EMERGING LEADERSHIP IN BOTH PARTIES In Nueces County:
As Rene Rodriguez Leaves The Democratic Party, Attorney JOE FLORES Emerges To Fill In The Gap
Nueces County, TX – November 2 (General Election) – This date was first expected to be a normal, routine one (by many a local political analyst). But, it seems that it will be one far from from “normal.” The General Election is about a month and a half away; yet both the regional Democrat and Republican Parties have been hit with an unexpected maelstrom. They have been disconcerted with an eddy of drafts and undercurrrents that have brought about challenges in attempting to regroup the two political parties after unforeseen shifts and startling “back-stabbings” and permutational re-positioning by former top and moderate players. It seems that the expectant socio-political universe of a few months ago has now been cast away into a distant sea or as theologians refer to politics as :” the sea of trouble”.
It appears that Rene Rodriguez, long known as the patriarch of the Democratic party, has departed to the other side and created the void that ironically is fast being filled by a younger attorney, Joe Flores who has optimized and altered the model that has architected Democratic success. Flores learned from men like Rodriguez and other politicos in the Democratic party in the 1990’s and has fast become known as a formidable architect of campaigns.
The Democrat Party has a new chair – Rose Meza Harrison – yet “too new” to have any robust roots and left the San Patrictio County chair abruptly. The strangeness is that she works for the county attorney (Laura Jimenez – a Democrat) who is none else than a sister-in-law to Anna Maria Jimenez (who was appointed by Republican Party after Mark Skurka the next in line refused to run as a Republican for the post). A few key leaders question Ms. Harrison’s loyalty – some claim she has some veiled factional ties to a group that “trojan-horsed” itself within the Republican party. As one cynical insider questioned off-the-record: “The key in any campaign is not to allow anyone affilaited with the rival’s side to penetrate the ‘inner core’ or the main organizational, concentric circle because here lies the fundamental intelligent and strategic information that could win or lose an election.” However a large portion are given her “the benefit of the doubt” (as a member of the Democratic Women group put it). Thus begs the question, if Loyd Neal is her boss, and Laura Jiminez her immediate boss, who is family to Anna Jiminez, how far away can conflicts in party loyalty be?
The Republican Party also has a new chair who was scarcely appointed (not elected) – after Attorney Ron McLain (with Libertarian leanings and who was elected in the March Primaries) stepped down after enormous pressure (as some informants within his faction put it) from what was called the “establishment” group. McLain’s main qualm was that (even though he had won for the post) the “executive committee” of the party was still stratifying itself and stripping him of his authority to assign people to committees and so forth.
After McLain’s resignation was processed and all was said and done, On March 13 of this year Kimberly Curtis, a lifelong Republican was appointed by the Executive Committee of the Republican Party. The last time a chairman has been approved by the Executive Committee in this manner was in 1975. (See video on youtube... On the "Swearing In" Ceremony and how County Judge Loyd Neal has his own ritual before they take office... If you notice, as pointed out by a "patriot" on facebook, the constitution of the U.S. States was never cited: "a Mason normative requirement?"
Mike Bergsma who was next in line (to be chair because had challenged McLain in the election) was disregarded. However Ms. Curtis, the new chair, immediately upon being sworn in by County Judge Loyd Neal and then again by County Commissioner Mike Pusley, recommend Bergsma as Vice-Chair and was appointed by acclamation.
Ms. Curtis is described as “organized” and “enthusiastic” by the “in-group” of the party, as one put it: “She loves our community and country. She's married to a doctor and is a small business owner. The party was smart to vote a younger person with fresh ideas as Chair. As I have said in the past Ron (McLain) was not pushed out, he chose to resign when things didn't go the way he and his crew had planned.” Berlanga added: “He did not do this alone, he took his whole faction with him except, except his wife, who continues to pretend and claim she is gonna run as a Democrat when her re-election is up for the 13th Court of Appeals.”
