Candidates for La Joya City Commission spent thousands on rental cars, campaign ads and food during the past three weeks.
Team “Un1ty” spent nearly $3,200, according to campaign finance reports filed by the candidates. Team “3 Candidates 1 Vision” spent nearly $3,900. And Team “We are La Joya” spent about $4,450.
“We’re getting to the tail end of the campaign,” said mayoral candidate Jaime Gaitan, who added that, aside from food and beverages for supporters, he didn’t plan to spend additional money before Election Day.
The campaign pits Gaitan, a JROTC instructor at the La Joya Independent School District, against former police Chief Isidro Casanova and Mayor Jose A. “Fito” Salinas, who is running for a third term.
Along with three mayoral candidates, the ballot lists six candidates for City Commission. The winners will replace two incumbents — City Commissioner Maria E. “Geny” Salinas and City Commissioner Anna Lisa Ruiz — who didn’t run for re-election.
Nearly 41 percent of registered voters cast ballots from Oct. 21 to Oct. 29, according to preliminary data published by the Hidalgo County Elections Department.
About 1,000 people voted at City Hall. Another 78 cast ballots at the Peñitas library.
The Elections Department allows registered voters to cast ballots at any polling location in Hidalgo County.
“People are not coming out. I don’t know what’s happening,” Mayor Salinas said, adding that he contacted the Elections Department, concerned people had been afraid to vote in La Joya. “Word has spread around that: Don’t come to La Joya, go vote in Peñitas.”
Mayor Salinas is campaigning with teacher Daniel Flores Jr., who is running for City Commission Place 2, and Dalia Arriaga, the wife of police Chief Adolfo Arriaga, who is running for City Commission Place 4.
They call themselves “Un1ty.”
From Oct. 3 to Oct. 28, the Team “Unity” candidates spent nearly $3,200, according to campaign finance reports filed with the city.
The total included $900 at Action Car Rental of McAllen for transportation, $742.64 at The Print Shop in Rio Grande City for advertising and $458.04 at Tractor Supply Co. of Mission for “Other Supplies.”
Team “Un1ty” also reported $1,716 in political contributions less than $50, which the candidates aren’t required to itemize. Adolfo Arriaga, the campaign treasurer for all three Team “Un1ty” candidates, said they collected the money during a chicken plate fundraiser on Oct. 5.
Without any major donors, members of Team “Un1ty” funded the campaign with a $10,000 loan from Birmingham, Alabama-based BBVA bank. Flores and Dalia Arriaga paid back $4,667 apiece in October, according to their campaign finance reports.
Gaitan is campaigning with businesswoman Sylvia Cerda Oxford, who is running for City Commission Place 2, and businesswoman Aurora Ruiz, who is running for City Commission Place 4.
They call themselves “3 Candidates 1 Vision.”
From Oct. 7 to Oct. 28, they spent nearly $3,900, according to campaign finance reports filed with the city.
Major expenses included $1,500 for ads in the Progress Times, $1,200 to pay “political helpers,” and $914.80 for food.
Team “3 Candidates 1 Vision” didn’t accept donations and paid for campaign expenses with personal funds.
“I think we’re having a lot more people come out to vote,” Gaitan said. “Which is a good thing.”
Casanova is campaigning with Agua Special Utility District board member Roger Hernandez, who is running for City Commission Place 2, and real estate agent Laura Mendiola Macias, who is running for City Commission Place 4.
They call themselves “We are La Joya.”
From Oct. 7 to Oct. 28, they spent about $4,450, according to campaign finance reports filed with the city.
Major expenditures included $1,000 paid to Leslie Gower for phone banking and $800 for “contract labor.” Mendiola Macias also paid $461.38 to her husband, Elias, to reimburse him for campaign expenses.
Team “We are La Joya” accepted $4,250 from donors, including $2,000 from former City Attorney Roberto Jackson.
Election Day is Nov. 5.
This article originally appeared in the Friday Nov. 1, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.