The potential field of candidates for County Judge continues to grow. Rumors are running hot that more candidates will enter the race in December. The expected candidates are:
Dolores Briones (incumbent): Dolores “Dee” Briones has announced her bid for reelection and boasts of a significant campaign fund. Self-described as a progressive Democrat, she was very close to the Al Gore for President campaign and her daughter played an active role in it. Her campaign will, no doubt, emphasize the absence of a tax increase and raises to key county constituencies e.g. Thomason General nursing staff. Her opponents will point to her absences from the Commissioners’ Court, her inability to sustain a broad development model for the County, her support for issuance of certificates of obligation and her inability to deal with embarrassingly incompetent County personnel.
Jerome Tilghman – A retired military officer, Tilghman will probably approach the campaign with a centrist strategy with cross party appeal. The question is whether he will have enough independent support to overcome the “new progressive” faction of the Democratic Party as represented by the triumvirate Shapleigh, Rodriguez and Caballero. He may find leverage with the Reyes group but only if he is willing to forego some of his independence.
Ray Gilbert: A well-respected civic advocate, Gilbert will appeal to centrist and right-wing voters. His inability to attract progressive Democrats will no doubt hinder his efforts although his visible anti-tax increase posture may win him some liberal support.
Anita Blair: A former state representative, Blair has alienated most every key elected official. She is unlikely to gain much support. Her primary handicap is her short temper. She brings experience to the race. If she can control her emotional outbursts, she may add some value to the issue analysis.
Barbara Perez: A former city representative, Perez has support from a broad spectrum of constituencies and has a credible shot at overcoming Briones. The major problem with Perez is her inability to use political resources at her disposal, effectively. In her bid for Mayor, for example, she relied on political consultants that misled her and her campaign. Her centrist views are sufficiently in touch with Democratic Party voters that she may appeal to some liberal factions. The key to a Perez campaign will be to cut a deal with the Congressman Reyes faction within the Democratic party.
Other candidates: Rumors abound of two new-comers that plan to challenge Briones. One is a business man with a highly focused small business, small government agenda that will appeal to both Democrats and Republicans. The other is a school teacher that has been active in various school trustee races. These dark horses may turn the race unexpectedly.
At this time, it is anticipated that Briones will have to worry only about Barbara Perez. But behind the scenes, Democratic kingmakers are considering a dark horse if Barbara fails to enter the race. If they back a dark horse, Briones will be history because Briones can not win without strong lower valley and upper valley support. If Perez remains indecisive, she will quickly become irrelevant.