January 5, 2015
by Alexa Ura and Bobby Blanchard
With a state senator and two state representatives pursuing other political ambitions, voters in Central Texas will return to the polls on Tuesday to fill three vacant posts in the Legislature just a week before it convenes for the upcoming session.
Opting for local politics over a return to the Texas Capitol, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and state Rep. Mike Villarreal, both Democrats, are resigning their respective San Antonio-based seats to run for mayor of the Alamo City. Republican state Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, meanwhile, is vacating his House District 17 seat to take a job as the agriculture department’s general counsel.
None of the three seats are considered up for grabs for the opposing party, but the vacancies have attracted the attention of several challengers regardless, leaving a crowded field for voters to choose from during a truncated voting period.
The Senate District 26 contest will pit five candidates against one another in a race to replace Van de Putte, who is hoping to trade her longtime Senate seat for the top city office in San Antonio after a failed bid for lieutenant governor. The district has long been under Democratic control, which the party is hoping to maintain to keep its count of 11 members in the Republican-led Senate.
Among those candidates:
Trey Martinez Fischer, a San Antonio attorney and Democratic firebrand in the Texas House, where he has served since 2001. Martinez Fischer is chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.
José Menéndez, who, like Martinez Fischer, has served in the Texas House since 2001. Menéndez, a Democrat, is the vice president of a local licensing firm and serves as chairman of the House Committee on Defense and Veterans’ Affairs.
Alma Perez Jackson, a Republican who is the retired owner of a day care center. A member of the State Republican Executive Committee, Perez Jackson ran unsuccessfully for the HD-125 seat in 2012, taking home 37 percent of the vote.
Al Suarez, who describes himself as a moderate Democrat, and is the four-term mayor of Converse, Texas. Suarez previously served on the Converse City Council and wants to reduce unfunded municipal mandates enacted by the Legislature.
Joan Pedrotti, a Republican and former Bexar County courts administrator. This is Pedrotti’s first run for elected office.
HD-123, which has six contenders, is the second San Antonio seat up for grabs as a result of the local mayor’s race. Shortly after being re-elected in November, Villarreal announced that he was leaving his seat to run for mayor. Democrats have controlled HD-123, which stretches from downtown San Antonio to the northern edge of the city, since Villarreal won the seat in 2002.
The candidates are:
Diego Bernal, a Democrat and former San Antonio city councilman. Bernal is focused on expanding education funding, and the civil rights advocate has worked for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Melissa Aguillon, the president and CEO of Aguillon & Associates, a San Antonio-based public relations firm. The Democrat’s campaign centers on issues like education and equal pay for women.
Walter Martinez, who served a single term in the Texas House in the 1980s. Martinez, a Democrat, also sat on the San Antonio City Council from 1985 to 1992. Like other candidates, he has listed education and job creation as important issues to address if elected.
Nunzio Previtera, the only Republican running for the seat. Previtera is running on a hallmark conservative agenda, including opposition to tax increases and abortion. He runs an insurance agency with his wife.
Roger V. Gary, a Libertarian who works in sales and marketing. Gary previously sought his party’s nomination for the 2012 presidential race, and is a former state chairman of the Libertarian Party of Texas.
Paul Ingmundson, a San Antonio-based sleep disorder specialist. Ingmundson, the Green Party candidate in the race, ran for HD-123 in the 2014 election. He lost with 13.7 percent of the vote. His platform promotes “clean energy and clean government.”
HD-17, which spans five counties east of Austin, opened when Kleinschmidt announced he was leaving his seat for a job in the agriculture department. Kleinschmidt had easily kept the district under Republican control since being elected in 2009.
Voters will have their pick of five candidates to replace him on Election Day:
John Cyrier, the president and CEO of a construction company in Austin. Cyrier, a Republican, previously served as a Caldwell County commissioner and county judge pro tem. He has a wide range of endorsements, including that of outgoing Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.
Brent Golemon, a local businessman who previously worked for various management companies. Golemon, a Republican, previously served on the Bastrop County Water District board. His platform includes opposition to abortion and regulations on guns.
Shelley Cartier, a realtor who previously ran as an independent candidate for Bastrop County Judge. In this race, she’s running as a Democrat.
Ty McDonald, a Bastrop pastor who worked as a legislative director in the 1990s for state Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, and as a campaign coordinator for former comptroller John Sharp. The Democrat is the former president of the Bastrop Independent School District.
Linda Curtis, the founder of Independent Texans and the only third-party candidate in the race. She was involved in the movement to bring single-member districts to the Austin City Council and helped found the League of Independent Voters of Texas.