DONNA — City Council Member Simon Sauceda and former Mayor Rick Morales will vie for the city council’s top spot in a runoff election slated for next month.

DONNA — City Council Member Simon Sauceda and former Mayor Rick Morales will vie for the city council’s top spot in a runoff election slated for next month.

The mayoral race in Donna was thrown a curveball in early October when the city issued a news release about Ernesto Lugo’s ineligibility to become mayor because of the location of his residence.

Morales ended up receiving 854 votes, or 37 percent of the vote. Sauceda followed with a total of 568 votes, giving him approximately 24 percent of the vote.

Lugo garnered nearly 24 percent of the vote despite suspending his campaign on Oct. 31.

Incumbent Mayor Irene Muñoz, who was elected in 2014, came in last with nearly 15 percent of the total votes. She served as a councilwoman for five years prior to stepping down to run for the mayor’s seat.

By law, Lugo’s votes were counted because his name remained on the ballot. He secured a significant number of early votes over two of his opponents, but received the fewest number of votes — only 58 — on Election Day.

Lugo has not indicated whether or not he plans to support either of the mayoral candidates in the upcoming runoff.

Morales previously served as mayor of Donna from 2002 until 2008 and unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2014. Sauceda decided to launch a bid for mayor after serving as a council member for nine years.

“First and foremost, I’m disappointed that my two running mates weren’t able to make it,” Sauceda said referring to Place 1 councilwoman Sonia Gallegos and Place 3 candidate Adolfo Campos.

The three were running on the “Donna DNA” slate.

Gallegos served on the council for six years, but was ousted by Morales’s running mate — Oscar Gonzales — Tuesday night.

Gonzales, a former Donna ISD school board member, was able to secure more than 50 percent of the vote for Place 1 to avoid a runoff, earning 1,130 votes to Gallegos’s 805. Humberto Zavala, a McAllen Police Department lieutenant who was also on the ballot for Place 1, received 290 votes.

“First thing we’re going to do is we’re going to clean up the city,” Gonzales said referring to trash in alleyways and in the city cemetery.

Gonzales, Morales and Place 3 candidate Arturo “Art” Castillo were running under the slogan “A New Day for Donna.”

Castillo, a Donna ISD employee, and Guadalupe “Lupita” Bueno, a secretary, will face each other in a runoff election for Place 3. The Place 3 seat on the council was up for grabs when the incumbent, Sauceda, launched his mayoral bid.

Place 3 results showed Castillo taking 887 votes to Bueno’s 554, as neither secured plurality. Other Place 3 candidates included Campos, who received 489 votes, and Beatriz Farias, who earned 342.

Sauceda said he plans on reaching out to Bueno in an effort to “join forces” against the opposing slate.

Bueno did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

Sauceda said under his tenure the council voted to decrease the tax rate, one issue at the forefront of the mayoral race in Donna.

“At the time he served as mayor,” Sauceda said referring to Morales, “it was pretty obvious that the city was stagnant.”

Morales, though, said he believes residents do not approve of the city’s trajectory.

“I think the people of Donna are saying, ‘We want change,’” Morales said from his campaign headquarters in Donna Tuesday night.

Morales said beginning Wednesday morning, he will be working “even harder” to garner support from Donna citizens.

Donna has had an interim city manager for nearly two years, a topic of much discussion among candidates throughout the election.

“We’re going to open it up so that everybody can apply,” Morales said, adding that he is open to considering current interim city manager Ernesto Silva.

Sauceda prioritizes economic development, infrastructure and lowering water and sewage rates and is considering a fixed rate for citizens over a certain age.

“We are looking out for our citizens,” Sauceda said. “We are looking out for our community.”

Morales, moved to Harlingen temporary and unsuccessfully ran for mayor there in 2013.

“We need to take Donna to the next level,” said Morales, who echoed Sauceda’s sentiment regarding water and sewage rates.

A tentative runoff date has been scheduled for Dec. 12, with early voting slated to begin Nov. 27.