Forum candidates pitch for Matagorda County votes

Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald addresses forum crowd. (Photo by Jessica Duhon) 

Forum candidates pitch for Matagorda County votes


Multiple candidates came to the VFW public forum Oct. 15 to allow voters an open chance to speak, ask questions and to be heard. 

The upcoming Nov. 6, election is a very large ballot and in fact is the fourth election for the state of Texas this year. Early voting will occur Oct. 22 through Nov. 2. 

Some candidates submitted personal introductions for this article while others are quotes from the VFW forum. Not every candidate for every election was able to come to the VFW forum or able to be contacted in time for this publication.

Four candidates for the United States Representative for District 27 included Erin Holguin (DEM), Michael Cloud (REP) who sent Jaycob Garcia in his place, James Duerr (IND) and Daniel Tinus (LIB).

Eric Holguin (D) is a man who comes from a family of government employees, with teachers, law enforcement and military family members. In his opening comments at the VFW Public Forum he explained how personal this campaign is for him. 

“I come from a family full of public servants. For me, doing this (running for congress) is personal. I grew up in a working-class family. So, tackling the issues that our working-class families are having right now means a lot to me. This whole race, for me, isn’t democrat verses republican verses independent. It means, lets start having conversations with each other to start moving our district forward because that’s something we desperately need right now,” Holguin said.

Michael Cloud ( R), is the current Representative for District 27 in the House of Representatives after winning the special election in May this year. While he was unable to attend the Public Forum personally he sent Jaycob Garcia to represent him. 

Garcia, speaking on Cloud’s behalf, gave a prewritten speech to the audience, “As a husband and father, I understand the urgency of transforming Washington and preserving it for future generations, the liberty and prosperity we enjoy as Americans. This Past June I was elected to serve our district in Congress and I’ve looked in the past couple of months for ways that our district to improve itself.”

James Duerr (I) is running without a party affiliation as an independent and made many comments expressing his efforts to represent the agricultural community and fight against PACT and Super PACT funding.

“I’m a fighter. I was appointed to the Nueces County Appraisal District. When I was on the appraisal district I fought seven other members on an illegal building campaign, and I won. If you can go against seven people and win a vote and I refunded 2.4 million dollars, the largest in the history of Nueces County.  If you have someone who fights all the time you’ll lose. So, you need someone who can work with people. I was elected to Del Mar College Board of Regents. I made lifelong friends with all the Regents. So, I can work together, and I have those skills,” Duerr said.

Daniel Tinus (L) is running as a libertarian and happens to be a Bay City resident. Tinus has never been shy about his beginnings, his personal experience struggling as a youth and his efforts to help young people through his years teaching in public education to include his belief in personal responsibility. 

“Most of you all know me, because I teach here at Bay City High school and have been doing so for the last 18 years. I started my Public service career about 38 years ago when I raised my hand and joined the army. I found we don’t have to be forced to do what we know in our heart is right. What really makes me qualified is the fact that I know that you are more qualified than anybody up here to run your own life and spend your own money,” Tinus said.

Dori Contreras (DEM) is running for Chief Justice, 13th Court of Appeals. Contreras is currently a judge on the 13 Court of Appeals in position 4. Due to her current position on the court, Contreras is very confident in her abilities to step into the position as Chief Justice if so elected. During her introductory statements to the audience at the VFW forum she expressed her pleasure of being invited to participate in the debate.

I enjoyed my day in Bay City visiting with constituents and participating in the VFW forum.  After serving on the 13th Court of Appeals for 16 years, I am fully prepared to step into the shoes of our chief justice, who is retiring at the end of this year.  Because the chief justice manages the court and its budget, my experience on the court makes me the most qualified candidate to assume this role,” Contreras said.

Both Nora Longoria (DEM) and Gina Benavides (DEM) running for Justice, 13th Court of Appeals; however, Longoria is running for Place 2 and Benavides is running for Place Number 5. 

Longoria is running for reelection for position 2 and spoke about her experience at the VFW Public Forum.

“I have been practicing law for 21 years in all areas of the laws. Civil, criminal and in all different types of areas within those classes. So, I am very familiar with all the types of litigation. In my time on the court I have authored over 600 opinions,” Longoria said.

Gina Benavides (D) is running for re-election for her position in the Court of Appeals Place number 5. At the VFW forum she was able to bring humor into what was otherwise a somber event. Her public introduction very clearly expressed her years of experience. 

“I have been your judge of 12 years and in that time, I have written over 1,000 opinions. I am also a published author, I have written numerous articles and teaching to fellow judges and fellow attorneys on the appellant court and most recently have now become published on appellate Code of Conduct at the St. Mary’s Law Journal,” Benavides said.

The position for County Judge for Matagorda County has two candidates, Charles Wright (REP) and Nate McDonald (Dem).

