Six file for seats on McAllen commission

Ingram faces 2 challengers; Whitacre unopposed; District 4 up for grabs

McALLEN — The field is set for McAllen’s May 4 general election, with three candidates vying for a retiring city commissioner’s seat, and an incumbent facing two challengers.

Districts 4, 5 and 6 are on the May ballot, but only two incumbents are running. After District 4 City Commissioner Aida Ramirez announced she would step away after 18 years on the commission, two candidates soon filed to run and a third joined the race just three days before the Feb. 15 filing deadline.

District 5 City Commissioner John Ingram filed to run for re-election in mid-January and began putting up yard signs early, but in the following weeks, two candidates quickly filed to challenge him.

Veronica Whitacre will run unopposed for her District 6 seat on the city commission.

Tania Y. Ramirez, a 30-year-old attorney, and Mario de Leon Jr., a 41-year-old solutions consultant for Apple, were the first two to file for District 4. And during the last week for candidates to file, a retired city employee, Joe Anthony Califa, 60, submitted documents on Wednesday to run.

“ We have a good commissioner and mayor,” Ramirez said in a prepared statement to The Monitor when she filed. “I know I can complement what they are doing now.”

De León, meanwhile, was tired of waiting for the city to tend to needs in southwest McAllen in recent years, so he said he started a Facebook page where he posted videos and photographs of areas “that urgently needed the city’s attention.”

“ Instead of waiting around for the city to take action, I opted to create the change I wanted to see in my community,” de León said in a statement to The Monitor. “I rolled up my sleeves and started to do some of the work myself. Soon after, people started to comment and share the Facebook posts showcasing the results, as well as asking how they could help.”

Califa’s candidacy was an eleventh hour decision. Once he saw the field, he knew he could be the one to represent his home district. Califa, who has worked in city planning or in the city manager’s office in McAllen and all the neighboring cities over the years, was born in McAllen and has lived his entire life in the city, apart from college in Austin.

“ I feel a good part of District 4 has fallen behind,” Califa said in an interview. “I want to bring my experience to help my home district.”

In the District 5 race, Ingram is trying to fend off challenges from Victor “Seby” Haddad, a banker and a business owner, and from Mark R. Murray, a South Texas College professor. Ingram won his previous election, in 2015, over businessman Eli Olivarez by a tally of 902 votes to 470.

Haddad said his banking experience and dealings with the city over the years has helped him connect with voters.

“ I understand what business owners are going through, what restaurateurs are going through, what property owners are going through,” Haddad said in an interview when he announced. “I can empathize with the frustrations they may have. And I think I’m well-suited to address those concerns.”

Murray said some recent debates in the city gave him a reason to run for office.

“ Saving Fire Station No. 2 inspired Mark to run for District 5 city commissioner,” Murray said in a statement to The Monitor when he announced his candidacy. “He believes public safety should be a top priority of city government.

“ Mark is a firm believer in public service over personal ambition. He wants more transparency in city government.”