Kleberg Democrats hold candidate forum
The forum was attended by eight candidates for office and approximately 50 members of the community.
The moderator for the forum was Kleberg County Democratic Party Chairman Roberto Villarreal. Under the agreed-upon format of the forum, each candidate was given five minutes to address the audience, and then audience members were permitted to ask questions that would be answered by each of the candidates in the featured race.
The Kleberg County Sheriff race was the only race to have all three Democratic candidates present for the forum.
Challenger Plutarco Castro told the audience he has the necessary education and experience to run the department, and he planned to connect with the public if he is elected.
“As your sheriff, I will be- come immediately acquainted with the citizens. I will always answer your phone calls and I will always be there to see you in the office, and I will expect my deputies to do the same,” Castro said. “The deputies will be more sensitive to the needs of the community. Respectability and professionalism will be brought back to the sheriff ’s department.”
Challenger Alex Perez said he would bring back law enforcement programs that connected with school districts and would increase patrols in the county.
“I would like to see how we could possibly bring the DARE program back to our schools. Our schools are having a big problem with drugs, and weapons and bullying,” Perez said. “Second, we need more patrolling out on the county roads. We used to see, in times past, deputies out on the highway most of the time. They will be going out into the county, visiting with people, listening to their concerns.”
Incumbent Sheriff Ed Mata said he had used forfeiture funds to upgrade equipment and implement new technology in his department, and had used his budget money to assist the county in its budget shortages.
“People ask how come that hasn’t been promoted. Because I don’t have time to promote those things. I have to go train my people to utilize the equipment that we have, and not to try to pat myself on the back,” Mata said. “It shows when the officers are out there utilizing those services with no matching (funds).”
Incumbent Pct. 3 Constable Cirildo “Cid” Zavala told those in attendance that he hopes to find funding to expand his department in his next term.
“I’m still looking for a full-time deputy. I think Precinct 3 needs a full-time deputy,” Zavala said. “I just want all the voters to support me for my third term, and hopefully in my third term I will have a deputy I can depend on and have down south at all times to assist the sheriff ’s department.”
Zavala’s opponent in the primary, Joey Kuntscher Jr., was unable to attend Thursday’s forum, but submitted a written statement, which was read by Villarreal.
“I have been approached by a number of citizens in the community requesting me to serve as their Kleberg County Constable for Precinct 3. I plan to be highly visible, because I believe that deters crime,” Kuntscher wrote. “I am undoubtedly qualified to be your next Kleberg County constable.”
Pct. 3 County Commissioner Roy Cantu spoke about his accomplishments in office, including raising $10 million in colonia funding for his precinct over the past seven years.
“About 40 to 50 percent of my people live in rural areas, and that presents unique problems for a commissioner,” Cantu said. “Out in the rural areas, they rely on the commissioner for a lot of stuff. I’m involved with my people out there, the voters, in a lot of different ways, helping them with the problems they have.”
Cantu’s challenger in the primary, Arturo Alvarez Jr., did not attend Thursday’s forum.
Larry Garza, who has served for 19 years on the Kingsville Independent School District Board of Trustees, is running for State Board of Education, District 2. He was not present at Thursday’s forum, but his wife, Aurora, spoke on his behalf.
“He does this community service from his heart,” Garza said. “He’s all heart. What he does in anything, he does from his heart. It was a natural process for him to go from the local school board to consider running for the State Board of Education.”
Garza faces two challengers in the Democratic primary.
Several candidates who do not face opponents in the primary attended the forum and took the opportunity to address the public.
Incumbent Pct. 2 Constable Omar Rosales does not face an opponent in the primary, and said he was looking forward to another term in office.
“There are a lot of things left undone that I haven’t been able to do. And one of the main things is the budget,” Rosales said. “I ask for everybody’s support for four more years. And what I really want to tell everybody is to go out and vote… One vote can make a difference.”
Pct. 1 County Commissioner candidate Mario Mendietta also does not face a challenger in the primary. Mendietta said he will make the county budget a priority if he is elected.
“We don’t get half of the services we deserve for our tax dollars. If you drive on our county roads today and you drive in precinct one – they’re torn up,” Mendietta said. “You can never find the full-time commissioner that should be there to answer any questions you have.”
Incumbent Tax Assessor-Collector Melissa De La Garza does not have an opponent in the primary, but will face a Republican challenger, Krystal Seidel, in the General Election in November. De La Garza spoke about the importance of keeping up-to-date on the everchanging tax code, and encouraged Democrats to vote in the upcoming election.
“I feel this election year is going to be very, very important, and everybody has to pledge to take 10 people out to vote. And those people need to pledge to you that they’re going to take out 10 more, and 10 more, and 10 more,” De La Garza said. “It’s happened here in the history of Kleberg County several times where one vote has made the difference in an election. It’s just so, so important.”