Charles Wright ( R) spoke to the crowd at the meeting expressing his love for Matagorda county and how of all 254 County Judge positions in Texas, that Matagorda County is the best of them all. He explained his plan if elected to work with every day citizens as well as support first responders and law enforcement. “I’m a proponent of the American Dream. Taking care of all 36,000 plus county residents as well as business owners and government entities is priority number one. When elected I will use my education and experience to take Matagorda County to new levels of prosperity and emergency management.”

Nate McDonald (D) is running for re-election as Matagorda County Judge and presented the following statement for this article.

“My name is Nate McDonald and I am running for re-election to continue serving as your county judge. I was born in Matagorda General Hospital in 1955, graduated Bay City High School in 1973, attended Howard Payne University on a basketball scholarship, graduated with a double major in Business and Marketing in 1978 and returned home to Matagorda County where I managed McDonald Equipment Company until I took office on January 1, 2007. I take commitment very seriously and committed to grow our family’s business and did so for 29 years. I committed to build Matagorda County into a great rural county, and we are well on the way. I committed to my wife Sharyl on March 5, 1983, to love and honor her for the rest of my life, and I have for 35 years and counting. I committed to raise our two sons in our home and we did, though my oldest left this Earth too soon on July 15, 2000. On our wedding day Sharyl and I committed to one another to be active in our community and to be public servants and we have been. We became full time public servants on January 1, 2007, when I was sworn in as your County Judge. Since that day we have committed every ounce of our time, talent and energy to Matagorda County, never asking what party you are in, what church you attend or who you are affiliated with. We merely ask how we can help and then we do so. My belief is that public service, not politics, is my job description and that, simply put, I am to serve all of the public all of the time. That is my goal everyday and will continue to be in the next four years as together we build the best rural county in the State of Texas.”

Janice Hawthorne (REP) is running unopposed for the position of District Clerk. At the VFW meeting Hawthorne did not make much of an introduction because she wished to allow time for other candidates to speak as she is running with no opposition. 

“I will be your next district clerk. I do not have an opponent in this November election. I look forward to doing the best that I can be as your next district clerk,” Hawthorne said.

Janet Hickl (DEM) is running for reelection as Matagorda County Clerk against Stephanie Wurtz (REP). Both candidates have worked in the justice system. 

Janet Hickl stated, “I have been your county clerk for eight years and prior, 15 years’ experience as deputy county clerk. I introduced to Matagorda county the new electronic voting system. With the intention of implementing that county wide polling place program. The next four to five years, a plan is in place to use the records management in the archives we’ve collected, to convert all records in the county clerk’s office to be assessed electronically and the data to be preserved off site in case of a disaster.”

Stephanie Wurtz (R) stated, “I have a sincere and longstanding commitment to providing customer service in and around this community. My time spent working in the offices of the County Attorney, District Clerk, and the District Attorney has enabled me to build solid working relationships with both attorneys and other County departments.  This valuable experience has also given me the opportunity to work directly with the public in an effort to provide a high level of customer service to our community.”

Loretta Griffin (REP) is running unopposed for the position of County Treasurer. Still, at the VFW meeting she expressed her thanks to the audience for their support and for their attendance at the forum.  

“I do not have an opponent in the November general election, I do want to say thank you for your support thus far. I look forward to continuing my service as the next county treasurer,” Griffin said.

Jason Sanders (REP) is also unopposed for the position of Justice of the Peace, Precinct Number 1. 

“I am currently the Justice of the Peace here in Prescient 1 of Matagorda County. I am also the associate judge for the city of Bay City. I am also a lifetime member of the VFW. I do not have an opponent coming in the November election. I am thrilled to see all the familiar faces out in the crowd who have come out to brave the weather. Thank you very much of you for being here.” Sanders was also expressed thanks and encouragement to all the candidates who attended the forum for coming and being brave enough to run for office and serve the public,” Sanders said.

Ronald Leblanc (REP) is unopposed for the position of Justice Of the Peace, Precinct 2. 

“I am running unopposed as the Republican candidate for Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 here in Matagorda County. I have over 13 years in public service. Five years as a firefighter and nine years in law enforcement. The last eight years serving with Bay City ISD Police Department where I currently hold the position of Lieutenant. I am running for this position, so I can better serve my community and improve the efficiency of the court for both law enforcement and the citizens,” Leblanc said.

Jim Powell (REP) is running for Justice of the Peace, Precinct number 6. 

“During my career as a construction project manager, civil technician, registered land surveyor, and licensed real estate broker, I attended countless "Continuing Education" courses for engineers, surveyors, brokers, lawyers, and business professionals at various universities and institutions. Wherever we lived, we volunteered during disasters to help our community. After Hurricane Harvey, we volunteered at the Sargent VFW to help families affected by the flooding. Observing citizens of all economic status, race, and need come together to aid others influenced my decision to seek election as Justice of the Peace. I regard it as an interesting and challenging opportunity to provide continuous community service,” Powell said.

Not all candidates on the November ballot were able to be contacted for this publication. 

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