ATTORNEY RENE RODRIGUEZ & HIS FACTION TURN REPUBLICAN:
The main spotlight is on both the draft and undercurrent of the political maelstrom in the county. It seems to be focused on a former Democratic faction (i.e., Rene Rodriguez’ clique) that crossed the fence that was political taboo and plugged into the Republican Party and becoming a familiar staple. Rodriguez, --who for years had both prided and marketed himself as being a byproduct of the defunct radical organization known as Raza Unida of the 1970s and its tenets and who had used the latter to sulfurously stigmatize as well as demonize many while working within the regional Democratic Party as sellouts to “los Republicanos” (e.g., Connie Gutierrez whom he referred to as “La Republicana” and others like former State Representative Hugo Berlanga) who did not support his slate of candidates -- now finds himself in an antipodal position where he himself is being tagged a “flip-flopper” and “vendido” (sell-out).
Hugo Berlanga took the opportunity to respond to the above issue via text: “Republican hypocrite (referrring to Rene Rodriguez), always critical of every one that does not see eye to eye with his slate, now supports all the Republicans. He was making everyone think he was a true believer in the Democratic Party and its precepts and the issues that matter to the working class and Hispanics and the oppressed, now openly (without any shame whatsoever supports all the Republicans). Why? He is out of favor with the Democratic Judges (in the region).”
Amanda Torres (running for Justice of the Peace against longtime community activist Joe Benavides), Angelica Hernandez (running for district judge against incumbent Judge Manuel Banales), Anna Maria Jimenez (candidate for District Attorney ) – how many are the new candidates that Rodriguez has inveiled to run as Republicans. The door that leads into the Republican party was advertently left ajar for Rodriguez’ faction by some key figures affiliated with County Judge Loyd Neal’s network. This came after a poll indicated that young Hispanic women needed to be enrolled in order for other key Anglo Republican candidates to have a chance to win. Then again, Filemon “Fil” Vela’s interpretation (a political strategist) of what went wrong in the last election could have been the major driving force. [Other notes: Some insiders claim that District Judges like Nanette Hassette and Nelva Gonzales-Ramos – who have long been affiliated with the Rene Rodriguez Faction – continue to remain embedded as Democrats. Some insiders go as far as to claim they have been assured they will not get a Republican challenger as long as “Fil” Vela occupies a high-level and pivotal function as political swami within the party).
On a daily basis on FACEBOOK, one can read the disenchantment. Roland Gonzalez writes: “Ironic isn't it? A few of the leaders and shakers of the Democratic Party, Rene Rodriguez, Angelica Hernandez, Amanda Torres and Anna Jiminez (the ‘A Girls’ of Rene Rodriguez) all have flipped, cut deals and turned on the Democrats. It’s a sad day in South Texas.”
What tactics are being used by the Rodriguez clique operating in the “potbelly” of the Republican Party to recruit Democrats? “The overtones of their rhetoric among Democrats is that they are adherents of an Hispanic cause – La Causa (as it is know) – but I feel it is just that, rhetoric. The reason is that at debates I see Republican candidates sitting next to them openly express anti-Mexican and Latino sentiments and using the phrase ‘anchor babies’ and ‘social parasites’ and they clap. It seems they are stepping on their own raza (people) for their own advancement rather than being genuine to any higher cause of social equality,” Matty Bosquez, a Nueces County resident, opined.
The Democrat Party is recovering from this wound – the “Rene Rodriguez Flight” (as it is referred to by some). It was a chaotic blow. In the last decade, the regional Democratic Party has seen attorney “Fil” Vela (and his wife, current 13th Court of Appeals Judge Rose Vela) switched parties, and now in this election cycle, his longtime business partner and political associate, attorney Rene Rodriguez. The “brain-drain” situation was not palliated either when Attorney Mikal Watts “got out of the kitchen” (so-to-speak) and moved to San Antonio to retrench. Watts dissolved the “Good Government Pact” that used to fund many a Democratic campaign. Watts never helped all Democrats but was very selective. He still participates but many in his orbit claims he conducts polls to determine who he “picks and chooses” to assist via campaign contributions and Skurka apparently is his only pick at this time. All this factors combined have created a void.
