Less than 24 hours after he left the Hidalgo County jail, Rick Villarreal returned to the campaign trail.
A state trooper arrested Ricardo “Rick” Villarreal, 48, of Palmview — who’s running unopposed for mayor — Saturday on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. After spending the night in jail, he went home on Sunday.
“And they asked him ‘Aren’t you the one who—’” said City Councilman Joel Garcia, who campaigned with Villarreal on Monday, recalling the conversation.
Whenever a voter asked Villarreal about the arrest, he explained what happened.
The candor initially caught Garcia off guard. He asked why Villarreal would discuss the incident while campaigning for mayor.
“And he says ‘No, people have a right to know what I did,’” Garcia said, recalling the conversation. “He’s embarrassed, but he faces the problems. He goes at them head-on. He doesn’t hide. And I was pretty impressed.”
How the arrest will affect the Palmview City Council campaign remains unclear.
Nobody filed against Villarreal and the deadline to withdraw from the ballot passed in August.
“I’ve been through good and bad times,” Villarreal said. “And I’m not going to let this incident determine the outcome of my future.”
Villarreal said his attorney, Rick Salinas of Mission, advised him not to discuss the drunken driving arrest.
Court records, though, reveal the basics. The Texas Department of Public Safety provided additional details.
At 10:45 p.m. Saturday, a state trooper stopped a blue Toyota Tacoma for speeding on Interstate 2 near South Conway Avenue.
The trooper found Villarreal behind the wheel.
Villarreal had slurred speech and smelled like alcohol, according to court records. He admitted drinking four alcoholic beverages. And the trooper found a beer can on the floor behind the driver’s seat.
The trooper asked Villarreal to perform a standard field sobriety test.
Villarreal couldn’t keep his balance during the walk-and-turn test, according to court records. He flunked the one-leg stand and the eye test too.
After the field sobriety test, Villarreal refused to provide a breath sample. That forced the trooper to request a warrant.
Justice of the Peace Jaime “Jerry” Muñoz signed the warrant and Villarreal provided a blood sample at Mission Regional Medical Center.
Villarreal is charged with driving while intoxicated, a Class B misdemeanor. The trooper booked him at 3:07 a.m. Sunday, according to Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office records. Villarreal posted bond and went home at 7:55 p.m.
“I have the utmost respect for law enforcement. I have the utmost respect for the judicial system,” Villarreal said. “And God bless them as they do their jobs.”
Less than 24 hours later, he started campaigning again.
Villarreal is running with City Councilman Joselito “Hoss” Hernandez and political newcomer Arturo “Art” Alaniz, a retired teacher.
They’re campaigning against Jose Luis Perez, who lost to City Councilwoman Linda Sarabia in November 2016, and political newcomer Anthony Uresti, a teacher at the La Joya Independent School District.
Uresti said he didn’t know how the arrest would play at the polls.
“I’m not sure, but I wish the best for Rick Villarreal and his family,” Uresti said. “I know they’re going through a hard time right now.”
The arrest reflected poorly on Palmview and many residents remain concerned about what happened, Uresti said, adding that he trusts voters to pick the right candidates.
“I think the people of Palmview are going to decide who will be the most responsible candidates,” Uresti said.
Several politicians who spoke with the Progress Times said they didn’t think the drunken driving arrest would hurt candidates affiliated with Villarreal.
“He made a bad choice,” Garcia said. “He’s the only one that’s going to answer for it.”