lopez,” Tracy Lopez said. Lopez also said her husband signs his name in an almost “chicken scratch” style, while the applications shows a clear, readable signature.

Along with the handwriting, the application also marked Lopez as disabled, a claim his wife flatly denies. Her husband is currently at school for his Commercial Driver’s License as part of his employment with Halliburton, Lopez said.

Lopez also pointed out that they do not live at 1407 S. Wright in Alice, as stated on the mail-in ballot application. That is her mother-in-law, Henrietta Lopez’s home address.

The couple does not reside in Jim Wells County, Lopez said, but in the northern part of San Diego, within the Duval County limits.

The mailing address on the document is to P.O. Box 4114, which Lopez said is the mailing address for Cindy Lopez. That address is also indicated on Cindy Lopez’s own mail-in application, which indicates she is disabled, though she worked as a canvasser.

Tracey Lopez said her husband didn’t sign any part of the application.

Cindy lopez refused to answer questions concerning her stepson’s mail-in ballot application.

Calls to Barrera’s office were not returned.