La Joya candidates note FBI raid in campaigns

Early voting will begin Monday for the three positions that are up for grabs on the La Joya city commission.

Mayor Jose “Fito” Salinas is running for re-election against two challengers — Isidro Casanova, the La Joya police chief from 1999 to about 2004; and Jaime Gaitan, a JROTC instructor.

Commissioners Anna Lisa Ruiz and Maria Eugenia “Geny” Salinas opted not to run for re-election for place 2 and place 4, respectively.

But six other candidates are waiting in the wings, each vying for one of those two positions.

Running with Salinas on the “La Joya Citizens Working Together” slate are Daniel Flores Jr., a teacher, and Dalia Arriaga, the wife of La Joya Police Chief Adolfo Arriaga.

Casanova is part of the “We Are La Joya” political slate which includes Place 2 candidate Roger Hernandez, who sits on the board of directors for the Agua Special Utility District, and Place 4 candidate Laura Mendiola Macias, a realtor.

The third political slate, led by Gaitan — “3 Candidates, One Vision” — includes Sylvia Cerda Oxford, a business owner who is running for place 2, and Aurora Ruiz, who is running for place 4.

Casanova, who also served on the city commission from approximately 2006 to 2013, said he and his running mates were running on a platform of change, believing the city had simply been stagnant the last few years.

“We want to grow,” Casanova said. “(The city) hasn’t been promoted like it should be.”

If elected, he said he would focus on expanding city lines toward the north through annexations.

“We have a highway that’s going around us, about two miles north of the city and we’re not ready for that — the city’s not ready for that,” he said. “So that’s one of the things that we’re kind of concerned about — that if we stay the way we are right now, they’re going to go around us and we’re not going to have any exits to our town.”

The former chief also pointed to the FBI’s recent search of city hall.

The FBI executed a search warrant of city hall Aug. 16 and a few days later, on Aug. 19, arrested a former city employee, Sylvia Garces Valdez on bribery charges.

Garces Valdez, who was the vice chair of the La Joya Housing Authority at the time of her arrest, allegedly paid an individual who, in turn, influenced an elected official to grant Garces Valdez a public relations contract, according to the indictment.

“It’s a real mess with everything that’s going on,” Casanova said of the situation.

Gaitan, a former state trooper, said he believed the city was going downward and also said he wanted to bring about change to take the city in a different direction.

“We need to make sure our future is stabilized,” Gaitan said.

He noted their slate was running a “clean” campaign, declining to take outside money to avoid being indebted to others.

“We feel that as soon as we start doing that, they want something in return,” Gaitan said. “We’re going to have to owe these favors and stuff like that and that’s what we’re trying to get away from.”

He also pointed to the FBI raid as an example of the current problems plaguing the city.

“That’s not really the spotlight that we need,” Gaitan said. “We need to have a positive view of the city.”

Salinas, the current mayor, did not return a request for comment.

Early voting for La Joya elections begins Monday at 7 a.m.