March 5, 2015
By Gilbert Garcia
Delicia Herrera won’t have to crash at a friend’s pad during this election cycle.
Herrera, a former two-term councilwoman, is one of four declared candidates for the District 124 Texas House seat that opened up two weeks ago when the district’s long-time representative, José Menéndez, won a special-election runoff for the Texas Senate. Herrera was one of the jubilant supporters who stood by Menéndez’s side at his victory party on February 17.
Three years ago, Herrera had her eye on a legislative seat, but encountered a slight inconvenience.
Her home at SW 39th Street was located in District 124, but that legislative seat was occupied by Menéndez, an incumbent who already had nearly a decade under his belt and showed no signs of political vulnerability. But Herrera’s home was just outside the boundary line for District 125, and that West Side seat had opened up, because Joaquin Castro was stepping down to run for Congress.
So Herrera claimed the Northwest Side home of her former campaign treasurer — about nine miles north of her own house — as her residence, even as she admitted to the San Antonio Express-News that she continued to receive her mail and keep her dogs and “stuff” at the 39th Street house.
Her Democratic primary opponent (and former City Council colleague), Justin Rodriguez, didn’t bother to legally challenge her eligibility on the residency issue, probably sensing that she posed little threat to his candidacy. Sure enough, Rodriguez won the primary by a 2-1 margin.
This time around, Herrera, 41, can run for the Lege without having to pull any residency maneuvers, and she likely will be the best-known candidate in the District 124 special election, which Gov. Greg Abbott has set for March 31, with a March 10 filing deadline for candidates.
Three of the four candidates to emerge so far are Democrats, with David Rosa — who lost a 2012 congressional race to Joaquin Castro — the lone Republican.
None of the candidates can claim any recent election victories. Since being term-limited out of her District 6 City Council seat in 2009, Herrera has lost primaries to Rodriguez and Bexar County Commissioner Paul Elizondo.
Ina Minjarez, 39, a local attorney who spent the first six years of her legal career working as a prosecutor, has made two bids for the County Court at Law No. 5 bench.
In 2006, Minjarez (running under her then-married name: Ina Castillo) won the Democratic nomination, but lost a November heartbreaker (50.7-49.3 percent) to Republican incumbent Timothy Johnson.
Four years later, she was a casualty of the 2010 Tea Party tsunami, and dropped a general-election contest to Jason Pulliam.
Minjarez and her significant other, Brooks Development Authority President/CEO (and former Spurs executive) Leo Gomez, constitute one of the city’s preeminent power couples, and her campaign experience and business connections should make her a formidable candidate in this race.
“José Menéndez has done an incredible job, and I want to continue that type of representation for my constituents,” Minjarez said.
Nathan Alonzo, 52, is the lone declared candidate who has yet to appear on an election ballot, but he’s a familiar name to local politicos.
The legislative director for the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association, Alonzo can make the case that his years of lobbying have given him the deepest understanding of the state legislative process of any candidate in the race.
“Whoever steps into this spot is going to have to hit the ground running on day one,” he said, “because by the time this election is over, there’s going to be a short opportunity to get things done.”
Rosa is likely to serve as a spoiler in this Democratic district, and if he pushes the race into a runoff, we could see the financial impact of Annie’s List, an Austin-based political organization that backs progresssive Democratic women running for the Lege, but which will likely stay out as long as both Herrera and Minjarez are in the race.
Both Minjarez and Herrera cite transportation, education funding and job creation as their three biggest legislative priorities, but this short campaign won’t be decided on issues. It will come down to organizational muscle and tenacity, in equal measure.