Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Republican Tylden Shaeffer conceded the Bexar County district attorney race to Democrat Joe Gonzales shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday night.
Gonzales defeated Shaeffer by almost 17 percentage points Tuesday night, pulling in more than 58 percent of the vote.
“I’m feeling overwhelmed,” Gonzales said after Shaeffer conceded. “I’m very pleased. This is the culmination of more than 12 months of hard work.”
Gonzales said he thinks party affiliation played a part in his victory.
“We certainly felt a Beto bump,” said Gonzales, referring to Democrat Beto O’Rourke’s unsuccessful U.S. Senate challenge to Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. “He helped all of the Democrats on the ticket. That was fortunate, definitely, that we had a strong leader at the top of the ticket.”
Defense attorney Gonzales beat incumbent District Attorney Nico LaHood in the March primary election. LaHood conceded less than 90 minutes after polls closed on primary election day after a contentious race, and LaHood blamed his loss on outside money funding Gonzales’ campaign. LaHood only served one term as district attorney.
Until LaHood won in 2014, Republicans held the district attorney seat for 24 years.
Shaeffer, also a defense attorney, garnered 42 percent of the vote. He and Gonzales served as Bexar County prosecutors before starting their own private practices.
“Joe and I had our differences,” Shaeffer said. “We fought hard, but the voters have spoken and he won, and I wish him well.”
“It was never personal. It was just who thought they’d be the better district attorney,” Shaeffer added.
Shaeffer ran on a platform promising to help stop domestic violence and be tough on crime. He also emphasized the need to help veterans and people who need mental health help out of the criminal justice system. Shaeffer said he’s not done looking at domestic violence issues and will continue his career as an attorney.
Gonzales said he tried to run a grassroots campaign and speak directly to voters about his plans for office, which include using diversion programs that focus on rehabilitation and not just incarceration.
He has stressed that he has not discounted the death penalty but would seek it only as a last resort. Gonzales said he would focus on prosecuting violent crime when in office.
“[We got] a lot of positive response from the community,” Gonzales said the Saturday before Election Day. “They’ve indicated protecting their neighborhood and community is important to them.”
Gonzales said his first policy change would be to start using the so-called “cite and release” practice more vigorously. Cite-and-release allows officers to give tickets to county residents who possess less than 4 ounces of marijuana instead of arresting them. He said LaHood’s administration did not implement it effectively enough.
“[We need] to find out what we need to do to make sure and put real muscle behind cite and release,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Bexar County judge
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, 76, won 58 percent of the vote against Republican challenger Tom Rickhoff, a county probate judge, who got 38 percent.
Wolff did not need to mount a vigorous campaign against the underfunded Rickhoff, who recorded $1,500 in political contributions in the last reporting period and spent $7,000 of his own personal funds for travel, to finance his campaign, and to pay for internet, according to a report filed on Oct. 29.
“I never campaigned,” Wolff said. “I did my job, I made sure what we were doing got out, and then I left it up to the campaign.”
Lauro Bustamante, the Libertarian candidate, had less than 4 percent of the vote.
Wolff said he thinks this will be his last election cycle as a candidate.
“We’ve got some hard work at the county Commissioners Court, to get some projects going and some finished up,” he said.
County commissioner, Pct. 2
County Commissioner Paul Elizondo easily won re-election, taking 66 percent of the vote against challenger Theresa Connolly.
Elizondo, who is 83 years old, has spent more than 30 years serving as county commissioner and was seeking a 10th term in office. He has been key to county projects over his time in office, including the San Pedro Creek Culture Park and the Alameda Theater renovations.
Elizondo said though this will be his last time running for office, he’s ready to keep working on San Pedro Creek and the planned UTSA downtown campus.
“I was 83 in June,” Elizondo said. “Nature tells me, ‘That’s it.’ It’s been a good run. And I intend to make these last four years even more super.”
Connolly, an attorney, had 33 percent. Connolly said she spent very little during the election cycle – $177, according to campaign finance reports— and that her campaigning centered around face-to-face time with potential voters.
She added that she has voted multiple times for Elizondo over the years and that he seems to have always acted “in good faith.”
“I may not always agree with him, but I’m not going to criticize a person that’s given this much time to the county,” Connolly said.
Meanwhile, County Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) ran unopposed and will serve another term.
Democrats swept the 13 county-court-at-law judge races that were contested, and won two county probate court seats. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) thanked Democrats at an election night event Tuesday for all the work they put into midterm races.
“Thank you for every block you walked, every dollar you donated, every phone call you made,” Castro said. “Just remember, an even bigger task lies in front of us in 2020 — we have to elect a new president of the United States.”