January 17, 2024 739 PM
83RD DISTRICT — At the close of December’s filing deadlines just two candidates for the Big Bend region’s district attorney’s office filed to run: incumbent Ori White, who is seeking a second term, and former DA, Fort Stockton-based attorney Jesse Gonzales. The DA’s office prosecutes felonies in Brewster, Presidio, Jeff Davis and Pecos counties and serves an elected four-year term. Both Gonzales and White are running as Republicans, so the spring primary will decide the election.
Gonzales was born and raised in Fort Stockton and has stayed relatively close to home his entire life, choosing to serve his home community through private and public practice. After graduating from high school, he earned a BA from Sul Ross in political science and went on to earn a degree in law from Texas Tech University.
While completing his undergraduate degree, Gonzales served as a part-time deputy for the Fort Stockton police department. That experience left him with an insider’s understanding of law enforcement — a perspective that he feels helps him as a prosecutor. “I want to continue what I’ve done in the past — working alongside law enforcement, letting them know that there’s somebody on their side,” he said.
Gonzales brings a different kind of experience to the job as well: from 2009 to 2012 he served as the 83rd District’s attorney. He ran for reelection, but lost in the general election to Rod Ponton.
If elected, he has pledged to push politics to the side in an inherently political job and focus on the task at hand. “If you take the approach of trying to please everybody, it seems like you lose sight of what the job is about,” he said.
He conceded that a lot has changed in the district over the past 12 years: the tourism industry has boomed, oil and gas has fluctuated. Gonzales feels that border issues have changed in tone and intensity over the past decade as well.
Despite what he feels is an escalation of conflict on the border, he says the people who call the area home have stayed the same. “Just because it’s borderland Texas doesn’t mean that it’s all militants on both sides,” he said. “There’s colleges, high schools, young people, retired persons, everything. They should be able to feel like they’re safe and somebody supports their law enforcement.”
Apart from prioritizing law enforcement, he wants to keep his practice constituent-centered. Most people won’t ever interact with their local district attorney’s office — but he wants to keep it approachable all the same. “It’s peace of mind in knowing that if either your friends or your neighbors or your family has to have an unfortunate circumstance where they’re a victim — or even an offender — we want them to know that they’re being treated fairly,” he said.
He hoped that voters would turn out to make their voices heard in this election. “I look forward to improving the office to where the community and law enforcement community at large has confidence in the office of the district attorney,” he said.