IS THE REPUBLICAN PARTY NOW BECOMING THE PARTY OF “UNION ORGANIZING” AND “COLLECTIVE BARGAINING” HERE REGIONALLY?
Many have also been critical of those who are seen as subordinate functionaries in the Rodriguez faction that were swayed or converted to cross over to “tabooed” Republican territory. The role of the latter is to help execute Rodriguez’ agenda. Some example of the aforementioned are Roland Garza (a community activist and Democratic Party precinct chair who after appearing on the payroll of Republican candidates was asked to resign as a representative of the Democrat Party), Susie Luna (who also was a precinct chair for the Democratic Party was asked to resign), Vicente Carranza (who is a radio personality is a co-host on the Roland Garza TV Show has also been criticized but did not hold a position within the Republican Party) and a few others involved in union activities who are now enrolled in an agenda that runs against the grain of “anti-collective” bargaining and wholesome union organizing (yet they are loyal to the Rodriguez faction).
ATTORNEY JOE FLORES – TRIAL LAWYER, NURSE PRACTITIONER, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST -- EMERGES AS “TOP PLAYER” AND “ORGANIZER” In The Democratic Party:
While what is known as the SOLOMON P. ORTIZ FACTION remains Democrat, the cold reality hits: one faction is not enough to effectively hurl and propel a party forward. “It is like attempting to fly a plane; it takes a lot of momentum and energy to get it off the ground, the plane representing the DEMOCRATIC PARTY,” candidate Joe Benavides for Justice of the Peace shared. “There is no doubt in my mind that Attorney Joe Flores who coordinated both the media and organizational dynamics of my campaign as well as Joe (JAG) Gonzalez’ has risen as a top player and organizer in the regional Democratic Party.”
Attorney Joe Flores learned quite a bit about politics from Attorneys “Fil” Vela and Rene Rodriguez during the 1990s in his twenties and has now emerged as a leader in the Democratic Party nurturing his own organization and running candidates. Flores, who comes from a family of political orientation in South Texas that is staunch Democrat, broke political ties with Rodriguez after Rodriguez switched parties.
Flores gave a brief soundbyte to El Defenzor regarding the situation but gave deference to Rodriguez who had been one of this political teachers in the 1990’s: “The Democratic Party is where my heart is and where I find great joy addressing issues that affect the masses. Although I am an attorney and have conservative business and moral values, I don’t think that conflicts with Democratic Party values at all. Ultraconservative Republicans want everyone to believe that Democrats in South Texas are all liberal which is simply not true. You have a primarily conservative base, consisting of a majority of Hispanic voters, that do not reflect the liberal spin on the national scale of what it means to be Democrat. In other words, we are not Nancy Pelosi Democrats down here, and want jobs, fiscal responsibility and transparency in our leaders. I will not speak ill of Mr. Rodriguez and as I always underline, I can separate friendship from politics and business which is the way things should be.”
An indept interview with Joe Flores will run in KTMV (channel 6-Time Warner). It will begin to air late next week. The founder of El Defenzor, Homero Villarreal, will be the host of SOUTH TEXAS CROSSFIRE (a show that is the brainchild of Flores). The table will be turned and Flores will be the guest. Villarreal will attempt to query Flores to reveal what lies deep inside his chest and mind. Villarread added: “I believe that one’s true personality and who one is lies beyond the impressions that are managed. The real disposition, the wrinkle of one's true self is glimpsed at somewhere in the back region of the person – this is my goal.”
Attorney Flores explained his involvement: “I became involved in this election cycle by supporting people I believe in -- former Judge Jose “JAG” Gonzalez (the Democratic candidate for County Commisioner) and Joe Benavides (the Democratic Candidate for Justice of the Peace. I also helped Clarissa Gonzalez, running for County Judge, in the Democratic primary, who did not have much name recognition in political circles but had a successful business and energy and drive and helped her obtain the Democratic nomination for County Judge by a 60% margin. We also were victorious in run-offs for Joe A. Gonzalez for County Commmissioner and Joe Benavides for Justice of the Peace in hard fought battles with tough opponents. After that experience many Democrats felt that my efforts were helping the entire slate as well."
