With the exception of the race for mayor being decided, runoff elections for the Place 1 and 3 posts on the Mercedes City Commission are expected upon the candidates failing to receive the majority of the vote, according to unofficial election results from Saturday evening.

With the exception of the race for mayor being decided, runoff elections for the Place 1 and 3 posts on the Mercedes City Commission are expected upon the candidates failing to receive the majority of the vote, according to unofficial election results from Saturday evening.

Voters did, however, re-elect Henry Hinojosa as mayor with 58 percent of the vote, besting challenger and soon-to-be former Place 1 Commissioner Jose M. Gomez.

Hinojosa emerged the victor with 930 votes to Gomez’s 653. The early voting and absentee tallies also favored Hinojosa, with 628 and 72, respectively, to his challenger’s 453 and 19.

Attempts to reach Hinojosa and Gomez for comment on the election results were unsuccessful as of press time.

The mayor had made economic development and quality of life projects central to his campaign, often pointing to the construction of a walking trail and exercise stations surrounding the domed Safe Room and Community Recreation Center, which is located at North Vermont Avenue, as evidence of growth.

Gomez, who has long been critical of the Hinojosa’s leadership, considered the city’s million dollar investments into the aforementioned projects as examples of “wasteful spending.”

In the case of a $300,000 grant the city awarded to the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show last year, Gomez raised concern when the discussion to award said grant was conducted in executive session. The mayoral hopeful, who vacated his Place 1 seat on the commission to challenge Hinojosa, cited transparency when voting against the item.

Because City of Mercedes elections must be won by 50 percent of the vote plus one rather than plurality, runoffs will be scheduled to decide the Place 1 and 3 races.

The Place 1 runoff for city commissioner appears to pit Leo Villarreal, who led a pack of five candidates with 657 ballots cast in his favor for 41 percent of the vote, against Leonel Benavidez, an energy consultant who has 315 votes for 19 percent of the vote.

Villarreal did not return calls seeking comment as of press time.

“My wife and I reached out to our community with facts, solutions and a positive outlook,” Benavidez said when asked for his impressions on the election. “Going into the runoff, we will continue to work with facts on the issues our city needs improvement on, such as managing our tax dollars responsibly and providing our departments, workers and residents with the support they are entitled to.”

Velda Jean Garcia was right behind Benavidez with 290 votes for 18 percent, while challengers Justin Cadena, who’s self-employed, and Ramon Mejia, the owner of Lord & Mejia’s Major Appliances, accounted for 262 (16 percent) and 64 (4 percent).

Place 3 incumbent Armando Lopez also looks to be in store for a runoff election after pulling in 725 votes (46 percent) to challenger Cris De Leon Hernandez’s 592 (37 percent).

More than 16 percent of the vote went to Julian Valdez, a local plumber and Place 3 hopeful, who garnered 259 votes.

“I worked this election pretty hard,” said Lopez, whose re-election bid echoed the mayor’s sentiments on promoting economic development. “I did get the most votes, so I feel pretty confident that as long as I get the voters out again, I can win the runoff. The people know what I’m about, and the City of Mercedes needs to move forward.”

Hernandez also did not return calls seeking comment.

With three races and 10 candidates on the ballot, Mercedes’ 1,600 total votes accounted for a 19 percent turnout at the polls — 414 on Election Day Saturday, 1,093 during early voting and 93 mail-in ballots. This is up from the 16 percent turnout in last year’s election, which was comprised of two races and eight candidates.

A date will soon be set for the upcoming runoffs.

City of Elsa Charter Amendments

Voters in Elsa also approved all 35 city charter amendments that were on the ballot Saturday, including a proposition that abolishes the city’s Industrial Development Corporation and authorizes the creation a Municipal Development Council.

According to a public notice, the Elsa City Council drafted the amendments to “revise and update” the city charter, which was originally approved in 1981, “54 years after the city’s incorporation in 1927.”

“After nearly 40 years following its adoption, the council has decided that a comprehensive revision to the charter is necessary to address updated segments, to streamline others and to add subject matters that are pertinent to today’s living and business environment,” the notice stated. “The council concludes that the charter shall remain intact and those areas that are still applicable and to amend only those that absolutely require change.”

As previously reported, among the articles amended are the council’s general powers, such as the processes for appointing municipal court judges and members to city boards and committees, as well as the setting of qualifications for council members and how to fill vacancies on the council.