THE LOYD NEAL-RENE RODRIGUEZ
Two Foes Unite Because Of Convenience?
[IS COUNTY JUDGE LOYD NEAL ALLOWING RENE RODRIGUEZ TO “TROJAN-HORSE” HIS DEMOCRATIC PARTY LOYALS TO RUN AS REPUBLICANS & BE APPOINTED TO SEATS? Why?]
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince us that he did not exist.”
Some years back, Attorney Filemon “Phil” Vela Jr. (son of the late Federal Judge Filemon Vela Sr.) moved to Corpus Christi with his wife, Rose, who is also an attorney. Slowly but surely, he eventually became the “money man” for the Nueces County Democratic Party. It was quite a struggle posturing himself there but nonetheless he succeeded.
Initially Vela’s true influence was not fittingly recognized by the masses, but mostly by an expedient inner core of political observers and players. “He wanted to operate under the radar initially,” one source shared.
His factional organization seemed to be craftily and intentionally misleading to the outside eye. CIA-type “deceptology” at work. His creation would be executed in Nueces County; this allowed him both legroom and leeway away from the vigilance of his politically influential family (who lived in the Valley of South Texas).
Phil recruited two friends – attorneys Rene Rodriguez and Terry Shamsie. To sum it up: Phil’s role was to set up the process; Rene’s, to be the face of the process; Terry’s, to do the opposition research. They were never tagged a formal or informal name as a political faction. So the illusion was that Rene was the main mover and shaker – some political activists referred to him as “The Man.” His Republican political opponents called “El Cucuy” (the Boogie Man). Unceremoniously for the sake of convenience the political clique was informally known as the “RENE RODRIGUEZ FACTION” (within the Democratic Party).
Why? Because “Phil” has been described as a political voyeur and the “brains.” He was securely operating from behind the scenes over the years. He kept a safe aloofness from the din of perilous political clashes and backlashes that emerged over this span of time (that is, operating as a hardcore Democrat). Rene – this was his chosen one; the one he had chosen to be the frontispiece at his casting couch.
Rene Rodriguez consequently and hence took the risks and was awarded the accolades, and stood up to the buffetings destined to be his lot in accepting the assignment. In the collective mind-eye of the masses, in the daily interactions of the huddle of the herd, in the headlines of print media and in the broadcast headlines of televised clips and in the daily discussions of conservative and Spanish radio stations, Rene had became the observable actor of a political movement. Rene had become in effect the gutsy character of the power group, a group seen in daily motion. The old Democratic party guard was being slowly brushed aside and wizened and enervated by a fresh injection of poli-legal technocrats armed with the skill to dispel the mirage of the deceptive patron system. The Hugo Berlangas, the Carlos Truans, the Irma Rangels and others in high-flying posts felt a bitter note aimed at the anti-Old School culture and heard the tout for change.
Phil’s primary target had been defined: the judicial posts held by elderly Anglo men in the region and South Texas. The ideal weapon of recruits: Young Hispanic Female candidates to run for district judge posts: Attorney Nanette Hassette (Terry Shamsie’s wife); Nelda Vidaurri Rodriguez (Rene’s wife); Martha Huerta (Bert Quintanilla’s wife); Rose Vela (Phil Vela’s wife); and Nelva Gonzalez Ramos.
They did ran a few others for some other post – such as Attorney Jaime Capelo who was elected as State Representative after Hugo Berlanga decided to step down. But Capelo while in office (along with his Chief-Of-Staff Bert Quintanilla) made some decisions (e.g., pushing for legislative and legal caps on lawsuits filed against doctors) that upset Phil (who had surfaced as the true King Pin of the faction).
Hence, after that phase, Martha Huerta (as a result of her husband’s -- Bert Quintanilla’s and Capelo’s actions) lost her re-election bid. She became the Anathema. Republican Candidate Tom Greenwell was the victor in that many of Huerta’s former supporters teamed up with him politically.
