Runoff election, early voting dates to be determined

MERCEDES — The Mercedes City Commission is expected to set the dates for a runoff election and preceding early voting period on Tuesday, according to City Secretary Arcie Felix.

The runoffs for the Place 1 and 3 races pit, respectively, Leo Villarreal against Leonel Benavidez, an energy consultant, and incumbent City Commissioner Armando Lopez against Cristella “Cris” De Leon Hernandez.

Felix said on Monday that the runoffs, which will cost the city at least $12,000, are tentatively slated for Saturday, June 10. The date is pending the approval of the City Commission at an upcoming meeting on Tuesday, when the votes cast in the May 6 election will also be canvassed, she said.

Mercedes city elections are won by majority rather than plurality, requiring a winner to gain 50 percent of the vote plus one. According to unofficial results, Villarreal led a group of five candidates for the Place 1 seat with 41 percent of the vote, garnering 657 ballots in his favor to Benavidez’s 315, Velda Jean Garcia’s 290, Justin Cadena’s 262 and Ramon Mejia’s 64.

“I thanked everyone for such great support from all my friends and family, and I also just gave a big thank you to everybody,” Villarreal said on Thursday, noting that early voting for the runoffs may be set for May 30 to June 6. “It’s a lot of time and effort, and a lot of time away from the family to do all that it takes to run for the position. We had made it this far, and now we’re over the first hurdle and need to finish the race. It’s a brand new election and we need to treat it as such. We’re starting it from scratch all over again.”

Benavidez remained focused on his campaign’s message after learning of the results of the May 6 election.

“My wife and I reached out to our community with facts, solutions and a positive outlook,” Benavidez said the night of 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.”

Lopez, who received 46 percent of the vote in the election, pulled in 725 ballots to Hernandez’s 592.

“I worked this election pretty hard,” Lopez said on Saturday after learning the results of the election. “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.”

Repeated attempts to gain comment from Hernandez have been unsuccessful.

Current Place 1 Commissioner Jose M. Gomez, who lost his mayoral bid to incumbent Henry Hinojosa on Saturday, will continue to serve on the commission until the runoff votes are canvassed.

Gomez also hasn’t responded to calls requesting comment on the election results.