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Nathan Alonzo

Endorsement watch: Minjarez in HD124

On the eve of early voting in HD124, the Express News makes their choice for a candidate in the HD124 special election.

Ina Minjarez

Former Bexar County prosecutor Ina Minjarez, who now practices civil law in San Antonio, is the best choice in the race, and we recommend that voters cast their ballots for her.

[…]

Minjarez, who will be 40 on Friday, spent a decade in the Bexar County district attorney’s office working on cases ranging from domestic violence to murders.

A graduate of St. Mary’s University School of Law, Minjarez is well prepared to represent the heavily Democratic House district. She voices strong support for public education, wants to ensure that the state’s schools are adequately funded and plans to seek pay raises for Texas teachers.

Minjarez opposes school vouchers and supports Medicaid expansion to enable Texas to secure billions of federal dollars to provide medical care for low-income Texans. She is the right candidate to represent District 124.

See here for some background. I don’t have a favorite in this race. About the only thing I know about these candidates is in that profile and that Delicia Herrera screwed up an address change in 2012 when she wanted to run for HD125. I suspect that any of the three candidates profiled by the Rivard Report will be fine. It’s a matter of who makes it to the runoff, and what dirt emerges at that time as the two remaining candidates focus on each other.

HD124 special election overview

Early voting for the special election to fill Sen. Jose Menendez’s now-vacant HD124 seat begins Monday. The Rivard Report provides a brief profile of three of the candidates in that race.

Delicia Herrera

Delicia Herrera, 41, who served on council from 2007 through 2012, said her experience representing the district, which overlaps the House district by 90 percent, clearly makes her the most qualified candidate for the job.

“I know the issues. At the state level, you don’t address the details of particular issues. But being on city council, a lot of the issues you cannot address without partnerships with the State,” Herrera said.

The first in her family to go to college, Herrera’s public school experiences informed her education policy positions. She credits full-day pre-kindergarten with creating the “foundation of a strong educational path for me,” and was in 5th grade in the Edgewood school district when the Supreme Court of Texas decided the landmark Edgewood Independent School District v. Kirby, altering the formula used to fund Texas schools, a decision that reverberates in Texas law and politics to this day.

Today, Herrera owns two homes, one in the Edgewood district and one in the Northside district. She noted, and a review of the Bexar County Appraisal District records confirm, that she pays four times more to Northside than to Edgewood, a differential greater than the difference of appraised value of the respective homes. This inequality rankles Herrera.

“Property taxes are how schools are funded. My unique perspective of Edgewood and Northside shows me that Edgewood’s big problem is that we don’t have the property taxes to sustain what we need to do there. We don’t have the business tax base.”

But while education is a priority for the constituents of HD124, she said transportation is the district’s top concern. She expressed frustration with congestion in the district, but said she’s opposed to the diversion of funds from the vehicle sales tax.

Following the passage of last year’s constitutional amendment, which is expected to add $1.74 billion of new transportation spending for fiscal year 2015, multiple bills have been introduced in this session seeking even more funds for transportation. Often these bills earmark funds from certain revenue streams such as the vehicle sales tax. Herrera would prefer to fund transportation out of general revenue.

Ina Minjarez

This is the first run for a legislative office for Ina Minjarez, 39, but in 2006 she narrowly lost a judge’s race in County Court at Law No. 5 and lost in her second attempt for that bench in the Republican wave of 2010. She said her desire to serve remained; she decided to run after exploring the possibility with members of the community.

“I received very positive feedback,” she said.

Born in El Paso, her mother was an elementary school cashier and her father a veteran who started his own concrete business. Their dedication to her education led Minjarez to Notre Dame, and then St. Mary’s University School of Law. A six-year stint in the District Attorney’s office followed. Today she works in private practice.

“As a small business owner, I know the concerns that I’ve had with my small business,” Minjarez said. “I want to be a champion on behalf of small business owners.”

She’s sending out mailers introducing herself to the voters of HD124, and after several days of blockwalking, she too identified transportation as a top voter priority – and it’s no wonder: congestion at the intersections of Highways 90, 151 and 1604 provide constant headaches to residents, two-thirds of whom spend between 15 and 44 minutes getting to work, according to the District Profile Report.

Minjarez said she “liked what she saw” after reviewing two filed bills that earmarked proceeds from the vehicle sales tax to be used for transportation funds, but said she’d have to do more research if elected.

She said was generally in favor of providing prekindergarten statewide, but worried about the greater cost.

For almost all the issues we discussed, Minjarez said she preferred to seek out bill sponsors and their staffs to get more information before committing to specific positions.

Nathan Alonzo

Nathan Alonzo, Alonzo, while he has no elected experience, has spent the last five legislative sessions in Austin working on behalf of the firefighter’s union, so is very familiar with how things get done in the legislature.

“You’ve got to understand this process,” Alonzo, 53, said. “I’ve seen the process. I’ve been up there. I know what it’s like and that’s why I think I’m better qualified.”

A firefighter like his father, Alonzo spent his first four years in the district, later graduating from Jefferson High School. He took some courses at Alamo College and Tarrant Junior College before joining the San Antonio Fire Department.

Ten years ago, he took on the role of legislative director after stints as district steward, second vice president and serving on the public relations committee for the union. He’s also acted as United Way Coordinator for the City of San Antonio.

He too cited traffic problems as a number one concern from his perspective as a firefighter, Alonzo noted that traffic “impacts ordinary residents, costing productivity, tying up resources of small businesses and limiting the ability of emergency services to reach people in need.”

He expressed support for using roughly $4 billion from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund – better known as the “Rainy Day Fund” – to meet some of the unmet transportation and education needs. The fund is currently projected to reach $11.1 billion by 2017.

