One clear winner, one runoff in Mercedes

The results are in — sort of — for the Mercedes and La Villa municipal elections Saturday.

In Mercedes — where eight candidates were vying for just two slots on the city commission — one race saw a clear winner emerge, while the other is headed to a runoff.

Four people were vying for a spot on Place 2 after Commissioner Howard Wade announced earlier this year that he would not be seeking re-election.

They included Leonel Benavidez, Ramon Garcia Mejia, Michelle Reyna and Jose Martinez Jr.

Benavidez emerged on top, garnering just over 53% of the vote, or 701 votes.

His next nearest challenger was Martinez, who earned 415 votes, followed by Mejia and Reyna, who earned 111 and 95 votes, respectively.

“(I’m) sincerely grateful and something that I’ve been iterating to my camp and to the people is that we know that the people, the voters, the residents of Mercedes have provided this opportunity,” Benavidez said Saturday evening.

He added that he knows public service comes with a “great responsibility.”

Mercedes residents may recognize Benavidez from his regular attendance of city commission meetings over the last six years. During a candidate forum hosted by the Mercedes Chamber of Commerce last month, Benavidez said he has made attending meetings and taking a closer look at the city’s finances a personal priority.

It was a fact he reiterated after learning of his win Saturday.

“It’ll be looking at our city finance and budget and budgeting accordingly so that we can serve our entire community,” Benavidez said.

He also spoke of bettering lines of communication between the commission and the public.

“It is very important that city leaders have good dialogue with residents in all our neighborhoods. This will be a priority of mine,” he said.

Benavidez thanked his fellow candidates and also encouraged residents to become involved in their local government. “Pursue it and continue to take a stand,” he said.

Meanwhile, at Place 4, incumbent Rubén “Chano” Guajardo is facing a runoff against one of three challengers, former Commissioner Jose Gomez.

“I am not surprised that I’m in the runoff,” Guajardo said Saturday evening. “I’m elated that our community continues to respond and continues to support what we’ve been able; to do in our community.”

Guajardo explained that candidates in Mercedes must win their elections by majority vote, which means that have to earn more than 50% of the vote.

Like Place 2, the Place 4 race drew four candidates. Guajardo won 498 votes, or 37.87% of the vote. His next nearest challenger, Gomez, won 440 votes, or 33.46% of the vote.

The remaining two challengers, Lucy Delgado and Velda Garcia, won 23.95% and 4.71% of the vote, respectively.

“The mere fact that we had several commissioners who were vying to unseat us, it just, you know the democratic process played out before our very own eyes,” Guajardo said.

Guajardo said he anticipates the runoff election will be held sometime in June. He expressed pride in the work he has accomplished with the commission thus far.

“As a group, from the mayor to the commission, we’ve charted a course and we’re going to stick by it. And we’re going to ensure that we keep politics out of it,” Guajardo said.

Jose Gomez did not return calls as of press time Saturday.