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Constables, Precincts 1, 3, 4: Nature of the Job

Spit flies in other constable races, but no lawsuits (yet)

By Mike Kanin, Fri., May 11, 2012

Often lost in all the up-ballot headlines, county constable races nevertheless generate some of the most heated campaign fireworks. Though none of the following primary races have produced any legal action (yet), there's still plenty of spit flying in and around the proceedings. (Incumbents indicated by an asterisk.)

Precinct 1: Danny Thomas* vs. Carl Cannon

Thomas, a former APD officer and City Council member, touts his ability to bring the Precinct 1 office into the 21st century, a campaign promise from his last go-round that he counts as fulfilled. "You have to be answerable to the community, and that's what we do," he told the Chronicle. Thomas further cites his work with truant kids – "I needed to get into [their] homes" – and experience – "I have proven leadership" – as reasons that Precinct 1 voters should retain him. He wonders if the same can be said for Cannon. "My opponent has never said [what] his platform [is]."

Cannon rejects that characterization enthusiastically, both in talking with the Chronicle and in what appears to be HTML (circa 2001) all over his website: He wants to be "your working constable." Cannon insists that he has more law enforcement experience than his opponent (12½ years under Constables Don Nesby and Luke Mercer), and that he is more willing to get out in the field. "I want to bring back the community constable," he said, noting that he'd like to serve warrants alongside his deputies, and that Thomas "needs to put that uniform on" for more than just election day.

Precinct 3: Richard McCain* vs. Sally Hernandez

McCain is a proud outsider. "I'm not the political guy," he tells the Chronicle. One need look no further than the number of endorsements Hernandez has received from various Democratic clubs – 10 in all – to prove him right. Still, McCain has managed to win two elections as a Demo­crat in the most conservative portion of the county. He suggests that his willingness to get to every community meeting and sign off on neighborhood patrols has earned him the respect of his constituents. "My community knows who I am. ... I don't wait for them to come out to my office," he says. He questions whether Hernandez would fill the same role.

For her part, Hernandez – a first-time candidate – suggests that McCain has spread his office too thin. She says the constable's office should stick to its primary functions of warrant serving, and better coordinate with other public safety entities in order to take care of broader duties. Hernandez adds that, though she recognizes the importance of patrolling, activity such as speed enforcement can take away from the core mission of a constable. "I think he wants to do something besides constable," she says.

Precinct 4: Maria Canchola* vs. Ernest Pedraza

Canchola is the second-longest-tenured constable in Trav­is County. Before that, she served over 20 years under other Travis constables. She points to her work on veterans' affairs – including establishing a veterans' court – and truancy issues as examples of what she's done for the community. Canchola suggests that the primary responsibility of a constable is to serve their constituents. She wonders whether Pedraza would do the same. "He's been trained to be a crime-fighter," she says, noting that she's had experience with that variety of personality in her own employees. "When you hire crime-fighters, that's what they're accustomed to and that's what they want to do."

Pedraza retired as an APD commander this past Decem­ber after putting in 26 years on the force and another seven as a cop in El Paso. He did so, he says, in preparation to run for the Precinct 4 constable seat after hearing that Canchola was going to hang up her spurs. He says he stayed in the race after Canchola changed her mind, and in the process, Pedraza tells the Chronicle, he uncovered issues with Can­chola's reign. "There's been no innovation, no change," he says of the office. "It's remained stagnant for the past few years." Pedraza adds that high turnover and a handful of employment disputes illustrate low morale. He also notes that Canchola closes her office right at 5pm. "The voters out there have been telling me, 'We don't even know who the constable is,'" he says.

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