County Commissioner Willie Gandara chose not to attend the ABC 7 Xtra debate held between the candidates for County Commissioner Precinct 3.
It was a mistake to not show up.
He's already getting a lot of heat for not showing up to things and then he's a no-show for something as high-profile as a 30-minute television show?
Not the best of decisions and he paid for it. His opponents were basically free to tee off on Gandara at their leisure. Although their critiques were basically a rehash over what has already been discussed.
The big winner in the broadcast was Vince Perez. He was able to answer questions about his command of Spanish and was able to focus on the issues that are affecting the district. (On a side note, this Spanish thing isn't over. Mark my words, one of the other campaigns will have someone at a forum talk to Perez in Spanish in order to embarrass him and underscore the language proficiency. Its the valley, that's how they roll.)
The other guy running, Rudy Loya had a real opportunity to make a splash. It was his first opportunity to get introduced to voters. Despite claims of high name ID, I have been around the valley and I'd say he has moderate name ID at best. People that are civic-minded down know of him, but they basically had no opinion of him.
When Loya did speak, he didn't do what he needed to do, which was distinguish himself from Perez and Gandara. He broke a cardinal sin, he kept agreeing with Perez. Its fine to do that occasionally, but its imperative that a candidate find some area to distinguish themselves from the field.
The reason it was so imperative for Loya to perform well is because he is probably going to get lost in the shuffle if yet another big name jumps in the race, Chente Quinanilla. I'm betting Quintanilla jumps in the race and if he does, that probably hurts Loya the most. Loya's base of support is in the San Eli area. There are only so many votes down there. Quintanilla and Gandara are names that the voters are more familiar with and its going to eat at Loya's support.
I know its early, but I'll bet that Loya's real strength will come in who he supports for a run-off. If there are issues he's passionate about, he can really shape the outcome of the race.
Overall Loya isn't a bad candidate. He seems like a smart and articulate guy and certainly likable.
Getting back to Gandara, Darren Hunt said that Gandara's reason for not showing up was that basically he is the incumbent and decides when and where he debates opponents. HUGE MISTAKE! That answer will not go over well with voters.
It pretty much went downhill from there. Perhaps Loya's shining moment in the program was when he commented on Gandara's absences. He said it was disrespectful to constituents. I thought that was a great way of capsulizing the sentiment. \
A caller, Efren from Socorro, called in and said he felt it "was a slap in the face..." that Gandara didn't show up.
The interesting thing about Perez's candidacy is that he actually helps the Loya and possibly Quintanilla if he jumps in the race. Perez and his "dream team" will do all the homework on Gandara's record and provide material to argue against Gandara.
The other candidates will benefit from it and make it their own, but that's part of politics.
It will be interesting to see all the candidates when they finally all get together in one place for a discussion on the issues. That should be really interesting.