There was a steady stream of voters headed into Mission City Hall on Monday evening, the first day of early voting in the runoff race between Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas and challenger Jaime Gutierrez.
Irene Garza, a native Mission resident, said she’s voted in most elections over the years, and even with only one race on the ballot, it was still important to her to cast a ballot.
Meanwhile, voter Meri Gomez, said she wants to ensure that somebody with a heart for the city is elected mayor.
“I believe it’s important to have someone who has been a part of this community and has not only a professional interest, but also a personal interest,” Gomez said.
By the close of voting Wednesday, 1,588 people had cast a ballot. In the May election, there were 5,289 total votes cast in the race for mayor. That’s 16 percent of Mission’s more than 33,000 registered voters.
Early voting continues through June 17. Election Day is the June 21.
In May, Salinas just missed avoiding a runoff with 49 percent of the votes. Collectively, Gutierrez and third candidate John Guerra received 2,698 votes to Salinas’ 2,590. Gutierrez had 31 percent, or 1,640 of the votes.
Throughout his campaign, Salinas criticized Gutierrez and Guerra for not having experience in city government. Both Salinas’ challengers said after 16 years in office, it’s time for a new mayor.
Although Guerra campaigned for several city improvements, he decided to support five-term Mayor Salinas after meeting with both Salinas and Gutierrez.
“(Gutierrez) has a very big heart, but I didn’t feel that he had the capabilities of running the city,” Guerra said.
Asked what strengths he saw in Salinas as mayor, Guerra said, “I would have to say that his experience is there. He knows all the things that are going on in the city of Mission.”
After the election, Salinas said he was down 1,000 votes from the last time he ran. His opponents this time around garnered about the same amount of votes as 2011, which means about 1,000 voters didn’t cast a ballot, Salinas reasoned.
Meanwhile, Gutierrez focused on the fact that 51 percent of the voters cast a ballot against Salinas.
“It feels awesome. I’m a newcomer, remember,” Gutierrez said. “You have to get the trust back for people to trust the government again. That’s what I like about this election is that people can see that their vote does count–51 percent of the people that voted wanted to make a change.”