County judge race continues to take unexpected turns

There are two upcoming local primary races that stand out from all the others for their fascinating dynamics. It probably goes without saying that both involve open seating.

We have the Republican battle to succeed Lyle Larson in Texas House District 122, in which former City Councilor Elisa Chan, former District Attorney Nico LaHood, trucking industry leader Adam Blanchard and former party chairman Mark Dorazio have all declared their intention to run.

It’s an original mix, featuring a candidate who hasn’t run for office for almost eight years (Chan), a former Democrat who never ran as a Republican (LaHood), a male business with minimal political experience (Blanchard) and a GOP activist (Dorazio) who supported a 2017 effort to censor Joe Straus, a Republican from San Antonio who was then president of Texas House.

Everything seems possible in this race.

The same goes for the Bexar County Judge’s Democratic primary, a post vacated by Nelson Wolff after two decades in power.

Two years ago, assuming this would be Wolff’s last term, we knew the Democratic competition to replace him would be fierce. But we wouldn’t have guessed that we would have the slate that has emerged in recent weeks.

In 2019, I would have guessed that the contest would go to County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez and then-councilor Shirley Gonzales.

Just six months ago, in the final days of his eight-year tenure on council, Gonzales called the county judge seat a “great opportunity” to explore.

Rodriguez is a Wolff favorite and could very well become a county judge at some point in the future, but he has decided that now is not a good time for him during this electoral cycle.

With a week to file primary nominations, we’re looking at a Democratic field of undeniably formidable individuals, none of whom seemed like an obvious candidate when Wolff began his last term.

One of Texas House’s most promising members, Ina Minjarez, is stepping down from the legislature – largely out of frustration over this year’s GOP culture war program – to run for county judge. She is following a path forged by Rodriguez, who also became frustrated with being a cog in an often dysfunctional 150-member legislative body and accepted a 2019 appointment to the Court of Commissioners.

Minjarez enters the race with a financial advantage over his opponents. In a semi-annual campaign fundraising report filed July 15, she brought more than $ 111,000 into her campaign coffers.

Former District Court Judge Peter Sakai is entering the race with considerable goodwill, given his years of working on child abuse and neglect cases and his dedication to improving the child care system. foster home placement. It is however difficult to predict how this will result in a race to be chairman of the county government.

There’s also the surprise emergence of Ivalis Meza Gonzalez, Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s chief of staff, as a candidate.

Gonzalez has politics in his blood. She is the daughter of the late Choco Meza, a longtime political organizer who also served as chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party.

Meza was pregnant with Gonzalez in 1981 when Meza led the city council campaign for María Berriozábal, the first Latina ever elected to the council.

Gonzalez is a lawyer who has played a vital supporting role for Nirenberg, both as a staff member and as a political agent. She started as a senior policy advisor, rose to director of policy and public engagement (a post Nirenberg created especially for her) and, for a year and a half, as chief of staff to the mayor.

Along the way, she took a sabbatical from mayor’s staff in 2019 to help Nirenberg survive the election scare of challenger Greg Brockhouse.

When the mayor appointed his chief of staff, he defined his mission as working to “improve and strengthen public relations with the town hall”.

Gonzalez has an obvious knack for politics and will benefit from Nirenberg’s endorsement in this race. But she never ran for anything bigger than the Democratic Party precinct presidency.

Chris Cantu, campaign manager for Gonzalez, said his interest in running has been “kind of cultivated over the past two weeks.”

He added, “Having served as a senior executive in the mayor’s office, it feels like a natural transition to maintain this collaboration between city and county.”

In the undecided but interested category we have former mayor (and current SAISD administrator) Ed Garza, who told me last month that he was tempted by the advisability of using the Commissioners Tribunal as an instrument. to improve literacy and public health outcomes for underserved members of the community.

It took two decades for Bexar County to secure a vacant seat for the county judge, but in this election it will be wide open.

[email protected] | Twitter: @ gilgamesh470

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