George W. Bush). But eight years later, Phil Vela (and his wife) would put the masses in shock and awe – they would announce they were now REPUBLICANS. His wife would be nicknamed “Tokyo Rose” by disenchanted Democrats.
In 2006, Phil ran his wife as a Republican for a seat on the 13th Court of Appeals because of various factors. He had become disillusioned with Attorney Mikal Watts, who had swaggered into the party and thus soon after emerged as the top “Money Man” for the Democratic Party in Nueces County. Many within the Democratic Party would at the outset revile the Velas. But the animosity would slowly dwindle as the calculated financial “funneling effect” of the Velas lubricated many a key person across the fence lifestyle.
Attorney Mikal Watts would go on to use his financial war chest (procured over many a year from auto-injury lawsuits) that helped him to muster political influence within the regional Democratic Party and even statewide and nationally. He would run his own mom – Sandra Watts – for a district judge post – and she would win easily. Watts would even recruit and fund the campaigns of other judicial candidates such as John Martinez and a few others.
To return: in 2006 Rose Vela (running as a Republican) would unseat an 15-year incumbent on the 13th Court of Appeals. As for her husband, Phil, word circulated soon after that he was on the warpath setting a new course for the regional Republican Party. He kept a regular interaction with the main elements of the EDC/Loyd Neal-Scott Network.
Phil had searched for a new face and overall beau ideal for the Nueces County Republican Party. He decided on Mark Bertuzzi – his Ocean Drive neighbor. Bertuzzi (who worked for Merle Lynch) ran for Republican Chair; he was bankrolled by Phil’s financial coffers.
Bertuzzi (who was an investor and supple player) with the help from those who espoused government-corporate partnerships (and supporters of Big Government) would unseat the previous Republican chair – Joel Yowel (who was seen as an obstacle by the new leadership in that he was a true proponent of small government and fiscal sanity).
As the bills came in, Phil offered funds to pay for the rent and other essentials of the Republican Party Headquarters. The Velas were ever-presently there to swash their new partisan benevolence.
This display of "conspicuous consumption" and illusive munificence helped the Velas anneal a close-knit relationship with other factional groups, especially those who high-nosed the herd of lower echelon Republicans. The Velas even would help Bertuzzi put together a business plan for the party, a business plan that ingeniously gave them an overshadowing voice in the inner core of the decision-making of the party.
BERTIZZO WOULD OPEN THE FLOODGATE TO THE EDC:
Bertuzzi would open the door for the EDC; their avarice cotton to be the alpha and the omega of the regional Republican Party. The model presented by the Velas had helped the party win elections. County Judge Loyd Neal had become the top administrative head of the county. The EDC woke up from its provincial slumber and began to slowly forge an imperialistic opportunity to extend its crazy quilt of beliefs -- their manifest destiny. The EDC saw a readymade political organization (the Nueces County Republican Party) and they perceived it as ductile and a perfect ground to expand its turf. Al Jones (from American Bank) again is believed to have been the mastermind; Neal, the executor of the plan.
Phil would become a “behind the scenes” strategist (due to Bertuzzi’s new weight) for the county’s Republican Party. He would attempt to introduce many of the tactical schemes he had used within the Democratic Party. He ran Bertuzzi’s wife for an appellate court post – but failed. He supported Connie Scott (wife of businessman Mike Scott and former member of the Executive Committee of the Texas Republican Party) against State Representative Abel Herrero: an election that Herrero won but did not win with an extensive mandate of the voters).
The two elections mentioned above (Mrs. Bertuzzi’s and Mrs. Scott’s) that Phil was involved with allowed him in retrospect to be able to more pragmatically gauge, and hence, be more on familiar terms with the precise and significant variables needed in that target population for Republican candidates to win. After these two elections he knew that he needed more young Hispanic women to run as Republicans in order to be able to acquire a larger slice of the cross-over vote.
