RAYMONDVILLE — Willacy County Judge Aurelio Guerra has become the first county judge to run here unopposed in 40 years.
Tuesday’s candidate filing deadline made South Texas history when County Clerk Terry Flores decided not to seek re-election to the post she has held since 1981, Lefty Cavazos, chairman of the Willacy County Democratic Party, said yesterday.
Guerra becomes the first Willacy County judge to run unopposed since Judge Bill Rapp in 1978, Flores said.
Guerra, a former county commissioner who won his first term with a staggering victory over former Judge John F. Gonzales Jr. in 2014, has worked three years to pull the county out of financial crisis.
In 2015, Guerra had taken office less than two months before rioting prisoners destroyed much of the former 3,000-bed Willacy County Correctional Center, whose closure slashed a third of the county’s $8.1 million budget, leading to 400 employee layoffs.
This year, Guerra helped expand the county’s wind farms while helping negotiate the sale of the so-called tent-city prison to Management & Training Corp., which is searching for a contract to hold inmates in the facility.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Oscar DeLuna faces former Commissioner Noe Loya and Richard Flores III, a school district transportation director, in a virtual repeat of the 2014 campaign for the county’s Precinct 2 seat.
In May 2014, DeLuna, San Perlita’s former longtime mayor, defeated Loya, a farmer, in a runoff.
In the race for the county’s Precinct 4 seat, Commissioner Eduardo Gonzales faces Ramiro Vela Jr., a warehouse manager.
In the May 2014 runoff, Gonzales, a retired state bridge inspector, defeated one-term incumbent Dora Perez.
After 36 years in office, Flores stunned many residents when she decided to retire a year after back surgery “slowed her down.”
Since taking office in 1981, Flores has faced only two challengers in the many elections she has won.
“It’s time,” Flores said yesterday. “It’s time for me to take care of myself and spend my golden years with my husband.”
Flores, whose last day is Jan. 31, said she is recommending commissioners appoint Chief Deputy Clerk Susana Rios Garza to serve as interim clerk.
Garza faces Frances Zamorano-Najera, the county’s veterans department clerk, and Jacob Quilantan, the county’s assistant treasurer, in the race for the clerk’s position.
In the race for the county’s Precinct 1 justice of the peace office, George Solis and Jessica Ann Rosas, a receptionist, are vying to replace incumbent Yesenia Rosas, Jessica Ann Rosas’ sister-in-law.
Last February, Solis, commander of the local American Legion post, retired after serving 10 years as Precinct 2’s justice of the peace.