San Benito city election spurs four heated races; 11 candidates vie for four commission seats

SAN BENITO — Across town, rows of political signs are hawking 11 candidates sparring for four of five City Commission seats in the heated May 2 election.

The election, including a three-way race for mayor, will likely lead its winners to decide whether to boost the city’s property tax rate or water rate to fund a $6.7 million bond issue to overhaul the sewer system to meet a March 2023 deadline – or face hefty fines and corrective action stemming from sewer spills nearly 10 years ago.

The city has contracted the Cameron County Elections Department to run the election.

Elections Administrator Remi Garza estimated the city’s cost at $23,210.

Mayor’s race

In the race for mayor, incumbent Ben Gomez, a parent educator with the San Benito school district, faces former Mayor Celeste Sanchez, a retired assistant superintendent who Gomez defeated three years ago.

The race heated up when Commissioner Rick Guerra, a retired firefighter, resigned his Place 3 seat to run for the city’s highest elected position.

Place 3

In the race to fill Place 3’s one-year unexpired term, former Commissioner Steve Rodriguez, a trucking company owner, spars with Pedro Galvan, a pharmacist, and Joe Rodriguez, a retired computer analyst.

Place 1

In the race for Place 1, Commissioner Tony Gonzales, a retired postal worker who first won election in 2009, faces Rene Garcia, a Social Security Administration employee who serves as vice president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation and vice chairman of the San Benito Housing Authority.

Place 2

In a three-way scramble for the Place 2 seat, Commissioner Rene Villafranco, an official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who first won election in 2009, is running against Daniel Cortez, a retired police officer, and Deborah Ann Morales, vice president of Texas Funeral Associates.

The election’s early voting period runs from April 20 through April 28.