However, during this phase, he never ran Republican candidates against entrenched judicial candidates (Democrats) he had helped elect to office such as District Judges Nanette Hassette and Nelva Gonzalez-Ramos. Those Democratic Party incumbents he targeted ferociously were affiliated with Watts’ faction. The later did raise some doubts as to Phil’s true loyalty to the party at first – doubts that stemmed from his connections (both politically and businesswise) with the noted Democratic Party faction chief Attorney Rene Rodriguez.
PHIL USES COLLUSION TACTICS:
When some concerns and charges surfaced claiming that Phil was utilizing collusion tactics (that is, tactics used to hoodwink others to believe that two or more friends are rivals when in reality they are not but are secretly working together), he (and Republican Chair Bertuzzi) dismissed them promptly as being absurd. He validated his stratagem. He claimed that it was risky to run candidates against District Judges Hassette and Gonzalez-Ramos because doing so would set off a reactionary storm because they were incumbents. These two would come out full force and rally their democratic following and thus lower the odds of all Republican candidates (who were barely making inroads) winning elections.
It all seemed plausible; it all seemed conceivable; it all seemed luminously thought out - but, the truth was that there were still close interaction between Rene Rodriguez and he himself. In fact Phil had approached Rene to recruit young Hispanic males and females to run as Republicans. Attorney Juan Reyna would be a recruit, and they would use him to test the political waters. Reyna ran as a Republican for a County Court-At-Law judicial seat but lost the Democratic Party’s John Martinez (that was backed by Attorney Mikal Watts and his cohorts).
In that same election mentioned above, Rene Rodriguez helped Attorney Fred Jimenez (whose wife – Laura Jimenez -- is the County Judge) run in the Democratic Party Primaries against Maricela Saldana (who was supported by the Watts’ camp) for a 148th District Judge position.
Once Fred Jimenez lost to Saldana, it all seemed plausible to run and recruit all of Phil’s former friends and following to permanently switch parties, because he and Rene’s arch-rival (Attorney Mikal Watts) had outflanked them via his overwhelming, palatial gestures of financial benevolence to the regional Democratic Party. However, it would all change with the indictment of Mauricio Celis (who was accused of pretending to be an attorney in the State of Texas and who was labeled as a “runner” of cases for Attorney Mikal Watts and his legal cohorts). This incident, it is believed, changed the landscape and the future course of Phil’s agenda.
Mikal Watts, now a well-known Democratic Party potentate, who had formed an exploratory committee to run for U.S. Senator John Cornyn, Republican, decided to put out of the race after learning that there was a possibility that he might be indicted himself in the case involving Celis. After all, Celis had brought him the top cases that hand helped Watts make a fortune. Watts had split legal fees with Celis, a non-attorney (which is illegal in the State of Texas).
TERRY SHAMSIE IS ELECTED COUNTY JUDGE; His Aim: FISCAL SANITY!
Shamsie would go on to be elected Nueces County Judge in 2002 and served a four-year term. While then-Mayor Loyd Neal would dart into a spending spree and coordinating Government-Corporate partnerships and abuse tax payer dollars to bankroll many a project in the municipality, Shamsie as County Judge would captivate a broader audience as the leader of the county by his exacting fiscally responsible beliefs and hard-hitting measures to attempt to cut on spending and balance the budget. The twist of faith was that Shamsie, as far as his fiscal beliefs went, began to correspond ideologically with Joel Yowell (former Republican Chair) and Joe O’Brien (head of the Tax Payers association). He would also make tough decisions such as cutting down on non-essential positions via attrition. More appreciably, he would also turn down a proposal made by the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to finance their “Big Government” and “Government-Corporate Partnerships” operation. After an extensive review of the entity, he felt the EDC had failed in its mission to bring in jobs into the region. He saw the EDC as a white elephant. He felt county tax-dollars should not go to bailing out the failure of the EDC to meet its illusory touted rhetoric.
The mass audience would realize that Shamsie was not only an attorney, but was a “numbers cruncher” that had a master’s degree in business – his specialty: accounting. He would go on to synchronize a conscientious joint agenda with the county auditor. He would use both his experience working in the County Attorney's Office from 1989 to 1991 and his CPA credentials to draft a dependable and steadfast financial master plan for the region. One that would impress even his most taut political rivals.
