San Benito Commissioner Guerra resigns to run for mayor

SAN BENITO — After nearly two years in office, City Commissioner Rick Guerra has resigned to run for mayor in the May 2 election, a quickly crowding scramble that could shift the commission’s balance of power with four of the city’s five elected positions up for grabs.

Guerra, whose resignation leaves a year-long unexpired term in the city’s Place 3 post, will run against Mayor Ben Gomez, who won election in 2017.

Meanwhile, former Mayor Celeste Sanchez, who lost to Gomez after serving a three-year term, said she will file for candidacy in the mayor’s race next week.

In May 2018, Guerra won election with a victory over Steve Rodriguez, who said he plans to file to run for Place 3’s year-long term.

“I’ve never been involved in politics before and I’m appreciative of the people of San Benito for giving me a chance,” Guerra said. “Now I’m asking for their support to give me the opportunity to serve as mayor.”

Guerra said he decided to resign from his commissioner’s seat to serve as the board’s leader.

“It’s very important we have someone who has the time,” Guerra, a retired Harlingen firefighter, said. “The mayor has a stronger voice. He’s the leader. The mayor’s leadership carries a lot of weight. Sometimes you’ve got to make the hard decisions. We need a stronger voice to move San Benito forward.”

In May 2017, Gomez, a parent educator with the San Benito school district, defeated Sanchez, a former commissioner who retired as the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

In the race for the commission’s Place 2 seat, incumbent Rene Villafranco, who won election in 2009, faces Daniel Cortez, a retired Harlingen police officer, and Deborah Ann Morales, vice president of Texas Funeral Associates.

So far, Tony Gonzales, who also won election in 2009, is running unopposed for the commission’s Place 1 seat.

Balance of power

With four positions on the ballot, the election could shift the commission’s balance of power.

On the current commission, Gomez, Villafranco and Commissioner Carol Lynn Sanchez, the city’s mayor pro-tem, make up the board’s majority, often casting the same votes on issues.

Meanwhile, Guerra and Gonzales tend to form the board’s minority.

The election’s filing deadline is Feb. 14.