Pro: County-level races should be partisan

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.

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution - which secured women's right to vote - the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Medicare and Medicaid passed after many conversations between not like-minded individuals.

And there were disagreements, as there always will be in the two-party system that pits Democrats and Republicans against one another.

"Unfortunately, big money and corporations have been eroding this principle to the point that now voting rights are threatened by a variety of ways, from ID laws to restricting voting times and locations," said Cris Gonzalez. "The only way to combat big money and corporations is to ensure grassroots participation, and that means engaging in partisan politics at the lowest levels. If we did not engage, the checks and balances required to keep politicians in line would completely disappear."

Gonzalez was appointed to fill the unexpired term of the Victoria County Democratic Party chairman in September, and he's not out of his element.

Since his 20s, he's helped people, such as Ron Reyna, the Democratic candidate for Victoria County judge, campaign and run for office.

"There are a lot of people who are active in Victoria but in small groups. My job is to pull it all together," Gonzalez said.

Mike Johnson, meanwhile, has watched Lavaca County change from being colored blue to red.

Johnson is also on his first term as Republican Party chairman in Lavaca County. He, too, thinks county-level races should be partisan.

"It is difficult to know everything there is to know about a candidate, even though there are more resources for doing that now than there ever has been," he said.

Seeing a political affiliation can comfort voters when they don't recognize the candidates' names, he said.

And although some county-level elected positions are more administrative and do not always have a hand in creating policy, they can still affect change, Johnson said.

"When I vote for a county treasurer, I still want to know that that person holds my conservative beliefs. Even a county treasurer - maybe not as much as a county clerk - can wield some authority as far as budgeting and how money is spent," Johnson said.

Paul Polasek ran for mayor of Victoria without having to tell voters which way he leaned on the political spectrum, he said. He just touted his credentials and plans, but even he saw a difference between the functions of municipal and county government.

"The county derives a lot of authority from what the state law says, so it may make sense with respect to county and up that they identify with a party," he said.

Those also wanting to appoint district judges, or those who preside over civil and criminal matters, should not hold their breath because electing as many people as possible is the Texas way, said Gino Tozzi, a political science lecturer at the University of Houston-Victoria.

"Normally, judges recuse themselves when there is a conflict of interest, like say, if they are a silent owner in a company that is in court on a civil lawsuit. It is normal for a judge to recuse themselves, and if they don't, they could be under scrutiny by the judicial system," Tozzi said.

No voice is too small. It becomes louder - whether you want to change a law or just get a little help - when you have party backing, Johnson said.

"The curator for our cultural events center here was having difficulty getting the designation as a nonprofit. She solicited the help of our congressman, Blake Farenthold, and with his assistance, they were able to get it done," Johnson said. "Our state and national officeholders work for us, and that's just one instance of how we can utilize them."

Con: Politics should play no part in local elections



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