Unión Cívica Radical leader Alfredo Cornejo (Cambia Mendoza) will again govern Mendoza after securing a vital victory for Argentina’s main opposition coalition in the wine-producing region.
Cornejo, 61, will return as head of the region after taking 39.5 percent of the vote in last Sunday’s provincial elections with 99 percent of polling stations recording. The runner-up, breakaway former PRO deputy Omar De Marchi, running for the new Unión Mendocina front, polled 29.67 percent.
Peronist Omar Parisi (Eligí Mendoza) was well behind on 15.16 percent, followed by green candidate Mario Vadillo of the Partido Verde with 11.58 percent. Last place went to leftist Lautaro Jiménez of Frente de Izquierda y de Trabajadores – Unidad, with 4.09 percent.
Cornejo’s triumph permits Argentina’s main opposition coalition, Juntos por el Cambio, to continue a winning streak of provincial results. The centre-right coalition is hoping to drive the presidential candidacy of Patricia Bullrich, who flew to the winning bunker together with her running-mate Luis Petri, a local boy in Mendoza, to hail Cornejo’s triumph.
In his speech, the Radical senator not only celebrated his triumph but also nationalised it, saying: "We want to ask the people of Mendoza but also of Argentina to make a safe and sustainable change in Argentina, steering clear of the ups and downs with the danger of populism returning in a very short time."
Along those lines Cornejo continued: “That’s why we’re asking from Mendoza for your votes for the presidential ticket of Patricia Bullrich and Mendoza’s Luis Petri. Here we have a team to govern Argentina and take the country forward. You don’t just take a country forward with rage, we’re going to do it with ideas and projects.”
Apart from the Juntos por el Cambio presidential ticket, Cornejo was accompanied by two-term Corrientes Governor Gustavo Valdés, a leading Radical.
"This fills me with pride but also creates commitment, far more than I already have for the public service which I love, for which I have trained professionally and for which we have constructed a team which without doubt is a lot better than me," reflected Cornejo.
His own running-mate, lieutenant-governor-elect Hebe Casado, gave a brief speech in which she tossed flowers at Cornejo, while digging at his ex-PRO rival Omar De Marchi.
"To all in Mendoza this is thanks to Alfredo Cornejo, who is a statesman standing head and shoulders above the rest of us, which is why I accompanied him. Also thanking Patricia [Bullrich] for her confidence because despite all the spokes in my wheel placed by De Marchi, I’m here. An enormous hug for De Marchi. Many thanks," said Casado.
Just after 10pm, De Marchi, the former local PRO chairman who broke ties with the party back in April, climbed onstage at his bunker and thanked the voters who had supported him.
“What has happened here is good for us. Obviously we wanted to win, no false modesty there. We wanted to win, of course we did, we worked towards that. The Unión Mendocina has only been around for 160 days and it is not the rebranding of a pre-existing party but the birth of a new force which has arrived vigorously in this province. Our starting-point is nothing more or less than the 30 percent of the Mendoza electorate accompanying us,” said the national deputy.
De Marchi's local coalition, Unión Mendocina, includes members of a party linked to libertarian presidential candidate Javier Milei, who scored 44.8 percent of the presidential primary in the province.
In De Marchi’s eyes, this will be the “first time in eight years" that Mendoza Province will have "a serious, responsible opposition identified with local interests.”
He declared: "The Unión Mendocina was constituted to govern this province. The Mendoza citizenry has placed us in a situation of enormous responsibility.
"We came within a few points of a regime which has been governing this province for the past eight years with all the accompanying power that signifies and that fairly insignificant difference fills us with pride."
UCR victories nationwide
Cornejo’s triumph in Mendoza gives the UCR, a party with more than a century of history, its fifth victory so far this year with its five provinces leaving it well placed on the national electoral map.
Firstly, Carlos Sadir held Jujuy Province for the party and will succeed outgoing Governor Gerardo Morales in December. Corrientes Governor Gustavo Valdés followed that up with a victory in the provincial midterms. The third winner was Maximiliano Pullaro in Santa Fe, followed by an upset win in a territory dominated by Peronism when Leandro Zdero ousted Chaco Province Peronist Jorge Capitanich (both elections earlier this month).
Cornejo has now capped this winning streak for the Radicals inland while in this City last month’s PASO primary saw the party come within 20,000 votes of winning within the Juntos por el Cambio coalition under the leadership of Senator Martín Lousteau.