Con: Politics should play no part in local elections

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Feb. 23, 2014 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 22, 2014 at 8:23 p.m.

Victoria County Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 Incumbent Richard Castillo, right, speaks during the 2014 Victoria County Primary Candidates Forum at the Leo J. Welder Center in Victoria.

Victoria County Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 Incumbent Richard Castillo, right, speaks during the 2014 Victoria County Primary Candidates Forum at the Leo J. Welder Center in Victoria.

In 2002, Peggy Mayer had to teach voters how to vote for her - literally.

"If you really look at the situation, who runs as a write-in candidate? How many write-in candidates have you known to run for office?" Mayer asked, chuckling. "It's not something common. You have your Democrats, you have your Republicans, and the only way I could do that was to run as an independent in the general election."

So that's what she did while running for justice of the peace, Precinct 1, in DeWitt County, and she used a red arrow on her newspaper advertisements to show people where to jot her name down on the ballot.

She won by about 400 votes. Now seeking her fourth term, Mayer eventually had to tell people she most aligned with the Republican Party's platform, but she would rather she didn't have to.

"It can divide people, and it can divide friendships, too," Mayer said, adding the designation is unfortunate because she has supporters on both sides of the fence.

"I've had someone say, 'Even though I'm a Democrat, I want to help you get through the primary,'" said Mayer, who was a bookkeeper before entering public service.

Eyvon Magnia, 65, of Victoria, thinks choosing between the two gets in the way of the issues and what someone really stands for.

She reads and watches the news every day to get ready to cast her ballot.

"I think of it as my duty to educate myself to know who I am voting to put into office, and it doesn't take that much time," Magnia said.

Lisa Hernandez, a longtime banker and Republican, said she chose her party because she believes in the Second Amendment and hard work by individuals. However, this philosophy has little to do with the county treasurer's office she seeks, she said.

"The treasurer's position is a fiduciary roll, though. They're not responsible for propositions or amendments. They're just the keeper of taxpayers' money, so to have to decide whether you're a Democrat or a Republican - yeah, I honestly don't feel like it's necessary," she said.

Campaigning for a county position lasts 90 day, while a campaign for a municipal position is finished in 60 days, so it will be costlier, said George Matthews, Victoria County elections administrator.

Victoria also cannot affect as much change on the state and national level because of its size. Harris County, for example, has a bigger impact because millions of people live there, said Gino Tozzi, a University of Houston-Victoria political science lecturer.

Others argue that judges who preside over civil and criminal cases should be appointed rather than voted on in partisan elections.

"I think fundraising undermines the confidence in a fair and impartial judicial system," Wallace B. Jefferson said to The Atlantic in October 2013.

Jefferson was the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court. He returned to private practice in September 2013.

Texans for Public Justice, a political reform watchdog group, also found that the Texas Supreme Court accepted 11 percent of the 3,942 petitions filed in 2006, and it was seven and one-half times as likely to accept petitions filed by those who had contributed at least $100,000 to justices' campaign.

It would not matter to Victoria County farmer George Smajstrla whether Democrat or Republican was written next to the names of the candidates on the ballot. He's voted for both.

It works for city council and school board elections, so it could work on the county level, too, he said.

Smajstrla, who has served as an election judge for about 60 years, looks for experience.

"It's how knowledgeable they are on the subject matter they are going to take on," Smajstrla said.

"Are they concentrated on the subject, or are they concentrated on knocking down their opponent?"

Pro: County-level races should be partisan



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