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Former Peñitas mayor might challenge his successor in May

Former Peñitas Mayor Marcos Ochoa might challenge his successor, Mayor Rodrigo “Rigo” Lopez, in May.

The mayoral matchup would become the marquee race in western Hidalgo County — and the first Peñitas election since 2015.

20190118 PenitasElectionPreview“I’m seriously thinking of launching my candidacy,” Ochoa said. “I have 30 days to decide.”

Peñitas canceled the May 2015 election after the only person who challenged the incumbents, a local gadfly named Noe Garza Jr., withdrew from the race.

Ochoa, 64, worked for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and served on the Board of Aldermen before Peñitas switched to a City Council. He later served seven years as mayor and four as justice of the peace Precinct 3 Place 2, which covers western Hidalgo County.

“We’ll know pretty soon what I am going to do,” Ochoa said, adding that he’ll probably make an announcement next week.

Asked why he wanted to run for mayor, Ochoa said he’s worried about the city.

“I feel that the city needs help,” Ochoa said, adding that he’s concerned about recent City Council decisions and would provide more details after making a formal campaign announcement.

The race would pit Ochoa against the Peñitas City Council, which supports Lopez.

Lopez, 35, is the transportation director for the La Joya Independent School District. Before becoming mayor, he served on the Agua Special Utility District board.

During the past four years, the City Council focused on infrastructure, Lopez, said, adding that Peñitas established a fire department, cooperated with Hidalgo County on road projects and worked closely with developers.

Peñitas also annexed property, built a splash pad and partnered with the school district, which donated land for a new city park.

“The first phase was getting the infrastructure done, getting the essential services,” Lopez said. “And now we’re ready for the next chapter.”

Lopez said he’s running for re-election to see those projects through.

City Councilman Ramiro Loya and City Councilman Jose Roel Flores, who support the mayor, will also appear on the May ballot.

Flores said he plans to run for re-election. Loya couldn’t be reached for comment.

“We’ve been a 5-0 Council since we started,” Lopez said, referencing how members of the City Council work together to reach consensus. “And I think we feel that we have unfinished business.”

The city is working closely with developers to bring new businesses to Peñitas, which will increase tax revenue and provide jobs, Lopez said. Members of the City Council want to cement those economic development deals, which they started working on several years ago.

“We don’t actually get paid to do it, but the paycheck at the end of the day is getting to see the city grow,” Lopez said. “That’s a feeling no other job will give you.”

Filing for City Council started Wednesday and ends Feb. 15. Election Day is May 4.

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