Hugo Balta is the new President of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. He defeated Russell Contreras 154 to 95. Out of 614 eligible voters, only 252 voted in the 2012 elections. The results were announced during Friday’s NAHJ Gala during the UNITY Journalists convention in Las Vegas.
There were four contested races:
For VP Broadcast, Mekahlo Medina won with 148 votes, to Nick Valencia’s 95.
For VP Online, Rebecca Aguilar got 145 votes, beating Francisco Cortes, who got 104.
Spanish Language At-Large had three candidates. Mariela Murdocco was the winner, with 92 votes, closely followed by Cesar Arrendondo with 86 votes and Josie Tizcareno with 72.
Surprising everyone, the Secretary race ended in a tie. Candidates Sergio Quintana and Chris Ramirez both got 124 votes. The new board met all day on Saturday and decided the tie would be resolved by extending the voting for secretary for another two weeks.
“The same rules apply,” says Hugo. “Eligible voters must be members in good standing by June 11, 2012 and have not voted yet. All votes given to each candidate stand.” That means people who already voted will not be able to switch their votes.
In the other uncontested races, the winners are:
Erin Ailworth, VP Print. Blanca Torres, Treasurer. Elizabeth Alvarez, General At-Large. Federico Subervi, Academic At-Large and Nicole Chavez, Student Representative.
Prior to the announcement of the election results, outgoing president Michele Salcedo delivered her farewell speech. The negative tenor of her remarks, which included chastising candidates for disrespectful behavior in one of “the most divisive campaigns” in NAHJ’s history, belittling members who ran for office, and insinuating that the winners would be reaping the benefits of the current board’s work, generated a lot of buzz after the evening’s ceremony.
Returning members as well as sponsors, who had been unaware of the contentious election and knew little of NAHJ’s recent financial difficulties, were troubled by her comments.
“What was that all about?” asked one Spanish-language media executive who preferred not to be identified. “I haven’t come to the conference in a few years, but I’ve never seen anything like it. I was shocked that she would say those things.”
Another member who voted for Michele in 2010 was disappointed over her speech. “She missed a great opportunity to leave the presidency with her head held high. Being president of an organization isn’t easy. There was no need for her to say what she did. Now, people are going to remember her for her negative attitude, for firing the entire NAHJ staff and for kicking a student out of a board meeting.” The NAHJ member, who also didn’t want to be identified, referred to the incident on Tuesday of this past week, when a UNITY News journalism student was told she could not live tweet what was happening in the board meeting and was asked to leave. You can read that story here. The new board has repealed the no-tweeting policy. Richard Prince reports that story.
Hugo’s speech, by contrast, was much more uplifting and positive, promising to restore NAHJ’s financial stability, reputation and pride and calling on the “NAHJ nation” to put aside differences and work together to rebuild the organization. But some of his remarks caused concerns among longtime members, like giving students and media relations members full voting rights. You can read his speech here.
Asked about his win after such an intensive campaign, Hugo says: “I’m very grateful to all of the support I’ve received by the members, sponsors of NAHJ as well as the Unity family. It’s comforting to have so many passionate and committed people offering to help restore NAHJ. I’m impressed by the discussions and debates of the board in our first meeting and look forward to working together with our fellow members in fulfilling NAHJ’s mission.”
This was Hugo’s second run for the presidency. He lost to Michele Salcedo in 2010 by just 13 votes. Mekahlo also ran and lost the VP Broadcast race the same year as Hugo.
“Two years ago, I lost by a handful of votes, but I refused to be discouraged by defeat,” states Mekahlo. “I’m grateful such a large percentage of members gave me their trust to fill the position of VP of broadcast. I’ll intend to focus on Spanish-language broadcast development first, hoping to offer members shooting, team building and story telling programming within the next six months. I will also play a role in our website development, communications with members and helping explore a National convention in Los Angeles.”
Mekahlo also recently helped lead the formation of an NAHJ chapter in Los Angeles. The previous board approved the chapter last Tuesday. Local elections will be held soon.
**DISCLAIMER: I endorsed Hugo Balta, Mekahlo Medina and Sergio Quintana in their respective races.