Donors write big checks to Peñitas mayor’s re-election campaign

This article was originally published in the Progress Times issue dated Friday, April 12, 2019.

Peñitas Mayor Rodrigo “Rigo” Lopez’s re-election campaign collected more than $38,000 from January to March — nearly triple what his opponent, former Mayor Marcos Ochoa, reported during the same period.

Attorneys, land developers and engineers, among others, donated more than $38,000 to Lopez from Jan. 1 to March 25, according to campaign finance reports filed last week. Ochoa, City Council candidate Esmer Medina and City Council candidate Osiel Ramos reported nearly $13,500 between them.

City of Penitas logo“From engineers to attorneys to friends to developers, everybody has been playing a big role in my campaign,” said Lopez, 35, a La Joya school district administrator. “Because, at the end of the day, I consider them part of my team.”

Developers want Peñitas to grow, which is why they support his campaign, Lopez said. The donations will allow Lopez, City Councilman J.R. Flores and City Councilman Ramiro Loya to reach as many voters as possible.

“Nowadays, money plays a vital role because you’re able to mobilize people to get your message out,” Lopez said.
The May 4 election pits Lopez against Ochoa, a two-term mayor who resigned in October 2014 to become justice of the peace.

Along with donations from supporters, Ochoa contributed $3,000 to his campaign account and spent more than $900 from personal funds. Ramos loaned his campaign $1,000.

That left them with about $18,500 to spend.

Ochoa said he didn’t solicit donations from businesses because he didn’t want to become beholden to supporters with political connections.

“We just want to try and be ourselves,” Ochoa said. “That way, we won’t be tied down to nobody.”

Major donors to Ochoa included former Peñitas Mayor Servando Ramirez, who donated $1,000; and his father, Jose Ramirez, who donated $3,000.

Ochoa also received support from several attorneys.

Attorney Rick Salinas, the son of former Mission Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas, donated $1,500; McAllen-based law firm Patino & Associates donated $1,500; and attorney Ric Gonzalez of Edinburg, who previously served as city attorney, donated $500.

Lopez received larger donations.

Major donors to Lopez included land developers John and Jeanette Womack, who contributed $5,500; CSJ Group, the engineering company owned by Agua Special Utility District General Manager Jose E. “Eddie” Saenz, who donated $5,000; and utility district engineer Emigdio “Milo” Salinas, who donated $3,000.

Lopez also received support from people and organizations affiliated with the city.

Peñitas City Attorney Armando Marroquin donated $3,000; Peñitas Chief of Staff Andy Morales donated $1,000; and Hidalgo County EMS, which provides ambulance service to Peñitas, donated $2,000.

Local politicians chipped in too.

State Rep. Oscar Longoria donated $1,000. Justice of the Peace J.J. Peña donated $500. And businessman Everardo “Ever” Villarreal, who is running for Precinct 3 commissioner, donated $250.

Both candidates spent thousands on signs, campaign labor and pre-election events.

“I feel that I’m able to raise more money because of the change that is happening in the community,” Lopez said.

Early voting starts April 22. Election day is May 4.

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