The past week has been challenging. There were two candidate forums on Tuesday, with the first sponsored by a group of real estate professional at the Sonterra Country Club and the second by a Dominion civic-awareness group. On Thursday, there was another forum put on by the residents of Precinct 3074 (Woods of Shavano). And between these events, I went downtown on Wednesday and recorded an interview with an on-line talk show titled “Talk Now SA” with Chris Duel. The 20-minute segment was supposed to go on-line today, but for some reason it was not. Chris mentioned that he will try to have a 3-person debate before the election.
The forums are still a little stressful because we usually get unexpected questions about which I know nothing, but at least now I am developing some responses to deal with them. At Sonterra, a realtor wanted to know what we could do about the conflict between gated communities and the realtors who want unlimited access. Huh? At the Dominion, someone wanted to know what we would do about Reed William’s broken promise to get a road-improvement done. Huh?
I so much prefer knowing what the questions are in advance, which was the format in some of the early forums. I doubt this is much value in being able to immediately articulate a response to a totally unexpected question. And this is especially problematic to me because there are many areas of city policy that I am unfamiliar with, but can easily develop a position with a little research. Of course, over time the questions become more predictable and my areas of ignorance become smaller. But learning lessons in front of a crowd is stressful.
I’m getting much more comfortable with my stump speech. Essentially, I suggest three factors that the voters use to distinguish the candidates:
- Experience. We each claim that our experience qualifies us to serve, but mine is more substantive. I have 22 years as a lawyer with USAA, getting promoted through the ranks, and ending with 5 years in USAA’s executive management group and being the lead attorney responsible for auto-insurance compliance.
- Political philosophy. We each claim to be fiscal conservatives, but if you drill down, you will find dramatically different fiscal philosophies. Ron claims to be a fiscal conservative simply because he will carefully scrutinize the budget to eliminate waste. How does this distinguish himself from anyone? Rolando takes police, fire, and roads off the budget-cutting table. With those off the table, there’s nothing left. By contrast, I think a fiscal conservative wants to reduce the size of government and taxes, and that is what my mindset will be.
- Money in politics. My two opponents have raised obscene amounts of money (more than all the other candidates in the other nine district combined), and that money is bound to compromise their ability to make decisions based exclusively on the best interests of the District. By accepting money, my opponents will be beholden to special interests. Ron says his “special interests” are neighbors, but his latest financial filing indicates he has a lot of neighbors in 78209 (Alamo Heights) and 78205 (downtown business district). Plus he has accepted $500 contributions (the maximum legally allowed) from three government-lobbying law firms. By contrast I have accepted no contributions and this will allow me to make decisions based solely on the interests of our District.
As we head into the homestretch, the choice is getting clearer, at least to me.