WESLACO — Following a busy campaign season, two incumbent mayoral candidates have kept their seats in Weslaco and Edcouch.
In Weslaco, David Suarez was elected to a third term as the city’s mayor with nearly 75% of the vote, according to unofficial results posted online by the Hidalgo County Elections Department. Meanwhile, in Edcouch, Virginio “Virgil” Gonzalez was also elected to a third term with just over half of that city’s electorate voting in his favor.
The election results will remain unofficial until canvassed by Weslaco’s and Edcouch’s respective councils.
For Mayor David Suarez, Tuesday night’s election results were an affirmation that Weslaco residents have entrusted him with a “mandate” to serve the city. “I feel elated. I feel relieved,” Suarez said shortly after early voting tallies showed him with a lead of more than 550 votes.
“I’m really grateful to the city of Weslaco, the citizens (who) came out to vote. That is a good mandate to continue doing the work here in the city of Weslaco,” Suarez said.
The mayor added he was “excited to go back to work” and continue the city’s efforts at improving its drainage infrastructure, spur economic development and prioritize public safety. “We’re addressing those (issues) head-on,” Suarez said.
By the end of the night, Suarez emerged with 72% of the vote (2,150 votes) to Castaneda’s 28% (602 votes).
Meanwhile, a few yards away, Suarez’s challenger, Weslaco ISD high school teacher Alfredo “Duff” Castañeda had not conceded the race after the early voting tallies were made public.
Castañeda — who held out hope that the tallies from Election Day turnout would be enough to overcome the early voting deficit — expressed his gratitude for the volunteers and supporters who stood by him during his first run for political office.
“It’s been great, you know,” Castaneda said. “There’s a lot of people out here that are volunteer based. They know that I’m a teacher, and that I’m based on a teacher’s salary.”
Castaneda said he was spurred to seek public office by corruption issues which have plagued the city in recent years, as did seeing Weslaco residents struggling after historic storms caused massive flooding throughout the city.
“This is the main one: because of the people that went through the harsh flooding and then the lack of compassion on behalf of the mayor,” Castaneda said about why he decided to run.
“Transparency, that’s one of them. Mismanagement of funds, the lack of dignity for our citizens,” he continued a moment later.
However, Suarez said Weslaco is already on the path to rectifying the issues that have plagued it in the past. Already, several former public officials are facing federal criminal charges related to the rehabilitation of the Weslaco water plant. And the city is in the midst of civil litigation with the companies who worked the project.
Suarez, who was first elected to office in November 2013 — after the water plant project had already been undertaken — said it was precisely those issues that spurred him to run six years ago. “I was not involved in those scandals, and that was one of the reasons that prompted me to run. We’ve been as transparent as we have ever been. … And we’re gonna continue to be transparent,” Suarez said.
The mayor also commended the current makeup of the Weslaco City Commission, saying the group is committed to guiding the city along a better path. “We’re all working for the right things and putting Weslaco in the right direction,” he said.
A dozen miles north of Weslaco, Edcouch Mayor Virgil Gonzalez was celebrating his re-election to a third term.
“I’m excited that the citizens of Edcouch want me to continue serving them,” Gonzalez said via phone Tuesday night. “We have many projects lined up that we want to complete.”
Gonzalez defeated his challenger — former Place 3 Alderman Fred Borrego Jr. — 646 votes (54.7%) to Borrego’s 535 (45.3%).
Borrego, who chose not to seek re-election to his Place 3 seat on the council in order to run against Gonzalez, did not return a message by press time Tuesday.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, said he was humbled to be re-elected and was looking forward to starting his new term. “It’s a big responsibility and I take my position and my job seriously. I’m here to assist and represent and help as much as I can,” the mayor said.
He thanked Edcouch residents for their votes and encouraged them to attend council meetings. “We honor and accept any input that we can get from our constituents,” Gonzalez said.
As for Place 3, two men vied for that spot: Carlos Castillo and John Chapa.
Chapa won the race by 61 votes, according to county records. “I feel good. I have it my all and the outcome came out the way I was expecting it to come out,” he said via phone.
Elected to office for the first time, Chapa said he hopes to focus on improving the Edcouch’s infrastructure, and to spur economic development. “Elsa was growing and expanding and bringing in businesses and I feel like Edcouch could be doing the same. I feel like now that we’re gonna come into office, we can start going at it and bringing in the change to the city,” Chapa said.
Castillo did not return a call seeking comment.