Donations from Commissioner Joe Flores fuel Team Agua SUD campaign spending

Hidalgo County Commissioner Joe Flores donated $6,500 to Team Agua SUD last month, providing a badly needed boost for several cash-strapped candidates.

Flores donated nearly 80 percent of the money Team Agua SUD reported during April, according to campaign finance records. Asked about the donations, he didn’t mince words.

20111104 Commisioner Flores“What do you mean: ‘Why am I supporting them?’ They’re my team,” Flores said. “I’m supporting them because they’re my team and I need to get them elected.”

Without any city or school district campaigns vying for attention, the Agua Special Utility District election is the marquee contest in western Hidalgo County.

It’s also a proxy fight between between Team L1berty, the dominant political party in western Hidalgo County, and everyone else — an alliance that includes Flores, utility board Director Homer Tijerina and former Peñitas Mayor Marcos Ochoa.

With four of seven utility board seats on the ballot, the winning candidates could form a new majority.

Flores donated $2,500 to construction contractor Julian Peña, who’s running to represent Sullivan City; $2,000 to union organizer J.J. Luna, who’s running to represent La Joya; and $2,000 to Pharr police Sgt. Juan Gonzalez, who’s running to represent Peñitas.

Businessman Eric Sanchez, who’s running to represent Mission, received a $1,000 donation from Workplace Benefits Advisors of Pharr, the company owned by insurance broker Bob Treviño.

Despite big donations from Flores, Team L1berty raised more money.

Peñitas City Manager Omar Romero, Peñitas Chief of Staff Andy Morales and Peñitas Volunteer Fire Chief Jonathan Sakulenzki made big donations to Team L1berty candidates.

“I have in the past and continue to support the incumbents who are running for re-election at Agua SUD, along with the new seat that’s been created in La Joya, because I believe as a city manager that they are the best for the growth of our area,” Romero said. “My job is to ensure that my city grows. And those four are going to be the best for my city’s growth.”

Romero donated $2,500 to math teacher Ivan Sandoval, who’s running for re-election in Sullivan City. Morales donated $2,000 to La Joya police Chief Adolfo Arriaga, who’s running for the new La Joya seat. And Sakulenzki covered $3,000 worth of contract labor for La Joya school district Discipline Compliance Officer Cesar Rodriguez Jr., who’s running for re-election in Mission.

“I helped Ivan and I asked others to help the other candidates,” Romero said.

La Joya school district Energy Management Director Lloyd Loya, who’s running for re-election in Peñitas, reported smaller donations from former state Rep. Jim Pitts, former utility district General Manager Richard LeFevre and attorney Javier Peña, who represents the utility district.

The Team L1berty candidates reported monetary and in-kind donations worth $12,500 during April, according to campaign finance reports. Team Agua SUD reported about $8,200.

Independent candidate Noe Garza, who’s running to represent Peñitas, didn’t file any campaign finance reports last month — missing both the 30-day and 8-day deadlines to report donations and spending.

Election day is May 5.

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