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Bexar County Democratic Party holds district attorney primary debate on Eastside, but doesn’t invite Eastsiders.

If debate performance says anything about a candidate’s fitness for a particular office, then Democratic hopeful Joe Gonzales should not be district attorney.

Gonzales squared off against incumbent DA Nicholas LaHood in the basement of the Claude Black Community Center during the primaries, and let’s just say … well, the public would have learned a lot about Joe Gonzales.

The 40 or so attendees included Democratic Party insiders, campaign workers, and local media - so the debate can’t really be described as a public event. Eastsiders were completely unaware the debate was even going on.

Of course, that’s not the public’s fault. The Democratic Party simple failed to get the word out.

And that’s too bad because LaHood and Gonzales share a mutual dislike for each other that is very real, very obvious, and, frankly, fun to watch. The public would have been thoroughly entertained.

If only it had been invited.

LaHood was the clear winner. He dominated the debate, for one reason in particular: every time a question arose that tempted the debaters to claim more power than the law allows, LaHood never took it, and Gonzales always did.

That’s important.  The public would have appreciated seeing firsthand which candidate respects the limits American law places on power, and which candidate doesn’t.

 

For instance, Gonzales avidly spoke about actions he would take as district attorney on a host of hot topic issues of the day, including sanctuary cities and grand jury reform.

LaHood, thankfully, repeatedly reminded the exclusive group that many of those issues were not under the purview of a local criminal district attorney. The incumbent seemed to have a real appreciation for what the law allows a district attorney to act on, and what it does not and I for one appreciated that. In a city that has inspired many, many federal corruption investigations, and with South Texas government officials marching an increasingly congested road to federal prisons, that kind of restraint is refreshing. And I don't even like Nico LaHood.

Gonzales, on the other hand, rolled over that nuance like a downhill train with imaginary brakes.  It was unsettling, to say the least, and not just because I know Joe Gonzales.

 

The Big Paper made no mention of Gonzales’ tendencies, preferring instead to spend its white space on a rerun of a disputed kerfuffle between the two men in a judge’s chamber last year.

Dear Big Paper: Please stop. Tell us something we don't already know. That is your job, isn't it?

What the city needs, especially in a crucial race like district attorney, is a sense of who the candidate is, what he thinks, and most importantly, whether or not he can be trusted with the power that voters might hand him.

 

The Democratic Party, however, denied Eastside residents that opportunity last winter. In this journalist's humble opinion, the city's likely next district attorney is a creation of shadowy figures unknown to the public. That's a real problem, the extent of which will only be revealed over time.