Runoff to decide San Benito mayor’s race

Sanchez faces Guerra for top city post

With mayoral, school board and city commissioners positions on the ballot in San Benito, candidates and their supporters were out lining the areas around voting polls campaigning on Election Day.

SAN BENITO — A steady stream of voters is heading to the polls to cast ballots in a Dec. 19 runoff election that will decide the winner of the San Benito mayor’s race and a City Commission seat.

In the mayor’s race, former Mayor Celeste Sanchez faces former Commissioner Rick Guerra while longtime Commissioner Rene Villafranco spars against Deborah Morales, vice president of Texas Funeral Associates, for the commission’s Place 2 seat.

In the Nov. 3 general election, Mayor Ben Gomez lost his bid for a second term amid record voting fueled by the contentious presidential election.

Since Wednesday, the candidates’ supporters have been waving campaign signs at the city’s Community Building, where early voting began Wednesday.

During the first two days of early voting, residents cast about 200 ballots, Remi Garza, Cameron County’s elections administrator, said Friday.

“It’s not as brisk as the November election,” Garza said. “Like with any runoff, we see less participation. We’re hoping candidates can encourage supporters to come to the polls.”

Early voting runs through Dec. 15.

Mayor’s race

In the Nov. 3 election, Guerra, a retired firefighter, won 2,016 votes in the race in which he embarked about a year ago after resigning his commissioner’s seat to run for the city’s top elected position.

Three years ago, Gomez, a parent educator with the San Benito school district, defeated Sanchez, a retired assistant superintendent who became the city’s first woman to serve as mayor.

On Election Day, Sanchez won 1,770 votes to leave Gomez, who picked up 1,563 votes, short of the runoff.

Commissioner’s race

In the race for the commission’s Place 2 seat, Villafranco, an official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who first won election in 2009, pulled 2,159 votes while Morales drew 1,861 votes to head for the runoff.

Candidate Daniel Cortez, a retired police officer who picked up 1,861 votes, fell short of the runoff.