In November of 2008 Nueces County commissioners would decide to appoint former County Judge Terry Shamsie to fill the seat left open by County Court-at-Law No. 5 Judge Carl Lewis, who died that year. Three of the five commissioners voted to appoint Shamsie: Peggy Bañales, Oscar Ortiz and Betty Jean Longoria. County Judge Loyd Neal and Commissioner Chuck Cazalas voted to select assistant district attorney Doug Norman. [Note: The judicial post deals with juvenile and family cases, including adoptions and other placements of children.]
County Judge Loyd Neal and Commissioner Chuck Cazalas voted to appoint assistant district attorney Doug Norman. Twenty-one people applied for the job. All applicants submitted resumes and some also included letters of recommendation. Cazalas said no formal interviews were held for the position.
PHIL VELA BECOMES DISENCHANTED WITH GOVERNOR PERRY: AN EXIT STRATEGY UNFOLDS? RENE RODRIGUEZ FOR A “PIECE OF THE PIE”?
At this phase Phil Vela is disenchanted with Texas Governor Rick Perry. He had lobbied with the Governor to appoint his wife to a state Supreme Court justice post vacated by Scott Brister who resigned. . Perry decided to appoint Eva Guzman instead whom he felt had a more impressive political machine. However, Phil devastated; he had a different take. Phil fired back. He told that a collaborator of the governor's staff insisted that he renounce his support of and contribute money to the Perry campaign or his wife would not secure the judicial post appointment she was aiming for at that juncture. .
To make a long story short, in this year’s Republican primaries, Vela lost to Guzman. [Note: Guzman will now face a Democratic Opponent (Tyler-based trial lawyer Blake Beailey) in the General Election in November.]
Some sources have claimed that Phil has muffled out that he might return to the Democratic Party but relocate to the Valley of South Texas: his native turf (where his father was idealized as a top political figure in the Democratic Party; where his father served as a Federal Judge; and where his mother as Mayor of Brownsville).
AN ARMY OF TWO! COUNTY JUDGE LOYD NEAL AND RENE RODRIGUEZ STRIKE A DEAL? DEMOCRATS AFFILIATED WITH THE RENE RODRIGUEZ FACTION DECIDE TO RUN AS REPUBLICANS:
While Phil Vela was starting to consider scribbling an exit strategy from the Republican Party? His close associate and friend, Rene Rodriguez (a liberal progressive), has recently come up with an ingenious ruse - a “trojan horse” trick to use the resources of the regional Republican Party to their political advantage.
Is it one last soupçon before an exit strategy is executed? Rene Rodriguez (who has really been the man out in the field, not Phil) decided to encourage Phil Vela to use his “Republican associates” to persuade Governor Perry to appoint Attorney Maria Anna Jimenez (Attorney Fred Jimenez’ sister, sister-in-law to County Judge Laura Jimenez, and close friend of Rodriguez) as interim Nueces County District Attorney after Carlos Valdez was offered a job (City Attorney) with the City of Corpus Christi.
The sun had barely come out, but word began to circulate that Valdez had struck a deal. He and been offered a job by top Republican leaders after he decided to pursue charges against Mauricio Celis (a case cited earlier). “I feel that if Valdez took a job with Governor Perry or another entity of the state, it might have been too obvious. I believe the EDC network accommodated him here in Corpus Christi to maximize their use of his influence. American Bank and other builders had been trying to acquire land and contracts in the downtown area. The memorial coliseum was in the spotlight; it was being torn down and businesses which wanted to locate here were intimidated away by the likes of Councilman Mark Scott and their cronies. Valdez has teamed up with this group known as the NETWORK FOR PROFIT.”
