Team L1berty sweeps Agua SUD election, cements control of the utility board

Team L1berty swept the Agua Special Utility District election on Saturday, winning all four seats on the ballot — and cementing control of the utility board.

Candidates backed by Team L1berty defeated challengers in Sullivan City, La Joya, Peñitas and Mission on Saturday, according to preliminary results published by the Hidalgo County Elections Department.

teaml1bertyThe results hand Team L1berty, the dominant political party in western Hidalgo County, a commanding 6-1 majority on the utility board.

“I just want to thank God for the opportunity, honestly,” said incumbent utility board Director Ivan Sandoval, who won re-election Saturday. “Thank everyone who supported me. Especially my family, who were there with me day after day.”

The campaign pitted Team L1berty against four challengers backed by Team Agua SUD:

> Sullivan City
Incumbent utility board Director Ivan Sandoval won 54 percent of 956 ballots cast, defeating construction contractor Julian Peña.

> La Joya
Police Chief Adolfo Arriaga won nearly 67 percent of 287 ballots cast, defeating union organizer J.J. Luna.

> Peñitas
Incumbent utility board Director Lloyd Loya won 61 percent of 844 ballots cast, defeating Pharr police Sgt. Juan Gonzalez and independent candidate Noe Garza.

> Mission
Incumbent utility board Director Cesar Rodriguez Jr. won 51 percent of 133 ballots cast, defeating businessman Eric Sanchez by just three votes.

“We are gonna file an election contest,” Sanchez said, adding that he’s concerned about five of Rodriguez’s relatives who registered to vote from his house.

Without any city council or school board races on the ballot west of Mission, the utility district election became the marquee race.

Nearly 40 percent of registered voters cast ballots, according to the Election Department.

Both teams campaigned hard. They blanketed U.S. 83 with signs, went door-to-door meeting voters and camped at the polls for weeks.

Donors contributed nearly $26,700 to Team L1berty from Feb. 2 to April 25, roughly double what Team Agua SUD received during the same period, according to campaign finance reports filed last month.

Hidalgo County Commissioner Joe Flores donated $6,500 to Team Agua SUD candidates, making him the largest contributor to either team.

“We only had Joe that helped us out,” Luna said.

Nearly all big-dollar donors supported Team L1berty, which drew on a wide circle of people affiliated with the utility district.

Peñitas Volunteer Fire Chief Jonathan Sakulenzki, an insurance broker, donated $5,500. Peñitas City Manager Omar Romero donated $5,000. And Peñitas Chief of Staff Andy Morales, who owns a consulting company, donated $4,500.

They worked for the utility district during the past two years, providing consulting and insurance services.

While final, the results published Saturday will remain preliminary until canvassed by the utility board.

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