The Sweetwater mayoral seat won’t be up for grabs till May 2015, but a familiar face interested in the seat is wasting no time in campaigning.
Commission Vice President Orlando Lopez has publicly stated that he will run for the mayor’s seat, currently held by Jose Diaz. But Lopez wants to be ahead of the game, as he has already started posting campaign signs around the city — since November.
“There was no better time than the present to start my campaign. Normally I would start a year before the elections, but why wait,” he said in a phone interview. “I felt I didn’t need to wait six or seven months. The first person to put the signs out will resonate in enough time.”
City Clerk Marie Schmidt said that an interested candidate can campaign at any time, as long as they open a bank account and file forms with her office.
Lopez’s signs are visible around Sweetwater, including across the street from City Hall, but he said the signs posted have been at the request of residents. Besides Lopez, longtime resident and activist Deborah Centeno has also filed her campaign for mayor as well. Diaz has declared that he will defend his seat.
“I have not actively asked anyone to place the signs,” Lopez said. “People have asked me if am running and told me to put the signs up.”
Last August, Diaz took over as mayor after former mayor Manuel “Manny” Maroño was arrested by the FBI on bribery charges and was later suspended by Gov. Rick Scott.
In a phone interview, code complaint supervisor Jorge Vega said that posting the signs around City Hall this early doesn’t violate Sweetwater code.
Aside from the mayor’s seat being up for grabs in May 2015, three other seats will be up, including seats for Group 5, currently held by Commissioner Jose M. Guerra; Group 6, presently held by Commissioner Prisca Barreto; and Group 7, held by Commissioner Manuel Duasso.
Diaz said he was currently working on city issues and would get started on his campaign at some point in the future.
“For me, his intent to go ahead so early in the campaign is ridiculous at this point,” he said at Monday’s regular commission meeting, where Lopez wasn’t present. “He just wants to create some name recognition. I haven’t had time to put signs in the city. There will be a time in which I will campaign decently.”
Lopez replied with, “That’s his opinion.”