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Peñitas mayor crushes challenger in early voting

Peñitas Mayor Rigo Lopez crushed his challenger, former Mayor Marcos Ochoa, on Saturday, winning a second term.

Lopez won 68 percent of nearly 1,500 ballots cast according to preliminary results published by the Hidalgo County Elections Department.

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City Councilman Ramiro Loya and City Councilman Jose Roel “J.R.” Flores — who ran with Lopez as “Peñ1tas” — also won re-election.

“I want to thank God for allowing me to be here another four years, to keep on working with my fellow councilmen and the mayor, and the city administration,” Flores said.

Throughout the campaign, voters said they wanted Peñitas to keep growing, Flores said, adding that the City Council spent the past four years working on infrastructure projects that will lay the groundwork for development.

“Today the community spoke about that,” Flores said.

Neither Lopez nor Ochoa, who both held campaign events Saturday night, could immediately be reached for comment.

The race pitted Rodrigo “Rigo” Lopez, 35, an administrator at the La Joya Independent School District, against Marcos L. Ochoa, 64, a two-term mayor who resigned to serve as justice of the peace.

Lopez ran for re-election with Flores and Loya, who also work for the school district.

Ochoa campaigned with Osiel Ramos, a teacher at John F. Kennedy Elementary School, and Esmeralda “Esmer” Medina, a former city clerk. They called themselves “Peñitas Pride.”

Peñitas hadn’t held a City Council election since May 2015, when Lopez won his first term.

Both slates campaigned hard, blanketing Peñitas with signs and block-walking with help from supporters.

Ochoa, Ramos and Medina ran a relatively low-budget campaign, funded by a handful of donors and the candidates themselves.

Donors contributed about $17,400 to Ochoa from Jan. 1 to April 26, according to campaign finance reports filed with the city.

Ochoa donated $3,000 to himself and spent nearly $1,000 on start-up costs. Other key supporters included former Peñitas Mayor Servando Ramirez, who donated $1,000, and his father, Jose Ramirez, who donated $4,000.

With support from several members of the school board and deep-pocketed donors, Lopez mounted a very different campaign.

Lopez collected more than $67,000 in campaign contributions from Jan. 1 to April 24, according to campaign finance reports filed with the city.

Major contributors included consultant Chris Wilson, who donated $10,000; land developer Duane Bell, who donated $5,500; land developers John and Jeanette Womack, who donated $5,500 and CSJ Group, the engineering company owned by Agua Special Utility District General Manager Jose E. “Eddie” Saenz, which donated $5,000.

The election results will remain unofficial until canvassed by the City Council.

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