Fourth candidate and Republican-running-as-a-Democrat David Rosa did not respond to the author’s request for an interview, so three out of four is what you get. Not a whole lot of substantive difference between them, which isn’t too surprising. I personally think dedicating a portion of sales taxes specifically to transportation is a silly idea – if the Legislature wants to spend more money on transportation, it can appropriate more money to transportation; specific-purpose dedications like that are why they engage in so many budgetary hijinx every two years, which the rest of us then sniff at indignantly – but that seems to be the flavor of the session, so there you go. Any fireworks in this race will likely occur during a runoff, which is the odds-on outcome given the number of candidates and the lack of a clear frontrunner. Anyone from San Antonio want to weigh in on the choice in this race?

Four file for HD124

Really, truly, hopefully the last special legislative election this year. This session, anyway.

Sen. Jose Menendez

Four Democrats officially are in the running for Texas House District 124, the Bexar County seat that opened up with José Menéndez’s promotion last month to the upper chamber.

Candidates for the March 31 special election to replace the San Antonio Democrat include firefighter Nathan Alonzo, former San Antonio City Councilmember Delicia Herrera and attorney Ina Minjarez. Rounding out the ballot is David Rosa, an independent insurance agent who unsuccessfully ran in 2012 as a Republican against U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio.

[…]

Early voting in HD 124 runs from March 23 through March 27.

In other words, the same four candidates that had emerged last week, when Sen. Menendez was sworn in, though with David Rosa apparently switching teams. This Gilbert Garcia column has the most information about the candidates so far. A little Googling around gives me the following:

– Delicia Herrera’s personal Facebook page shows that VoteDelicia.com will be her campaign website, but it doesn’t appear to be up right now. She has a campaign Facebook page and Twitter feed from her aborted 2012 run for HD125. I presume either that they will be updated or a new ones will be created.

Nathan Alonzo has his webpage up. His campaign Facebook page is here

– Ina Minjaerz does not have a campaign webpage yet, but she does have a campaign Facebook page and a Twitter feed.

– David Rosa also has a campaign Facebook page from 2012, when he ran for Congress against Rep. Joaquin Castro. Here’s a story from that in case you’re interested.

We’re already less than two weeks away from the start of early voting, so to say the least this campaign will be a mad sprint, likely followed by an intense runoff. Don’t be surprised if the turnout in the runoff is higher, either. In the meantime, if anyone has any insights on these four, please leave a comment. Thanks.

UPDATE: Gilbert Garcia’s column on David Rosa and his cynical part-switching gambit is worth a read.

Menendez sworn in

We’re back at full strength in the Senate.

Sen. Jose Menendez

José Menéndez became San Antonio’s newest state senator in a ceremony Monday that featured the Alamo City Democrat taking the oath of office and urging his new colleagues in the upper chamber to chart a bipartisan course regardless of what “political price may come.”

In a 10-minute address to a packed Senate chamber, Menéndez waxed personal at times, reflecting on his experience growing up as a child born to two immigrants and who started kindergarten without knowing how to speak English.

But the thrust of his messaging revolved around the idea of lawmakers from both parties coming together to improve the state.

“I’m here to say that I’m ready to work with each and every one of you,” said Menéndez, who was sworn in by U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia. “I rarely care or worry about what’s your party politics what I worry about and care about is what’s in your heart.”

He later added: “It is our duty as elected officials not only to defend the Constitution … we have to be there to make the tough decisions for the right reason. Sometimes it’s easier for us to make votes that are politically correct, to say things that are politically correct. And that’s why sometimes I think people loose faith in what we do.”

PDiddie notes that the kerfuffle over how Menendez won is still active, with Menendez’s opponent, Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer penning a piece in the Quorum Report laying out the argument about Republican voters affecting the outcome. I’ve said my piece on that. and don’t plan to say any more. We will literally never see an election like that again, and I see no reason to dwell on it.

Of greater interest to me is that we now have a date for what should really, truly be the last special election of this cycle, in HD124, which has now been vacated by Sen. Menendez. It’s been set for March 31, with early voting from the 23rd to the 27th. As expected with such a short turnaround time, candidates have begun to emerge.

Delicia Herrera won’t have to crash at a friend’s pad during this election cycle.

Herrera, a former two-term councilwoman, is one of four declared candidates for the District 124 Texas House seat that opened up two weeks ago when the district’s long-time representative, José Menéndez, won a special-election runoff for the Texas Senate. Herrera was one of the jubilant supporters who stood by Menéndez’s side at his victory party on February 17.

Three years ago, Herrera had her eye on a legislative seat, but encountered a slight inconvenience.

Her home at SW 39th Street was located in District 124, but that legislative seat was occupied by Menéndez, an incumbent who already had nearly a decade under his belt and showed no signs of political vulnerability. But Herrera’s home was just outside the boundary line for District 125, and that West Side seat had opened up, because Joaquin Castro was stepping down to run for Congress.

So Herrera claimed the Northwest Side home of her former campaign treasurer — about nine miles north of her own house — as her residence, even as she admitted to the San Antonio Express-News that she continued to receive her mail and keep her dogs and “stuff” at the 39th Street house.

[…]

Ina Minjarez, 39, a local attorney who spent the first six years of her legal career working as a prosecutor, has made two bids for the County Court at Law No. 5 bench.

Nathan Alonzo, 52, is the lone declared candidate who has yet to appear on an election ballot, but he’s a familiar name to local politicos.

The legislative director for the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association, Alonzo can make the case that his years of lobbying have given him the deepest understanding of the state legislative process of any candidate in the race.

I’ll be very interested to hear more about these candidates. If any locals want to chime in on them, please do so. The Rivard Report has more.