José Menéndez tallied an 18-point win over state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer in a February runoff election to succeed Leticia Van de Putte as the state senator for District 26. A rematch between the legislators and former friends is brewing for Democratic primary voters in spring 2016.
Martinez Fischer (D-116) gathered with more than 60 family, friends and supporters, including notable local and state Democrats, at Henry's Puffy Tacos on Sunday to announce his campaign for the seat.
His announcement came in the nick of time as Monday, Dec. 14, is the deadline for candidates to file for the March 1 Democratic and Republican primaries for Congressional, Legislative and County positions that voters will consider in November 2016.
Martinez Fischer is serving his eighth term representing state House District 116. With a backdrop of Christmas stockings hung on the restaurant wall and the atmosphere of a holiday party, Martinez Fischer said he is running for the state Senate to better emphasize traditional Democratic values and to represent a strong Democratic constituency in a Republican-majority Texas Legislature.
He was joined in his announcement by U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-20), state representatives Roland Gutierrez (D-119) and Justin Rodriguez (D-125), and Joe Bernal, a former state legislator and State Board of Education member.
Martinez Fischer acknowledged the 2015 Legislative session was difficult for himself and many Democrats who struggled over a particularly fierce state budget battle and controversial issues such as open carry. He recalled "small victories" that Democrats had won mainly in the Texas House because those in the state Senate, for the most part, "didn't fight."
Martinez Fischer said many state senators failed to act at "a chance to protect our brothers and sisters in labor and their right to organize."
"In the House, we kept our word to our veterans, and we reminded wayward partisans that it's our creator who decides questions of faith, love and life, and not those in the Capitol with the most votes," he added.
Martinez Fischer said the budget that passed in the 84th legislative session contained "cuts over compassion" and it was a document that hurt Texans in a time of record state revenues. According to Martinez Fischer, he and fellow state representatives Gutierrez, Rodriguez, Diego Bernal (D-123), Ina Minjarez (D-124) and Joe Farias all agreed the budget was flawed.
"Each one of us rejected that budget because it did not reflect San Antonio values," Martinez Fischer said. "What are those values? It's a budget that targets children, the least among us, the most medically fragile children in our state, those with severe disabilities and special needs – 75,000 of them are going to lose their Medicaid with a $350 million cut."
He also denounced a $21 million budget cut to scholarships that had been given to public high school students who graduated in the top 10% of their class.
"And that was cut needlessly and I say that because after the budget was passed, there was still $2 billion left to spend in the budget. ... These cuts were implemented for the worst possible reason – because they could and they had the votes," he said, referring to advocates of the budget cuts.
Martinez Fischer then turned his attention on legislators he felt were not speaking out, including some Democrats, on budgetary issues in exchange for passage of another bill or for a committee assignment.
It's been known in local political circles that Martinez Fischer takes issue with state Sen. Menéndez for his handling of some budget issues and how he felt Menéndez had been too compromising with Republicans in the last legislative session. Martinez Fischer criticized Menéndez for telling local media that all Texas Legislators could take pride in the last budget after it was adopted.
"I doubt that he'd brag to public school teachers who work in classrooms that are overcrowded and underfunded. I doubt he'd brag to families who go without insurance or Medicaid because they can't afford the premiums or state coverage services," Martinez Fischer said.
Martinez Fischer repeated a theme: Families, especially those in need, are the people for whom Legislators work.
"To fight for your family, that is your work. Fight and work are one and the same. We do this with a sense of urgency and passion because people we love depend on us," he said.
"Unlike some Democrats who represent this area, I don't seek 'A' ratings (from political organizations). I don't work for endorsements. I work for you."
Menéndez told the Rivard Report on Sunday evening that he looks forward to his rematch with Martinez Fischer and that he has a long list of accomplishments to talk about with voters during his campaign for reelection in 2016.
"I get the job done and I'll let my track record speak for itself," Menéndez said. He is proud of the 40 bills he helped pass in the last Legislative session.
"Anyone can file for office. I leave it up to the voters. When I'm on the job, I don't focus on the next campaign," he said, adding that compromise should not be taboo for a minority political party, such as the case for Texas Democrats, when it comes to fighting for issues important to most Texans.
"Some people say you're being too nice to Republicans. But people don't want a (Washington) D.C. down here. You have to work with them to get something done," Menendez said. "People want to feel like something is being accomplished, that there's productivity."
Local elected leaders such as Congressman Castro lauded Martinez Fischer at Sunday's announcement event. Gutierrez praised Martinez Fischer's point of order that postponed the open carry bill on the House floor. Castro said Martinez Fischer has been consistent about Democratic values and issues for years.
"Ever since the day he was sworn into office, many years ago, my friend Trey Martinez Fischer has always been the fighter for the people who matter, and that's the people he represents," Castro added.
*Top image: State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer speaks at Alamo Beer Company during a recent presidential debate watch party. Photo by Scott Ball.