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Attorneys pour money into Peñitas mayoral election

Almost half the money collected by political candidates in Peñitas came from just two attorneys.

Candidates reported about $40,900 in donations from Jan. 1 to April 5, according to campaign finance reports filed with the City Secretary’s Office.

Almost half the money came from two attorneys, Monica M. Galvan of Edinburg and Frank Garza of Weslaco, who represent the city of Peñitas. They donated $20,000 to Mayor Ramiro Loya.

“It’s very interesting to know the city attorneys are financing his campaign — the majority of his campaign, it sounds like,” said former La Joya school board President Claudia Ochoa, who is running against Loya. “And that’s a lot of money.”

Loya didn’t respond to requests for comment on his campaign finance report.

The mayoral race pits Loya, who is running with City Councilman Jose Roel “J.R.” Flores and City Councilman Guadalupe “Lupe” Moreno Jr., against Ochoa, who is running with two local teachers, Marco “Mark” Delgado and Gicela Salinas.

All six candidates failed to file their campaign finance reports by the April 6 deadline.

Flores and Moreno, who didn’t accept any donations and didn’t spend any money, filed their reports on April 10.

Ochoa, Delgado and Salinas filed on April 12. They collected a combined total of $8,200 from supporters.

Donors included Hidalgo County Precinct 3 Commissioner Everardo “Ever” Villarreal, who contributed a combined total of $1,500 to the candidates; architect Samuel Maldonado of Edinburg, who contributed a combined total of $1,500 to the candidates; and Corina Gutierrez, a teacher from McAllen who donated $1,500 to Ochoa.

“Definitely, it takes money to run a campaign,” Ochoa said. “But for us, more than anything, it has been really organization and community involvement.”

Ochoa, Delgado and Salinas spent the past few months walking the city and talking with voters.

“What we hear is that Peñitas is ready for a change,” Ochoa said. “We’re hoping that translates, of course, to the polls.”

Loya, who received $32,700 in campaign donations, didn’t submit his report until April 21.

A majority of the money came from Galvan and Garza, attorneys who represent the city.

Galvan cut a $5,000 check to Loya’s campaign on Feb. 8 and followed up with another $5,000 on March 27, according to his campaign finance report. Garza, meanwhile, donated $5,000 to Loya’s campaign on Feb. 9 and contributed another $5,000 on March 26.

They didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Other major contributors to Loya’s campaign included Juan Garcia of Peñitas, a local contractor, who donated about $5,500 worth of signs; former Agua Special Utility District board Director Franco Lopez, who donated $1,000; and Alexis Garza, the owner of South Texas Landscape Irrigation & Pest Control, who donated $1,000.

In Facebook posts, Loya’s campaign said Peñitas is poised for growth and promised to cut taxes 50% by 2027.

“How is this possible?” his campaign wrote in a Facebook post. “Because we have focused on business growth and have more business taxes, we’re able to decrease taxes for residents.”

Early voting started April 24 and ends May 2. Election day is May 6.

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