SAN ANTONIO – Interim Precinct 2 Constable Leticia Vazquez officially announced her candidacy for the position Monday, two months after telling county commissioners she had no plans to seek a full term.
“The feedback has been positive now. I have people who I don’t even know come up to me in the street and they tell me positive stuff,” said Vazquez, who added that a big reason she entered the race is because she believes she will need more than 14 months to clean up issues within the office.
“I don’t want to leave anything undone. Not for me, but for the staff. The people that have been in that office, they have gone through a lot.”
Vazquez said she has spent an immense amount of time mending relationships with other law enforcement agencies, including the Leon Valley Police Department and the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, that had public confrontations with Barrientes Vela.
Barrientes Vela was removed from office in October after publicly declaring to a KSAT reporter in late September her intentions to run for sheriff in 2020.
That public declaration triggered the state’s resign-to-run law. The law stipulates that elected officials who announce plans for another office with more than 13 months left in their current term forfeit their seat.
The embattled first-term constable made the announcement as Texas Rangers and FBI agents wrapped up a 10-hour raid of her Northwest Side offices.
Barrientes Vela and several members of her administration remain under criminal investigation for charges ranging from official oppression to tampering with evidence.
Barrientes Vela filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block her removal, but a state district judge dismissed it a week after Vazquez was appointed.
Vazquez is not the first public official in Bexar County appointed to a position to seek a full term in office after at first saying she would not.
In early 2015, Ivy Taylor declared her candidacy for San Antonio mayor less than a year after telling her fellow city council members she did not plan to run.
Vazquez joins an extremely crowded field in the 2020 race for Precinct 2 constable.
Bexar County Elections Department records show she is the 12th candidate to file paperwork for the March primary.
Other candidates include Precinct 2 Deputy Leonicio Moreno, a frequent target of Barrientes Vela while he worked for her, and Anthony Castillo, Barrientes Vela’s chief deputy who was fired by her hours before she was removed from office and who also remains under criminal investigation.
Controversy has followed Barrientes Vela even after her removal from office.
In October, a Defenders investigation revealed that while in office she ordered deputies from her agency to search for a luxury sport utility vehicle stolen from her husband’s used car lot.
Then last month, another Defenders investigation found that Barrientes Vela had deputies respond to a West Side discount store last winter and file an official complaint against its manager after the woman accused her adult son of shoplifting.
In an unrelated incident last month, people hanging political signs on behalf of Barrientes Vela confronted a store owner along NW 36th Street after one of his employees took the sign down, according to multiple sources familiar with the incident.
Barrientes Vela’s campaign did not ask permission to hang the sign on the fence overnight, according to sources.
Sign hangers then entered the store demanding to know why it was taken down and then a second group of people showed up, sources said.
At least one of the people who entered the store told its owner that they would shut it down, according to sources.
The store owner declined a request for an on-camera interview and asked that the Defenders not reveal the name of his store, out of concern that people associated with Barrientes Vela’s campaign would vandalize it.
Barrientes Vela’s attorney, Les Sachanowicz, said via telephone last week that the people involved in the incident are not employees of the former constable and instead work for a company she contracted with to put up the signs.
He acknowledged that Barrientes Vela showed up at the store after her sign was taken down but said it was simply to pick it up and move it to another location.
Sachanowicz added that Barrientes Vela planned to have a conversation with the company about what happened
“She is not responsible for their behavior,” said Sachanowicz, who added that many public officials contract with the same firm.