The race is on for a new Bexar County Precinct 1 Commissioner after incumbent Sergio “Chico” Rodriguez lost to his Democratic challenger in the July runoff election.
Democrat Rebeca “Becky” Clay-Flores took a big early lead in the race against Rodriguez and garnered 61% of the vote.
“Growing up here in San Antonio, in the inner city, and seeing the growth of San Antonio and yet seeing certain parts of town continuing to be left behind, I was just really tired of having what I considered an elected official who wasn’t going to bat for the community,” Clay-Flores said.
The loss by Rodriguez, who has represented Precinct 1 for more than 15 years, surprised the Bexar County political sphere.
“I think most people in politics in San Antonio and Bexar County thought Chico would win,” longtime political strategist Christian Archer told KSAT’s Steve Spriester in July.
Clay-Flores will face Republican candidate Gabriel Lara in the November general election. Lara ran unopposed in the Republican primary.
“We have been trying to get roads fixed and something done about speeders in our neighborhood,” Lara said. “Then I learned that other people were having trouble at Highland Oaks on the roads not paved. We’re having issues with the response times for ambulances. Nobody seems to care. So I said, ‘Let me give it a shot.’”
Clay-Flores graduated from Brackenridge High School on the South Side of San Antonio, according to her campaign website. She went on to major in religion with a certificate in African-American studies at Princeton University and completed her master’s in education at Harvard University. After that, she went on to work in education and nonprofits for 15 years.
The Democrat has worked for the City of San Antonio in the mayor’s office and health department for the past five years. Clay-Flores told the San Antonio Express-News she would quit her job if she is elected.
Lara was born and raised on the South Side and attended Harlandale High School and St. Philip’s College, according to his campaign website. He is currently majoring in BAAS fire and emergency services administration at Texas A&M San Antonio.
The Republican is a U.S. Navy veteran and retired firefighter and paramedic, according to his campaign website.
Both candidates said that Precinct 1 is diverse. It covers much of San Antonio’s South Side and parts of the inner city, as well as rural parts of Bexar County.
“It’s really important to respond to the needs of constituents,” Clay-Flores said. “So I take time to return calls, to respond to emails, to block walk, to work the polls, because I can’t claim to want to represent my community if I’m not out there being accessible to understand what the needs are, because it really is such a diverse precinct.”
“It’s 422 square miles,” Lara said. “We’ve got south Bexar County. We have some of our poor areas to more affluent areas. So it takes someone that knows the precinct and someone who is going to be willing to travel the precinct.”
Flores said that while it’s diverse, the precinct continues to grow, and it is a challenge for the county to keep up.
“We need to make sure that we have affordable housing, affordable health care, job training for the parents, to make sure they’re able to support the needs of their children and their growing families and educational access," Clay-Flores said.
“We need to make sure we put money into training, scholarships, education, because the resources are here and the community needs are great."
Flores added that job training and relationships with the companies that call the South Side home is something on which the county needs to build.
“As I’ve met with different members of the business community, one of the things I talk about is -- as members of the business community, there really needs to be kind of an open-door policy where young people can have internships, scholarships, shadowing days, because if you don’t leave your community, your neighborhood, then you’re not able to dream bigger than your immediate confines,” Flores said. “Part of training is also access. And a lot of times people don’t have access, educational access, economic access. And so building relationships with the business community and partners who are already here is a big part of that.”
Lara said one issue he sees as a problem is the digital divide.
“Southside Independent School District was having to put buses in neighborhoods during the summer so that kids could have access to the internet and do their schoolwork during the summer,” Lara said. “The internet is no longer a luxury. It’s a necessity these days.”
He said the lack of health care facilities is also a challenge.
“A lot of the patients that passed from COVID had underlying issues of heart disease or kidney disease,” Lara said. “If we had access to these type of facilities, quality health care, we would have much better outcomes.”
Both candidates said they are looking forward to the challenge of representing the precinct.
Early voting ends Oct. 30. Election Day is Nov. 3.
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