Former Mission City Councilmember Norie Gonzalez Garza is now the new mayor, the first woman in the city’s history, having defeated Mayor Armando O’Caña in Saturday’s runoff election.
Gonzalez Garza received 3,938 votes, or 56% of the votes, while O’Caña received 3,095 votes, or 44% of the votes, according to unofficial final figures from the Hidalgo County elections office.
Gonzalez Garza’s win denied O’Caña a second term in office, which would have followed a turbulent first term.
After first having served on the city council for several years, O’Caña was elected mayor in 2018 after he defeated then-Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas.
Salinas had served as mayor for 20 years, and his surprising loss to O’Caña that year was not left unchallenged. Salinas filed an election contest.
During the ensuing trial, Salinas’ team presented witnesses who claimed they were paid off for their votes or claimed their absentee ballot was improperly collected.
The judge presiding over the case ruled in favor of Salinas, ordering a new election to be held, but his ruling was overturned on appeal, allowing O’Caña to remain in office.
More recently, O’Caña and a few other members of the council came under scrutiny for voting in favor of approving an energy savings contract with a company that was later tied to an alleged kickback scheme.
The investigation into that kickback scheme already led to several officials from western Hidalgo County to plead guilty to federal charges.
None of the city officials from Mission have been charged with any wrongdoing, but the city council has since moved to terminate its contract with that company.
Gonzalez Garza has capitalized off of the negative attention surrounding O’Caña’s vote to approve that contract. She pointed out that she voted against the contract and campaigned on the idea of restoring public trust.
The loss was a surprise for O’Caña, who said most of the voters he’d spoken with over the last few months had assured him of their support.
Regardless, he said, he accepted the results.
“I was disappointed with the results, but it’s God’s will and we’re going to move forward,” he said.
Because he was not expecting a loss on Saturday, O’Caña said he’d have to reassess his future plans.
“I need to self-reflect because I wasn’t expecting the change that I have to do, but I think that I have enough private work that I can be able to adjust to it,” he said. “I have always wanted to create a (therapeutic center) … I may be picking that up.”
As for public service, O’Caña left the door open to running for mayor again.
In the runoff election for Mission city council Place 1, Councilmember Jessica Ortega won reelection with 3,665 votes, or about 53% of the votes.
Her challenger, Moises “Moy” Iglesias, received 3,266 votes, or about 47% of the votes.
Just west of Mission, Palmview Mayor Rick Villarreal secured a second term in office with a total of 929 votes, or about 52% of the votes. He defeated Linda Sarabia, a former council member, who received 868 votes or about 48% of the votes.