Just a Thought: Hispanic Judicial Candidates
By Steve Walker
Some weeks ago I wrote a column on the increase of female Hispanic Judges in Bexar County. Since we are nearing a general election in a few weeks, I thought it appropriate to address the unprecedented number of Hispanics, both male and female, that are currently running for a judicial bench after surviving a grueling primary.
September 15th to October 15th is National Hispanic Heritage Month, and it is only fitting my last column for September celebrates the possibility we will have more well qualified Hispanic Judges in Bexar County get elected. Other Hispanics are running for other offices as well and we will address those candidates in October. The success of Hispanic candidates will be up to the voters to decide.
Many San Antonio voters may remember with some excitement some years ago that we joyously elected Alma Lopez as the first Hispanic female to serve as the Chief Justice of the Fourth Court of Appeals. It includes all of Bexar County and 31 other counties. Now retired she mentors up and coming judges.
This year we have a chance to elect another Hispanic female, Irene Rios, a former County Judge running to fill that slot. Her win would make her only the 2nd Hispanic female to do so.
The all-woman 4th Court of Appeals justices include three Hispanics. They include Rebeca Martinez, Patricia Alvarez and Luz Elena Chapa.
Focusing on the district courts, Bexar County has Laura Salinas in the 166th Civil District Court, Lori Valenzuela in the 437th Criminal District and Gloria Saldana in the 438th Civil District Court. Salinas and Saldana are not up for re-election and Valenzuela is on the ballot but unopposed. Judge Laura Salinas' daughter was coincidently born on my birthday, September 5th.
On the November ballot we will have five male and three female Hispanics running for the District Courts. A long way from the old days.
District Court candidates include: in the 44th Paul Vasquez, in the 150th Edna Elizondo, in the 224th Lauro Bustamante, Tony Jimenez in the 227th, Raymond A. Villarreal in the 285th , Jennifer Pena in the 290th and John Bustamante in the 45th . The Bustamante’s are not related and Jimenez also served as a former County Court Judge.
Reflecting on the surge of Hispanic candidates for just Judges alone is heartwarming to me, as one who spent years in the Hispanic community teaching a number of their children or relatives. In San Antonio I can remember not that many Hispanics held any office much less judgeships.
Currently there are three Hispanic females who preside on County Court benches. Judge Monica Gonzalez is retiring while Judges Liza Rodriguez, (8) and Tina Torres, (10) are both up for re-election along with Judges David Rodriguez, (3) and Carlo Key. (11)
Candidates for County Courts No. 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12, 13 and 14 respectively are: Al Alonso, Alfredo Ximenez, Rochelle Acevedo, Michael De Leon, Carlos Quezada, John A. Longoria, Rosa Maria "Rosie" Gonzalez and Ernest Acevedo Jr.
Adding two new Justice of the Peace slots this year to total eight, six will be Hispanic. In Precinct 1 former JP and Commissioner Robert Tejeda & former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez will both take the oath of office January 1st. Both are unopposed.
Judge Edmundo Zaragoza will retire from Pct. 1 after 20 years. In Pct. 2 both Judges Robbie Vasquez and Monica Caballero are not on the ballot until 2016. In Precinct 4 incumbent Rogelio Lopez is unopposed as is newcomer Judge-Elect Yolanda Euresti.
I taught Judge Edmundo Zaragoza's daughter Dolores at McCollum in the 90s along with Judge-Elect Yolanda Uresti’s son, Michael about the same time. During that time, Judge Al Alonzo’s wife was running for Mayor and she spoke to my Public Speech class at McCollum. When I was a Justice of the Peace a couple of years ago I performed candidate Michael De Leon’s sister’s wedding. She and her husband now have a seven month old little girl.
It appears that the time has come for local Hispanics to aggressively seek higher office and win.
As I always, I write “Just a Thought.”
Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran, former Journalist and Justice of the Peace