Incumbents draw challengers in Edinburg City Council, municipal judge races

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EDINBURG — Two seats on the Edinburg City Council, as well as the position of municipal judge, will be up for a vote in November.

In all three offices, the incumbents are seeking reelection and have drawn one challenger each.

In the city council, Edinburg voters will be asked to decide between incumbent Johnny Garcia and David Salazar Jr. for the Place 3 seat, and between incumbent David White and Gerardo “Gerry” Lozano for the Place 4 seat.

Meanwhile, incumbent Hector Bustos will face off against challenger Armando M. Guerra to preside over the Edinburg Municipal Court.

For the city council candidates, economic development was a recurring theme when asked why they were seeking office.

Johnny Garcia
David Salazar Jr.

At Place 3, Garcia, 48, a lifelong resident, called Edinburg a “business-friendly city.”

He spoke of how proud he was of the council’s and the city’s response during the trials of the COVID-19 pandemic, when lockdowns and the shuttering of businesses left many wondering what would happen to local economies.

“I think the proudest achievement was to be able to deal with COVID the way we did and to be able to just give back to the community, helping them with some of the incentives that we had when COVID first came out in trying to promote business here locally,” Garcia said.

He was speaking of a voucher program that encouraged residents to shop in Edinburg and, as a result, help those businesses stay afloat amid the lingering uncertainty.

For Garcia’s opponent, Salazar, 44, being pro-business is also incredibly important, especially as a small business owner himself.

Together with his wife, Salazar owns an insurance agency and maintains investments in residential properties.

He felt firsthand the effects of COVID-19 on the economy when the virus impacted some commercial property investments he held at the time.

Salazar sees Edinburg as a city with a shining potential — one that he hopes to help guide toward realizing it.

“We have to just literally be aggressive when it comes to how do we sustain people to stay in Edinburg and shop in Edinburg to drive in that sales tax revenue,” Salazar asked.

He spoke of how, unlike other neighboring communities, Edinburg doesn’t have to contend with being landlocked. The city still has substantial space to grow northward, and that fact gives Edinburg an edge other cities don’t have.

David White
Gerardo “Gerry” Lozano Jr.

Meanwhile, at Place 4, White, 58, spoke of his last four years in office as one of transition for the city — one where councilmembers were often contentious with each other, and how that has changed.

“I am not a politician. Just a straight up guy. I got thrusted into politics because the people wanted change,” White said, referring to how residents prompted him to run after a debacle with previous city leaders led to his demotion from Edinburg police chief to lieutenant.

Since those fraught political days, the city — under new leadership — has achieved stability.

“What I’m most proud of is the fact that we’re bringing the name of Edinburg back into respectability with the change and the openness of our government, and just the cohesiveness of our council,” White said.

Now, the city council works together to find compromise on differences of opinion, White said. It’s a trend he hopes to continue.

“My last year and a half has been — once we learned each other — it’s been, to me, it’s been fabulous,” he said.

Like the other candidates, White’s challenger, Lozano, 48, spoke of growing the city’s economic prosperity.

“The reason I’m running for Edinburg City Council is because I want to be able to help work with the other councilmembers bring economic development into our city,” Lozano said.

“By bringing economic development in, we’re able to raise our sales tax and be able to lower our (property) taxes for our residents here in Edinburg without having to pull money away from any of the departments,” he added.

Though the candidate application window opened up earlier this summer, Lozano said he has been meeting with members of the community for the last 18 months in the leadup to his official campaign.

“Since that time, little by little every month, it’s had that snowball effect,” Lozano said of the community support he’s received.

Meanwhile, for the office of municipal judge, Bustos, 40, is hoping to continue the work he’s started over the last four years — revamping the image that residents have of the court.

Bustos, an attorney, said he has worked to “take the court from the actual conventional courtroom to actual schools to try to abolish as much as possible the fear of coming to court.”

He commended his courthouse staff for the work they’ve done in making that transition, and for supporting his “open door policy.”

But Bustos’ challenger, Guerra, 47, was critical of the incumbent.

Guerra alleges that Bustos’ courtroom availability is anything but predictable and that that is having an impact not just on residents seeking access to the court, but to law enforcement, as well.

“Unfortunately, this judge hasn’t had that structure, right. I’m not saying that this happens every single day, but it’s happened enough,” Guerra said.

Guerra, who is also an attorney, promises to be available more consistently, citing his experience serving as an associate municipal judge for Edinburg under the tenure of Toribio “Terry” Palacios, prior to his election to Hidalgo County District Attorney.

“Job performance is always at the forefront of any election, that’s just the way it is,” Guerra added.

Bustos, who also served as an assistant municipal judge under Palacios, roundly refuted Guerra’s allegations.

“That’s entirely incorrect,” Bustos said.

“Unlike Mr. Armando Guerra, I’m not going to engage in talking negative about him. I never operate that way, nor will I do it this time,” Bustos added

The last day to register to vote in the Edinburg municipal election is Tuesday, Oct. 10.

Early voting begins on Oct. 23 and ends on Friday, Nov. 3. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.