Election day set in runoff for Mercedes commissioner seat

Only have a minute? Listen instead
In this May 5, 2021 file photo, Mercedes City Hall can be seen in Mercedes. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

The date has been set in the runoff between incumbent Mercedes Place 3 Commissioner Joe Martinez and Leonel Benavidez, who is looking to reprise his position on the governing body.

The runoff election will take place on Saturday, June 10, with a one-week period of early voting, according to the Hidalgo County Elections Department website.

Polls will open on Tuesday next week, since county offices will be closed Monday in observance of Memorial Day.

Mercedes residents will be able to cast their ballots at the Mercedes Civic Center, 520 E. 2nd St.

The polling place will be open on the following schedule:

>> Tuesday, May 30 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

>> Wednesday, May 31 through Saturday, June 3 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

>> Closed on Sunday, June 4.

>> Monday, June 5 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

>> Tuesday, June 6 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

>> Election day, Saturday, June 10 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Martinez, the incumbent, is running to keep the seat he first won in December 2020 during an election that had been postponed for half a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Then, too, Martinez faced a runoff challenge by a former Mercedes city commissioner, David Garza. Martinez prevailed in the runoff by earning just over 58% of the 1,092 ballots that were cast in that race.

Meanwhile, Benavidez is looking to regain a place on the commission dais after losing his Place 2 seat to then-newcomer Armando Garcia last May.

Benavidez called for a recount in the wake of the election loss, despite falling short by 76 votes.

At the time, Benavidez said he didn’t think the recount would change the outcome, but rather, hoped the recount process would reassure voters about the election process in general.

This year, Benavidez and Martinez were the top two vote getters in a three-way race for Place 3 that drew three men as candidates who have all served as Mercedes public officials.

A total of 1,408 ballots were cast in the race, with Martinez winning 600, Benavidez getting 436, and former Place 1 commissioner Leandro “Leo” Villarreal getting 372 votes.

Speaking after it had become clear that the race would head to a runoff, Martinez said he was optimistic about prevailing in the runoff and was looking forward to continuing to work with the rest of the commission.

“What we’ve been able to do as a united commission speaks for itself. Our work over the last two-and-a-half years speaks for itself,” Martinez said.

Martinez ran his reelection campaign on a slate with Mayor Oscar Montoya, who also faced two challengers.

Montoya, however, won the election outright after earning more than the 50% plus one vote required to prevent a runoff.

Benavidez, who has long been a vocal critic of current and previous city commission majorities, said his campaign comes in response to Mercedes residents who want a change in leadership.

“My message to the public is honest work,” Benavidez said, adding that he feels that’s what set him apart during his previous term.

Find the complete, unofficial election results of races across the Rio Grande Valley here.


Mercedes mayor reelected, Place 3 commissioner race headed to runoff