I just read a great analysis of the pending race for County Commissioner Precinct 1 between Jennifer Ramos and incumbent Chico Rodriguez.
It was written by Greg Jefferson from the political insider website Plazadearmastx.com and he's allowed me to reprint it here for you to check out.The end of Ramos' dream
by Greg Jefferson
News that Councilwoman Jennifer Ramos would soon leave office to challenge County Commissioner Sergio "Chico" Rodriguez felt stale almost as soon as it arrived this week. After all, she'd been flirting with this race for well over a year. The possibility of her seeking the Democratic nomination in Precinct 1 in 2012 loomed even as she campaigned for reelection earlier this year, and the move looked ever more likely after she rolled to an easy victory in May, overcoming allegations that she'd used her District 3 Council office to benefit her then-employer WellMed Charitable Foundation.
Sure, she briefly considered running in the new 35th Congressional District, which – as redrawn last month by two federal judges – takes in her Southeast Side turf. But the safe bet remained on Precinct 1. Her departure from City Hall to battle Rodriguez in next March's primary seemed so inevitable that the competition to land the interim appointment in District 3 informally started weeks ago. The top contenders so far are Michael Tejeda, a onetime Harlandale school board member and Councilman David Medina's former chief of staff, and Anthony Alcoser, a current Harlandale board member.
So let's get on with it already.
Let's begin the clash of ideas over how best to bring new jobs and development to southern Bexar County, and to deliver needed infrastructure improvements and services.
OK, that last sentence was something of a joke. If it's a policy debate you're hungry for, the Precinct 1 primary contest probably won't be the dish for you. Yes, Ramos will talk about her push to complete the redevelopment of the Mission Drive-In (started by her predecessor and key ally, state Representative Roland Gutierrez), and to crack down on illegal dumping and prostitution on Roosevelt. And Rodriguez, who earns $103,674 as a commissioner, likely will highlight a new center for seniors and Mission Reach successes (which came about with a lot of muscle from County Judge Nelson Wolff). But don't expect them to stick to the high road for long.
Rodriguez, who toppled longtime Commissioner Robert Tejeda in the 2004 primary, is a brawler who rarely forgets a slight and stays mad long after the fight's over. Seth Mitchell, Wolff's former chief of staff and current County operations and planning manager, is one of those who've undergone the Rodriguez treatment. The commissioner is temperamentally the opposite of his older brother, former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, but together they've helped define South Side politics in recent years. Ciro is chasing the Democratic nomination in the 35th Congressional District, which encompasses most of Precinct 1; while Democratic leaders and campaign professionals have complained for years of "Rodriguez fatigue," it so far hasn't caught up with South Side voters. That could accrue to Chico's benefit come election time – as well as his distinct fundraising advantage, power of incumbency, and strong survival instinct.
A supporter of Ramos expects her race against Rodriguez to unfold as one of the coming winter's most savage contests. "This is going to be the ugliest, nastiest campaign she's ever been in, and I don't think she understands that yet," the partisan said.
That's because, politically, Ramos has led a mostly charmed life. Her tightest race so far was her first – in 2004, when she won 62.4 percent of the vote in a three-way race for a seat on Alamo College's board of trustees. While serving as a trustee, she went to work for then-Councilman Gutierrez, learning how to maneuver within City Hall. After waltzing to his second term, having drawn not a single opponent, Gutierrez left six months later to seek another office – just like Ramos intends to do. She won the interim Council appointment in January 2008, and the following year was elected to the seat outright, with no opposition.
Ramos and Gutierrez remain close. We've heard he's been encouraging her to run in Precinct 1, partly because, like Rodriguez, Gutierrez has a hard time letting go of a grudge. He apparently picked it up in the 2004 primary election that was Tejeda's undoing; the future Councilman finished third, five percentage points behind Rodriguez.
In the meantime, Ramos – a choppy, unpolished public speaker – assiduously watched out for the interests of the City's uniformed and civilian employees, winning the backing of the major municipal unions, and voted mostly pro-development. She also settled comfortably into the role of City Hall insider; her most recent campaign-finance report, filed July 15, bears that out. She raised $12,300 between May 5 and June 30, collecting checks from lobbyists Bobby Perez, Jane Macon, David Earl (and his wife and a couple of developer clients), and the Brown & Ortiz firm, City towing contractor Buddy Ford, and NuStar Chairman (and Haven for Hope wheel) Bill Greehey, as well as two of the pipeline company's executives and its political action committee. (NuStar bought the former AGE refinery in District 3 out of bankruptcy in April, with Ramos cheering the company's planned investment of $35 million at an on-site news conference.)
Ramos had banked more than $20,000 as of June 30, and has held several fundraisers since then. She can roll that money into her Precinct 1 race, for which she has yet to file. For his part, Rodriguez reported having $54,000 in the bank. He, too, is good at raising money from lobbyists, developers, and big business.
In her last Council race, the biggest threat to Ramos were the WellMed allegations, not Liz Campos, the challenger who leveled the charges. Campos was an unprepared candidate whose sole intent appeared to be talking about Ramos' alleged shady dealings. Conspiracy theories, with Chico Rodriguez playing Svengali, abounded. After weeks of media scrutiny of Ramos' efforts on behalf of the business side of WellMed's foundation, the City's Ethics Review Board tossed the most serious charges and District 3 voters yawned. Ramos captured 73 percent of the vote in a contest with Campos and Ernest Zamora Jr.
Ramos' success in that race shows that she's built up a lot of good will in District 3, which makes up a decent chunk of Precinct 1 (though the last we heard, Ramos actually lived in Precinct 4 and would have to move into Rodriguez's territory to take him on). "Jenn is very popular in her district, so Chico will have to work hard to win," said Shannon Perez, the Texas political director for the Service Employees International Union, which represents some City workers. "Signs at major intersections won't cut it this time... It's all about who runs the better campaign: voter contact, mail, phones, [get out the vote]."
It's also worth noting that after taking down Tejeda eight years ago, Rodriguez faced only nominal opposition in 2008, mostly put up by a greatly weakened Tejeda, so his campaign muscle could be a little atrophied.
Still, his outsize will to survive is a thing to behold, and he could make everything in Ramos' political career up to this point look sweet and dreamy by comparison.