Flores extended: "As for Clarissa Gonzalez, she ran against a good friend of mine, Attorney Juan Reyna. I told Juan (Reyna) during the primary and afterward that he was my dear friend but that my father had taught me early on how to separate my politics from my friendship and after the primary both of us have healed and extended our hands in friendship again as gentleman should. I had a fiduciary relationship to aid Ms. Gonzalez and had a job to do. When I work with a candidate I give it my heart and soul to win. The campaign was an aggressive one and some of my media techniques and organizaational strategies were highlighted in that particular race that I will share with my audience on South Texas Crossfire which will air this week on Friday at 7 p.m. and for various days thereafter until early voting. I hope my enthusiasm for politics will inspire our youth to get involved and encourage others who have not voted or registered to vote by the end of this month to do so. It will be hosted by Homer Villarreal, founder of El Defenzor. Remember, SOUTH TEXAS CROSSFIRE, KTMV, Channel 6-Time Warner, starting Friday, September 27, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. following my distinguished colleagues on South Texas Politics.”
Flores gave a glimpse of what he will be talking about in the interview: “When I began helping Joe Benavides and Jose “JAG" Gonzalez, as well as Clarissa Gonzalez in their campaigns, I noticed that the Democratic party was pretty much broken up into factions, into separate identifiable groups. I observed that there was no major media coordination; so I painstakingly put one together with only the help of the Lopez Family, who in my estimation, are underestimated by the Democratic party, which is a major mistake if you want to achieve victory. The Lopez family are the cornerstone of politics and offer an important radio/television powerpunch and if my party doesn't wake up and realize that collectively, the other side will, which is concerning to me. For 21 years many radio and television shows have highlighted our collective identity as Mexican Americans in South Texas and have educated all voters, regardless of color or creed about politics. Carlos Lopez (KTMV), El Defenzor, La Politica, blogs, facebook, social networking used together and timed precisely right, which is not an easy feat, can achieve miracles… Many in the party felt something was being done that they had not seen for a long time -- a RE-BRANDING of the DEMOCRAT PARTY. I used my media branding to do so for my candidates and had a collateral benefit, in my estimation, for all the Democratic party. Many told me they began to feel a strong sense of collective identity (this captures who we are) at the media level. Now I am pleased to see many beginning to attempt to use my media format, but I have to underline that this takes years to develop and once you start it, you have to work day and night at it to keep the cause alive. A show is not just slapped together and neither is a message. I stopped my law career and took some film classes and learned to direct, script write, use story boards and coordinate with the best cinematographers at an affordable rate. It is not easy to host, direct, write and produce a show every week and put out a decent product. Everyone wants to develop television programming but it is a lot harder than it looks to have a consistent show, that doesn't look like a home movie, and develop a message and to be able to orchestrate multi-media to achieve mass affect and be willing to fund much of it yourself. I have spent a great deal of time, money and effort to achieve a measure of media success and I encourage anyone to contact me if they need help in getting out their own message. ”
To recap, Joe Flores is a young lawyer who learned about running campaigns from the former lions of the Democratic party in Nueces County, from Filemon Vela to Rene Rodriguez to many a prominent other. Now, a vacuum has been created in leadership and the knowledge obtained from former advocates and leaders in the party. Much of it has been left with Joe Flores in addition to the influence of others. He has ingenuously married grassroots politics with modern media methods in a formula that has worked remarkably well. Now, as Rene Rodriguez and Filemon Vela have left to join the Republican party, and Mikal Watts apparently out of the picture except for some polls he contributed, a serious void is being filled with the media and grassroots voice that this lawyer, nurse practitioner and community activist offers. Flores -- conservative in his beliefs but compassionate with the elderly and children because of his healthcare background -- brings a different kind of leadership to the party that has not been offered for years.
[NOTE: An interview with Joe Flores in reference to his experience and new developments in politics and law and in the nursing field will begin to air next week on KTMV, Time Warner Channel 6. Tentative day and time: Friday, September 24 at 6:00 p.m. It is expected to be one of the most interesting shows dealing with “IN THE KNOW” activism.]