What events would substantiate or glimpse that Valdez was a willing accomplice? When Valdez was appointed city attorney, he approved that Mark Scott be allowed to vote on supporting Las Brisas Energy project (where Mark’s wife, Carol, works as the marketing/public relationships face for the corporation). It has been described as an ethical conflict of interest. Valdez said it was okay,” a local business highly critical of the EDC opined. “Also Valdez went above and beyond for the EDC heralders; at the time the Coliseum was being blocked from being torn down by veterans groups and the American GI Forum organization, threaten to put many of these elderly men and women in jail. Valdez seemed to be clearly functioning as an instrument of the EDC and their friends… Valdez, who had a chance to prosecute them, was now assisting them and using his influence in the community to legitimize their self-serving agenda and preservation. I under Valdez even has allowed that councilpersons be able to give away the hefty parcels of land of the coliseum and two park lands free of charge to a non-profit group being formed by American Bank Center. This is clearly theft of public land… To review, Valdez knew he had a job with the city, even before they had voted to appoint him city attorney. A deal had to be struck beforehand in my estimation.”
WAS IT A DESPERATE ATTEMPT BY COUNTY JUDGE LOYD NEAL TO SAVE THE REGIONAL REPUBLICAN PARTY OR WAS IT JUST SELF-SERVICE?
The wheels of the maelstrom were turning. As soon as Maria Anna Jimenez was appointed to the post, she called for a “reorganization” of the DA’s office with the blessing of none other than County Judge Neal (Republican). The minutes of cited County Commission reflect his intentions and stamp of approval. Upon shuffling positions around and after din of a few firings and resignations, she decided to replace the top staff – a political stab even at orthodox conservatives in posts. She promoted Rene Rodriguez’s son (who has a verdant track record of working with the DA’s office) to a top prosecutor post within the department. She also approved the promotion of a few others to posts pushed from behind the scenes by the Neal network. “What the heck is going on? Neal appointing known Democratic Party hardliners” a longtime Republican responded when the action was taken.
There was no turning back. Nueces County Judge Neal was quick to support Interim DA Jimenez’ actions to the chagrin of many a regional orthodox Republican. “This noticeably hints that a deal was struck between Neal and Rodriguez. Neal had in effect pretty much handed the control of the DA’s office to the Rene Rodriguez Faction (as Phil prepares an exit). “Keep in mind that Rene Rodriguez was called the greatest ‘hate-baiter’ in Corpus Christi and Nueces County politics by the likes of Radio Talk Show hosts Eric Von Wade and other Republican Party commentators,” a political analyst reflected. “The boogie man of politics: how can he be recruited to defend the party? It is like asking the Devil to defend God!”
Other theories billow: Rene will soon be entering the last phase of his life. He had served as the face and trouble-shooter for the Phil’s entertaining endeavors. Phil knew deep down inside he had to compensate him before executing an EXIT STRATEGY.
“What could possibly Loyd Neal and Rene Rodriguez have in common? Ideology? No! Money/Neat Gains/Financial contracts? Yes! A story can have a happy ending in their mutual eyes of former foes. They both stand to gain from both from business and/or political deals. Neal wants to push insurance deals and other business agendas; Rodriguez will have a predictable paycheck … They are both in the last phase of their life and have mellowed out. They are no longer counting the years to grow up and built a life, but the days left to die and fade from this world. They are both putting their energy, I believe in the legacy they will leave behind,” one courthouse employee involved in political campaigns felt the need to confess the artifice of the cited agreement.
“The EDC is expanding its empire. For the longest time they only controlled the city; now they have the county in the pockets. The Al Jones of these world now have share some of the political turf instead of going head-to-head and trying to gobble the whole pie at one time. The latter might indirectly be opening up new opportunities for professional and upwardly mobile Hispanics. The EDC by adopting the latter tactics assists in creating a functional buffer to avoid a breakdown,” a nonchalant strategist glinted while explaining his take on this matter.
“The new team known as ‘RENE’S GIRLS’” – THIS IS THE NEW TAG:
There are various a running jokes at Nueces County Courthouse about how “Rene’s Girls” managed to get pierce the Republican Party. Even the Nueces County Democratic Chair (Rose Meza-Harrison that works for the County Attorney’s office) elatedly emailed a farrago of folks after Ms. Maria Anna Jimenez (a Republican) was confirmed permanently as the District Attorney instead of James Sales (Republican).
