By Joe Olvera ©, 2012
State Representatives from El Paso’s District 75, an area that covers most of the Mission Valley and parts of the East Side, have always been enigmatic or mysterious in that they have been, sometimes, leaders with dubious reputations and/or distinctions. Not to cast aspersions or to throw stones upon the waters, but, some of those elected to this post have brought some embarrassment to those who elected them.
Take the case of Nick Perez, who was often investigated by Austin, Texas police on charges of domestic violence; or the case of so-called “one-term” Tony Parra, who brought attention to his campaign by carrying a wooden cross through this heavily Catholic district. Considered mere furniture in the Texas House, he lost re-election in the 1994 Democratic primary. To that effect, he dropped the Democratic Party and became a Republican. Tragically, he lost as a Republican too, and suffered an even worse situation when he died from AIDS complications.
But, perhaps the most nefarious malefactor in District 75 was the infamous Gilbert Serna – a most colorful character who:
*Was accused of sexually harassing a male employee with requests for oral sex;
*Offered pay raises to some of his employees on the condition that they share the extra money with him;
*Encouraged his employees to work on political and campaign matters in state offices and on state time.
Lest we think that such matters only occur in El Paso’s District 75, we must consider that other Texas communities have also had a troubled history. For example, in the 1970s, the City of Amarillo had a district that elected one felon to another felon and to another felon. According to the late columnist Molly Ivins, the first Rep from this district murdered his wife; the second bought a truck with state food stamps, and the third took to writing bad checks. This leads us to wonder if the current slate of candidates for District 75, a seat vacated by the scandal-free Chente Quintanilla – who opted to run for County Commissioner of Pct. 3 – contains some problematic candidates who, of course, have not been charged or accused of any wrong doing. Yet, one must wonder if it’s in the offing and if any of them are carrying extra baggage.
Nobody’s making accusations, of course, but consider one of those running for this post. His name is Peter Arthur Fierro, aka Art Fierrro. In his application for a place on the Democratic Party Primary Election Ballot, he lists his address as 12709 Tierra Mona Court, but he actually lives at 11612 Tony Tejada. Fierro says that his address on Tierra Mona Court is a home which his current wife, El Paso County Commissioner Anna Perez, and he were thinking of renting, but that the problem of re-districting has put that plan on hold. Republicans in the State of Texas are fighting for a re-districting plan which would favor them with more elective positions. “No matter, though,” Fierro says, “both addresses are in District 75. We don’t know where the lines will be drawn, that’s still to be decided. So, for the moment, we do live at the Tony Tejada address.”
Fierro says that he is the best candidate among the people running – which also includes Hector Enriquez, Willie Gandara Jr., and newcomer Mary Edna Gonzalez. As a former president of the EPCC Board of Trustees, Fierrro has made some dubious moves. For example, there have been two judgments against him by such diverse groups as the Union Fashion Company for $725, and another in the amount of $1,241 from the Week Day Education Center in Travis County, Texas. Fierro said that the Union Fashion judgment was written off, and he doesn’t recall the other. But, perhaps the most problematic is that voters will wonder why it took him two years to pay a traffic ticket for speeding. Fierro gave as an excuse that he didn’t realize that there was a warrant out for his arrest. “I did not realize it was outstanding and that there was a warrant out for my arrest,” Fierro said. “Once it was brought to my attention, I paid it.”
Hector Enriquez., the son of former El Paso County Clerk Hector Enriquez, said there are no such skeletons in his closet. “I will never compromise my good name for a few paltry dollars,” Enriquez said. “The people elect us, we don’t place ourselves in those positions. Thus, we can’t compromise the public who vote for us. We need to do the right thing and not think of personal gain because what will the people remember? They will remember that you made promises and you broke them.”
One of the candidates who did break a promise is Willie Gandara Jr. In his campaign for County Commissioner of Pct. 3, Gandara promised publicly that he would donate 90 percent of his salary to the Mission Valley. However, as far as anyone knows, he did not fulfill that promise. There are also rumors, however, that Gandara Jr. plans to drop out of this race. Gandara was not available for comment on either matter.
Mary Edna Gonzalez, although a virtual unknown to electoral politics, is a highly educated 28 year old who was born and raised in Clint, Texas and is one of the few women to ever have run for District 75. “I think it’s important for young Latinas to become involved politically. If they see a woman like me, it’s a strong symbol for them to become active,” Gonzalez said. “After all the corruption that has been uncovered, a strong legislator can develop trust. I feel that I can be that strong person who can create an awareness of such issues as education and public service.”
Thus far, Gonzalez’ claim to fame is that she has received more contributions for her campaign than any of the other candidates. The graduate student at U.T. Austin has amassed a total of more than $20,000 for her war chest; Enriquez has a total of $490, while Fierro counts $470 towards his run. Gandara has said that he has no money in the bank, but that’s hardly a problem for him because in his race for County Commissioner, he financed his campaign out of his own pocket. At that time he accepted no contributions. Chances are, he might do the very same thing this time around – that is, if he decides to stay in the race.