December 15, 2021 228 PM
TRI-COUNTY — The time period to file to run for public office in the state of Texas officially closed on Monday, December 13, and with many seats up for election in the tri-county area, numerous candidates have put their foot forward to take on vital public office roles in the community.
While the official list of all candidates who have filed from the secretary of state’s office will not be available for another week, the following results have been made available. Candidates will first appear on the ballot in the primary elections on March 1, 2022. From there, successful candidates will go on to the general election in November 2022, with elected officials finally taking office in January 2023.
In Presidio County, many incumbents are running to keep their positions, but in some cases are coming up against new opponents. In a county that has traditionally seen almost exclusively Democratic candidates on the ballot, there were also three Republican candidate filings, a sign the Presidio County Republican Party is successfully recruiting members.
For County Judge, it will be a race between incumbent Cinderela Guevara, a Marfa resident who has held the seat since 2015 but chose to switch parties from the Democratic to the Republican Party, and Democratic candidate Jose Portillo Jr. Portillo is a retired state police officer and former Presidio city administrator living in Presidio. Portillo and Guevara did not respond to requests for comment about their campaigns.
Incumbent Frances Garcia is running under the Democratic Party for county treasurer after a lawsuit brought against Garcia and Presidio County by former county employee Katie Sanchez resulted in a jury finding Garcia had violated Sanchez’s first amendment rights. Proceedings are still ongoing. Republican Dave Chavez will run against Garcia in the race for county treasurer. He has a strong background in public administration. Chavez said he hopes his credentials will help the office run professionally and smoothly going forward. Garcia did not respond to requests for comment.
County Commissioner Precinct 2, a seat currently held by Eloy Aranda who has chosen not to run again, is up for election, with Democrats Abel “Billy” Hernandez and Margarito Hernandez vying for the seat.
Billy Hernandez, who is currently serving on Presidio City Council, said he decided to run for County Commissioner Precinct 2 to further serve the community he lives in. Billy worked at the county for 20 years for the road and bridge then maintenance department before retiring. He said those experiences gave him insight into the inner workings of the county and familiarity with county and city employees, which would benefit him in the role as commissioner.
Margarito Hernandez was born in Redford and has been a longtime Presidio resident. He has served as a deputy, police officer and now as chief of police for about a year with the City of Presidio. He will be able to keep his job as chief of police and serve as county commissioner simultaneously, he said. He said his familiarity with the county, its roads and people will make him a good commissioner. He plans to fall back on the golden rule of treating others the way he would want to be treated in his potential role as commissioner.
For the County Commissioner Precinct 4 seat, incumbent Frank “Buddy” Knight is running against former Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 David Beebe, both under the Democratic Party. Republican Garey Wilbanks, co-founder and principal at Teal System, joins the race as well.
Knight said if he were to continue to serve Presidio County as County Commissioner Precinct 4 he would continue to help balance the budget, citing a deficit of $300,000 when he first entered office. He said he would also continue to defeat bills from the state that could adversely affect counties statewide. He also mentioned he would help avoid situations like the Sanchez v. Presidio County lawsuit, which he said blemished the county’s integrity and was a financial loss.
“Moving forward the issues faced by counties today are huge. With dwindling budgets and rising costs, it is a challenge to govern on any level. It used to be about road maintenance, maintaining county facilities and various other obligations. Now it’s indigent healthcare, emergency services and many other issues that come up on a daily basis,” said Knight.
Beebe said the reason he is running for commissioner is because he wants to bring a proactive approach to commissioners court.
“Commissioners often show up to court without having read their packets and with little self education about how county departments and systems function. I believe that commissioners need to understand the multiple operations that they oversee, and take a proactive approach to making the systems function more efficiently, with an eye towards serving the citizens and making the county a better place to work for its employees,” said Beebe.
Beebe said he would show up to court prepared and would like to implement schedules for maintaining and replacing county assets, addressing long-term goals, and plans for the county’s building stock, “not limited to preservation and restoration of the old jail.”
“I have been a regular attendee of commissioners court meetings for nearly 10 years and hope to build on my knowledge of our issues by demonstrating strong leadership for the county,” said Beebe.
Current Marfa City Councilmember Raul Lara and Dina Jo Marquez, who stepped in to finish out Beebe’s term, are both running for Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 under the Democratic Party.
“We’ve gone through a mess with the [Presidio versus Sanchez] lawsuit. I just feel like, with my experience and being here for the past 53 years, I think I’m ready to move up into a more vital role in the justice of the peace system. Just bring back integrity and honesty to the courthouse,” said Lara when asked why he was running for the position. Marquez did not respond to requests for comment.
The Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 race will see incumbent Juanita Urias Bishop going against Brenda Pando-Covos, current assistant to the county attorney. Neither responded to requests for comment about their campaigns.
Incumbent Florcita Zubia, a Democrat, is running for District/County Clerk unopposed.
“I am so happy and excited to serve the community as an elected official as the Presidio County and District Clerk,” Zubia said in an email. “I was appointed June 2, 2021, and have really enjoyed being in office. I appreciate those who have supported me this far and ask for your continued support.”
In Brewster County, the available County Judge position is stacked with candidates on both sides as current Judge Eleazar Cano exits office. Greg Henington, owner of Far Flung Outdoor Center; Monty Kimball, attorney; and Ryan Skelton, previous Fort Stockton chief of police, are running as Republicans. Oscar Cobos, minister; Benjamin Barrientes, professor; and Mimi Smith, attorney and newspaper publisher of The Big Bend Gazette, are running as the Democratic candidates.
For County Commissioner Precinct 2, Democrat and incumbent Sara Allen Colando will run against Republican Mark Chiles, who is in construction.
Rancher Mo Morrow, a Republican, is running unopposed for County Commissioner Precinct 4.
Incumbent Bob Steele and J. Scott Wasserman, who is in retail sales, are both running as Republican candidates for the available Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 seat. For Justice of the Peace Precinct 2, Republican Paul Rashott, retired, will run against Democrat Tim Relleva, rancher. Democrat Susana M. Gonzales, current Justice of the Peace Precinct 3, will run unopposed for another term.
Republican incumbent Flavio Rene Ybarra Jr. is also running unopposed for County Constable Precinct 1.
Democrat Sarah Fellows Martinez, currently Presidio County’s deputy district clerk, is running for Brewster County District Clerk. Current District Clerk Jo Ann Salgado is retiring after serving for 38 years. Salgado said she is honored to have served the public and thanked her supporters throughout the years. “I am happily looking forward to retirement and spending more time with my husband, family and friends,” Salgado said.
Incumbent Sarah Vasquez will run again for County Clerk under the Democratic Party. She is unopposed.
Incumbent Julie Morton will run to extend her term as County Treasurer against fellow Democrat Lorene Villanueva, who is currently employed as the County Clerk for Judge Bob Steele, Justice of the Peace Precinct 1.
In Jeff Davis County, the following positions are available: County Judge, District/County Clerk, County Treasurer, County Commissioner Precinct 2, County Commissioner Precinct 4 and Justice of the Peace. The secretary of state’s website, which displays preliminary results, shows no candidates filed in Jeff Davis County at press time.
The Big Bend Sentinel was able to confirm incumbent Democrat Todd Jagger will run for County Commissioner Precinct 2, current Republican District/County Clerk Jennifer Wright will run to extend her term and Democrat Albert Miller, current County Commissioner Precinct 4, has filed to run for another term.
The Big Bend Sentinel will publish in-depth candidate questionnaires ahead of the elections.