Three seats up for grabs in Edcouch

Three seats on the Edcouch City Council are up for a vote in the upcoming November election, with early voting now underway since Monday.

For the position of mayor, incumbent Virginio “Virgil” Gonzalez Jr. is seeking another term in the city’s top spot. He is being challenged by current Alderman Fred Borrego Jr., who decided not to seek re-election to his Place 3 seat in favor of running for mayor.

In Borrego’s stead, two new political hopefuls have tossed their names in the hat for Place 3: Carlos Castillo and John Chapa.

Finally, at Place 4, newcomer Robert Gutierrez is running uncontested. Current Place 4 Alderman Danny Guzman chose not to seek another term.

Meanwhile, two other political hopefuls who submitted candidate applications in August were ultimately disqualified from running after the city determined they were ineligible to run according to the city charter.

Former Mayor Jose Calin Guzman, 78, who is the father of Alderman Danny A. Guzman, was disqualified from running for mayor again due to having an outstanding debt to the city.

County records show the elder Guzman owes nearly $30,000 in delinquent property taxes dating back to 1984. In a previous interview with The Monitor, Guzman admitted to owing the back taxes. “Yes, I do owe the city taxes,” he said.

“Since I turned 65, I stopped paying,” he said.

During his last stint on the council — in 2007 — Guzman’s eligibility as a candidate was similarly contested. He fought the case in court — and won — after a citizen filed a temporary restraining order against Guzman to keep him from being sworn in.

This time around, the former mayor said he didn’t have the resources to mount a new legal defense.

However, another former Edcouch official who was also deemed ineligible to run chose to challenge the city’s decision in court.

On the Aug. 19 filing deadline, former Alderwoman Alicia Segura submitted her application to run for Place 4 on the council. Like Calin Guzman, the city sent her a certified letter notifying her of her ineligibility to run due to owing a debt to the city in terms of a delinquent water bill, and to living outside of the Edcouch city limits.

Segura filed a TRO enjoining the city from taking any action against her candidacy; however, in a Sept. 19 injunction hearing, Edcouch City Attorney Orlando “O.J.” Jimenez successfully argued that the city’s action to disqualify her had occurred before the TRO was in effect.

In essence, the injunction could not order the city to not take action it had already taken, nor could it order the city to take new action that was not specifically requested in the injunction application.

Jimenez told the court the city had no objection to the injunction as it read, and as such, the injunction was granted. “If she (Segura) wants to continue with the restraining order in effect, then she does that at her own peril and we don’t object to that,” Jimenez said during the hearing.

And though the ballots have already been set, Segura’s court battle is not yet over. The two sides are slated to meet in court at least one more time Wednesday for a hearing on special exceptions the city filed in response to Segura’s request for a declaratory judgement.

The hearing is set for 2 p.m. in Hidalgo County Court at Law No. 8.

Meanwhile, polls will remain open from now through Friday, Nov. 1, including weekends. Polls will be open 12 hours a day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., every day except Sunday, Oct. 27, when they will only be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Voters may cast their ballots at any polling place in Hidalgo County, though those wishing to vote in Edcouch may cast their vote at the Edcouch Fire Station, 200 W. Santa Rosa Ave.

Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 5.