San Benito commissioners to mull postponing May 2 election

SAN BENITO — City commissioners will decide Tuesday whether to postpone the May 2 city election until the Nov. 3 general election to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Last week Gov. Greg Abbott, who’s declared a state of disaster as a result of COVID-19, signed a proclamation allowing state governments to postpone the May 2 elections, citing the virus as posing “an imminent threat of disaster.”

Abbott has also called for a ban on gatherings of groups of more than 10.

“At a time that county, state, and federal officials are requesting social distancing, it appears that this option may be necessary to protect lives,” City Manager Manuel De La Rosa stated.

Meanwhile, San Benito school board members have not decided whether to postpone the district’s election, also set for May 2.

Most candidates support moving election

Most candidates vying for seats on the City Commission said they support the proposal to postpone the election.

“It’s for the safety of our people,” former Mayor Celeste Sanchez, who’s running against Mayor Ben Gomez and former City Commissioner Rick Guerra for the city’s top elected position, said Monday.

“I don’t think people would want to get out and vote and I don’t blame them,” she said.

Debra Morales, who’s running against incumbent Rene Villafranco and Daniel Cortez for the Commission’s Place 2 seat, said Cameron County’s increasing number of confirmed cases underscores the need to postpone the election.

“If it is for the community’s safety, we’re all for it,” she said. “Now we’re getting Cameron County cases. The people are going to decide no matter what date it is — and it gives us more time as candidates.”

Rene Garcia, who’s running against incumbent Tony Gonzales for the Place 1 seat, said the outbreak would pose a threat to voters.

“In light of the circumstances, I would have to agree — we do have to move our elections,” he said. “The health and safety is the upmost concern. We have to do everything we can to ensure the public is safe.”

Meanwhile, Gonzales said he hadn’t determined whether he’ll vote to move the election.

Pedro Galvan, who’s running against former Commissioner Steve Rodriguez and Joe Rodriguez to fill Guerra’s one-year unexpired term, said the general election would draw more voters to the polls.

“We have to prioritize the community. The CDC discourages huge gatherings. That would be a huge gathering,” he said of the May 2 elections. “I know the candidates have spent a lot of time and money. But moving it to November would get a bigger turnout.”

Joe Rodriguez also supported the proposal to move the election.

“For the safety of the people, I think it’s a good idea,” he said. “You don’t want more people infected. It’s a smart move to postpone it to November.”

Other thoughts

But Steve Rodriguez said he opposes the proposal to move the election.

“I don’t see the reason for it,” he said. “It will give the incumbents more time in there and the candidates have to wait. All it is is a waiting game. The only ones who are going to gain from this are the incumbents.”

Meanwhile, Cortez said officials should postpone the election without rescheduling it.

“Obviously, I don’t like having to wait,” he said. “Without all the facts, I don’t think it’s prudent to say, ‘This is when we’re going to have it.’ We’ll see how things work themselves out. Obviously, we’d like to have the election as soon as possible.”