Candidates go head-to-head in election forum

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

April 30, 2012 at 9:01 p.m.
Updated May 1, 2012 at 12:01 a.m.

As Victoria and the county continue growing, voters want to know how their elected officials will handle the growing pains.

Addressing a crowd of about 120 at the Victoria League of Women Voters candidate forum Monday evening, 22 contenders in the May 12 city council election and the May 29 county primaries race outlined what they would do if they were in office.

The forum, which was hosted at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts, largely focused on spending, future infrastructure and economic growth.

League President and forum moderator Kathy Hunt said the league "has fought since 1920 to improve our government and engage all citizens in the decisions that impact their lives."

She urged attendees to "make democracy work" and go vote. Early voting opened Monday for the city, college and water district races.

Early voting for the primary elections opens May 14.

The forum only included local contested races. However, Hunt said the group is looking into hosting a follow-up forum before the May 29 primary elections that includes district and state races.

City Council:

District 1 -

Denise Rangel (I): I've made some hard decisions, but I have always done my homework to make the best decision for District 1.

Emett Alvarez: I'm asking the voters of District 1 to hire me May 12 ... I can say no to higher taxes and higher water bills.

District 2

Gene Rice: I think the biggest issue facing District 2 is understanding one another ... The trust issue is the biggest. Even if we disagree, let's listen to each other and respect each other.

Josephine Soliz: I am running for city council because I want to continue the work my son, Gabriel, has done. As a member of the viewing audience, I found myself wanting to know the answers to the questions he often asked ... I too want to ask questions.

District 3

Paul Polasek (I): I understand I represent my district, but I feel I represent the city. The wastewater plant is on everybody's minds, but there are other issues.

John Hyak: I have managed multi-million budgets and projects. I have come up with creative solutions to difficult projects. I will bring a fresh outlook and a different perspective.

District 4

Lewis Neitsch: I've been in Victoria for 44 years, and everything I have done has been for the betterment of Victoria ... I know what it takes to get economic development to Victoria.

David Hagan (I): I've been known as the city councilman who stands on the side of the taxpayer ... It's my belief that all governments need to live within their means ... We are not exempt from feeling the economic problems around us.

Sheriff: Republican

T. Michael O'Connor (I): I took over an office that was a dysfunctional and degrading working environment. Today, I can tell you our sheriff's office is one of the highest regarded sheriff's office in the region and in the state of Texas and it's due to empowerment of the people who work at the sheriff's office.

B. Scott Hornstein: I believe the office is a very complicated and a very interesting - it takes a lot of management. It takes a lot of dedication. I believe you need to have an office that has an open-door policy and that comes back to transparency.

Commissioners court:

Democratic Party Precinct 1

L.A. Garza on behalf of Kenny Spann (I): Together we make great strides in reshaping Precinct 1 but there is still more work to do.

Danny Garcia: I have a proven track record of bringing not just people together, but agencies and departments within agencies to work together toward a common goal. When you work together, you can do things that are more cost effective, you can do them better, and you can do them faster.

Annie Ramos: I can effectively serve the constituents of this county ... As justice of the peace, I was limited in how I could help. I believe we should take care of our county employees, they're the ones who make our county look good. The commissioners are the ones who put on the finishing touches to make our county look great.

Chris Rivera: There are a lot of challenges that come with this job and I think I've shown that I am more than capable to meet those challenges.

Gabriel Soliz: This election is about leadership and the leader should know something about the people he wants to lead and where he wants to take them ... I want us to slow down spending and cut down cost ... Most of all, I want to rebuild public trust, I want you to have faith in what we can do together and where we can go together.

Kenneth Wells: I'm running for county commissioner on one major thing: trust with transparency ... One of the first things I want to bring to the office is a citizens advisory board to help along with the decisions.

Republican Party County Commissioner Precinct 3

Gary Burns (I): I'm part of this community ... I've been in business for over 30 years. I'm invested in this community, I'm a taxpayer.

Gary Charbula: The main thing I'm running for - all you hear in Congress is that we need to cut spending and cut government. As a citizen, all we see are the values going up, even though the tax rates stay the same, so your taxes keep going up.

Tax Assessor-Collector

Rena Scherer (I): I started to work in the tax office in 1981 ... I was elected in 1993. The first year in office, I brought convenience to tax payers along with savings to entities by consolidating all 14 entities in the tax office ... I want my knowledge, experience and dedication to continue to bring you the highest level of service to Victoria County.

Jane Bernal: We are here today for you, the taxpayers of Victoria ... I am new to politics, but I am not new to caring about this community and serving our constituents.

Republican Party

Constable Precinct 4

John Miller (I): I have been honored to serve as your constable the past seven and a half years ... In the past three and a half months, I've served over 100 civil process papers, which has generated close to $7,400 for Victoria County.

Roger Stuart: I've been in law enforcement for 34 years ... I knew that after I retired, I wanted to continue to serve and protect Victoria County.



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