“But Maria Anna Jimenez is not the only person with leanings to the Democrat Party associated with the Rene Rodriguez Faction that has been ‘Trojaned’ in, there is also Angelica Hernandez (who had informally announced her intentions to run as a Democrat) but then was told by Rene that she needed to run Republican or there would not assured funding for her campaign,” an inside source shared.
There is one theoretical scenario that points to a clear pattern of mutual suitability. The LOYD NEAL-RENE RODRIGUEZ PACT hints at expedient agendas. There are too many financial deals that benefit the Neal NETWORK on the table to be ignored. Too many of Neal’s network friends on the city council involved with real-estate have conflicts of interest (and thus and so Valdez as city attorney can mollify the negative sanctions and allow them legroom to maneuver about and snip a financial and powercratic gain). Positioning in the courthouse is politically compulsory to stun the disgruntled resistance and future agitators.
In addition to the above, Rene has been given legal work with the county due to the influence of County Judge Neal and other close associates. Neal as county judge has hired the former secretary of his Insurance business – Claudia Lobell—as his Chief Executive. He has also hired his former insurance partner, Tomas Duran, as a consultant to the county for the group health insurance they are considering on implementing.
Neal and Duran have a long history on working together with self-insured group health insurance. In fact, while Neal was mayor of Corpus Christi he broke a tie in the council vote to hire ENTRUST (an insurance company being pushed by Duran). Neal should not have voted in that he had a conflict of interest because he was representing ENTRUST at the time.
HOW CAN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY RETURN TO ITS VALUES OF FISCAL SANITY AND PRO-LIFE VALUES?
The new Republican Chair Ron McLain (a Libertarian-leaning Republican) is trying desperate to return the part to its tenets of a sound economic plan and small government. Yet, he is being sneered at by top functionaries within the Republican Party linked with the Neal Network. Last month, Conservative Talk Radio Host James Lago (whose wife Pam works for the EDC) had the former chair Mark Bertuzzi as a guest. “We can work around him,” Bertuzzi said. Lago added: “(The McLain people) remind me of persons who run in baseball parks and get tazered”.
As the the EDC government-corporate partnerships broadens its base to the county level, the Repubican’s traditional tenents are being enervated and compromised. As many new recruits enroll in the party and label the traditional hallowed values of the Republican Party are being seen as out-of-date and old-hat, Phil Vela prepares an EXIT STRATEGY from the Republican Party (and his longtime political and business associate is being invited into the fold – Rene Rodriguez).
Questions linger. Have the two former foes (Neal and Rodriguez) found solace in a new-fangled relationship spinned with meaning by Phil? Are the former foes now preparing to live under the same partisan roof? One thing is for sure. LOYD NEAL and RENE RODRIGUEZ new pultonic business enterprise and political gamble lift Nueces County politics onto a prefigured plane of bizarreness, where the masses of both parties (Democrats and Republicans) seem hopelessly losts in a maze of mirrors and paths and bypaths that weave and ever interwine into an exitless labyrith of logic. “In my estimation it is a spectacular and stunning deal of self-service,” a former County Commissioner stated.
But as the Nueces County Commission finds itself engulfed in flames, candidate for County Judge Clarrisa Gonzalez sprints to win the election as a Democrat. The parodox is that she is a true conservative. She is a small business woman that feels that the county government must return to a normative agenda of fiscal wisdom. She is upbeat and positive about the future yet is rightously angry at the barbarism of rash spending of tax-payer dollars in a rotating door of extravageant spending on hasty causes.
THE PARADOX: Loyd Neal promote BIG GOVERNMENT; Clarrisa Gonzalez, SMALL GOVERNMENT. Neal feels that big corporations are the key to economic growth; Gonzalez, that small business is the true engine of growth.