Two front-runners for Bexar sheriff emerge after fundraising numbers made public

Challenger Willie Ng out raises incumbent Sheriff Javier Salazar

Sheriff Javier Salazar and Republican contender Willie Ng. Jr. have raised the most money so far in the 2020 Bexar County sheriff race (Joshua Saunders, KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – Campaign finance records released Wednesday show that two front-runners have emerged in the race for Bexar County Sheriff.

Challenger Willie Ng, a Republican, raised more than $152,000 from the start of July through the end of December.

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He spent less than $45,000 during that same time period and has close to $63,000 cash on hand going into the few months ahead of the March 3 primary, according to a copy of the report provided to KSAT by the Ng campaign.

Sheriff Javier Salazar, the incumbent and apparent front runner in the upcoming Democratic primary, brought in more than $78,000 in contributions from the start of July through the end of December and spent close to $86,000 during that same time period. Salazar, who was elected by less than a percentage point in 2016, also had some cash reserves remaining from his first sheriff campaign.

The other Republican and Democratic candidates had much smaller contribution numbers in the past six months.

Republican Gerard “Gerry” Rickhoff, the longtime Bexar County Clerk who was voted out of office as part of a Democratic wave in late 2018, did not report any political contributions but does have more than $37,000 cash on hand, likely from his previous campaigns.

The other Republican on the March ballot, Gary Garcia, received $675 in contributions but spent more than $7,000.

Michelle Barrientes Vela raised $1,600 for sheriff campaign, loaned self $61,000

As KSAT 12 reported Wednesday, former Bexar County Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela raised $1,600 in political contributions and loaned herself more than $60,000.

Barrientes Vela, who was removed from office in October after publicly declaring her intention to run for sheriff, is seeking the county-wide office despite an ongoing criminal investigation of her by the FBI and Texas Rangers.

Democrat Jose Trevino raised more than $13,000 and spent over $7,000.

Sharon Rodriguez, another Democrat, raised less than $4,000 and spent just over $4,000.

Campaign finance figures for Democrat Pete Lozano were not available on the Bexar County Elections Department website as of Thursday morning.

Bexar County has had a Democratic sheriff for the last three decades, except for the four-year tenure of Republican Susan Pamerleau, who won by 4 percentage points in 2012. Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz lost Bexar County by about 13 percentage points in 2016 and 20 percentage points in 2018, respectively.

One thing that might work in Ng’s favor, however, is that there will no longer be a straight-ticket ballot option for Texas voters in the general election, meaning voters must select each candidate they wish to vote for as opposed to a one-punch option to vote for all candidates for one party.

What you need to know about voting in the Texas Primary Elections on March 3

Notable names back Ng

Among Ng’s notable contributors were Nico La Hood, the former Bexar County District Attorney. Ng worked as La Hood’s chief criminal investigator during his four years in office.

San Antonio businessman and philanthropist Bill Greehey contributed to Ng’s campaign, along with philanthropist Kym Rapier.

Bobby Hogeland, Salazar’s former jail chief who resigned in late 2018, also contributed to Ng’s campaign.

Salazar has support of current administration

Salazar’s finance report included a long list of contributions from his current administration, including Chief Deputy James Serrato and Deputy Chief Nancy Sanford.

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About the Authors

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Kolten Parker is digital executive producer at KSAT. He is an amateur triathlete, enjoys playing and watching soccer, traveling and hanging out with his wife.

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