Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Tuesday, November 7, 2006
Local contested races push up final early vote totals
A contested local race for Reeves County Judge and a congressional election that features over a half-dozen candidates has helped push early voting for Tuesday’s general election to the 1,200 mark, according to County Clerk Dianne Florez.
Friday was the last day to vote early and a total of 993 individuals voted by personal appearance and 207 ballots were received by mail, according to the county clerk’s office.
That’s down only slightly from the March 7 Democratic Primary election, and the March 14 runoff races for the Democratic nomination for Reeves County Judge, and the Precinct 2 and 4 commissioners’ positions. A total of 1,349 people cast ballots early in the April runoff election, while 1,435 people voted early in the March 7 primary.
Polls on Election Day will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Depending on Tuesday’s turnout, the local vote totals should surpass the statewide estimate of 36 percent turnout by Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams. Those who didn’t vote early can still cast their votes at these voting locations:
Box 1- Pecos Community Center, 505 S. Oak; Box 2- Odessa College, 1000 S. Eddy; 3. Pecos High School Gym, 1300 Iowa; 4. Toyah City Hall, 230 W. First Street, Toyah; 5. Balmorhea Fire Hall, 4th and San Antonio, Balmorhea; 6. Saragosa Multi-Purpose, Saragosa; 7. Reeves County Library, 505 S. Park; 8. Lama Elementary, Rm #1, corner of Oak and F Streets; 10. Reeves County Annex N-Side, 700 Daggett St.; 11. Reeves County Civic Center, 1000 S. Cedar; 12. Texas-New Mexico Power, 1126 Stafford Blvd.
The only change in the polling sites is for Box 11, which has been relocated from the Sadler-Haynes Community Center to the Reeves County Civic Center, due to work being done by the Town of Pecos City to the east side center. Tuesday’s election will also be the first general election for the county using the new electronic scanner voting machines. The scanners were used this year for both the primary election and the May city and school board elections.
Reeves remains one of the few counties in Texas in which most local elections are decided during the spring primary elections. However, this year’s general election features Democratic Party nominee Sam Contreras facing Republican Bobby Hanks, as both seek the position being vacated by Jimmy B. Galindo, who opted not to seek a fourth four-year term.
The race has become heated in recent weeks, due to charges issued by both sides about a flier mailed out to county residents that included information about Hanks’ divorce trial seven years ago. Hanks charged the information had been gotten from public record and mailed out by people in Contreras’ camp, while Contreras said Hanks or one of his supporters may have been the source of the flier.
Hanks ran unopposed in the March Republican primary, while Contreras finished second in a five-person race to Al Gomez, then defeated Gomez by 15 votes in the April 11 runoff. That election was marked by problems getting a complete final count of the ballots on Election Night, and resulted in a lawsuit being filed by Gomez. That suit wasn’t settled until the end of August, when Visiting Judge Joseph Connally declared Contreras the winner of the election after hearing a day-and-a-half of testimony in 143rd District Court.
The other big local race involves 23rd Congressional District incumbent Henry Bonilla, who is seeking an eighth term in office. Bonilla is being challenged by five Democrats and one independent in Tuesday’s election, as the result of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in July that ordered Texas to redraw the boundaries of the 23rd District.
After a narrow win over Henry Cuellar in the 2002 election, Bonilla's district had was redrawn in a 2003 redistricting plan engineered by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to improve the chances of Bonilla and other GOP candidates. Courts upheld most of the plan, but the Supreme Court ruled that by splitting into two congressional districts Webb County, which includes the 94 percent Hispanic city of Laredo, the plan unfairly diluted Hispanic voting strength.
The new district does not include Laredo, but does include a larger portion of the Hispanic south side of San Antonio. Bonilla’s challengers include Ciro Rodriguez, who lost his congressional seat to Cuellar in the 2004 Democratic primary and was beaten again by Cuellar in March, and San Antonio businessman and rancher Lukin Gilliland, who has spent the most money of any of Bonilla’s challengers.
Bonilla's campaign says that his real opponent is a runoff election. If no one pulls more than half of the votes cast, then the top two candidates will face a runoff in December. A recent poll gave Bonilla a 17-point lead over Rodriguez, but had him at 44 percent, six points below what he’ll need on Tuesday to avoid a December runoff.
Other are contested races include the 21st State Senate District, in which Democrat Carlos Ureste is favored over Republican Dick Bowen. Ureste, a San Antonio state representative, defeated incumbent Frank Madla in March’s primary. Madla resigned his job after July’s special session, and both Ureste and Bowen are on the ballot for both the term that begins in January and for a special election to fill out the final two months of Madla’s term.
Barstow voters will also cast their ballots from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Community Center, though they will not have either the Reeves County Judge race, or the 23rd Congressional District race on their ballots. Ward County is part of District 11 and is represented by Midland Republican Mike Conaway, who is expected to win re-election
High court OKs state efforts to prosecute mail ballot fraud
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Saturday upheld the right of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot to prosecute people for helping elderly and disabled voters cast ballots.
The Supreme Court denied the Texas Democratic Party's request to stop Abbott from his efforts over the past three years to prosecute people on voter fraud charges, an action that included the indictment of two Reeves County women earlier this year for actions related to the 2004 Democratic Party primary election.
Texas Democrats went to the high court seeking to overturn a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling Friday that lifted an injunction they had obtained against Abbott.
Secretary of State Roger Williams and Abbott were sued by the Texas Democratic Party, which claimed that the Republican officials are using state law to suppress minority and elderly voters. The Democrats claimed that the part of the state law they were using violates federal law.
U.S. District Judge John T. Ward issued an injunction Tuesday "pending a trial on the merits" of the case, but the appeals court reversed Ward's ruling.
Appeals Court Judge James L. Dennis ruled that while Texas law appears to be overly broad in criminalizing conduct intended to assist disabled voters, it does not completely deny people the opportunity to vote. Allowing the election to continue without an injunction will give the courts a better record on which to judge the Texas voting provisions, Dennis wrote.
The law in question bans people from handling or mailing absentee ballots for voters who are not relatives or don't live with them. State lawmakers amended the law in 2003 to permit such assistance if the helper signs the envelope with a name and address.
Abbott's office has indicted 13 people for voter fraud since 2003. All of them had a record of voting Democrat; 12 were either black or Hispanic.
The group included to local women, Trini Villalobos, 61, and Anita Baeza, 69, who were indicted by the Criminal Investigations Division of Abbott’s office. Prosecutors claimed that Baeza was involved in five incidents of fraud between Jan. 28 and Feb. 23 of 2004, involving ballots for early voting, while Villalobos, was charged with four separate counts of voter fraud.
In late June, Villalobos was convicted on two counts by a 143rd District Court jury and was given probated sentences on both charges, while in late August Baeza was placed on probation following a plea agreement. , All but one of the charges was dropped, and the remaining charge was removed from 143rd District Court to the Reeves County Court-At-Law.
The indictments against both women were Class B misdemeanors
As a result of the February indictment, Baeza was subpoenaed to testify in August in 143rd District Court in a lawsuit by Reeves County Judge candidate Al Gomez, seeking to overturn the results of the April 11 runoff election he lost by 15 votes to Sam Contreras.
A petition filed by Gomez’s attorney in late June questioned whether Baeza had illegally assisted voters in casting mail-in ballots in the runoff race. Baeza testified on Aug. 24, and on the following day, Visiting Judge Joseph Connally dismissed the case and declared Contreras the winner of the election.
Cancer volunteers discuss issues with Bonilla
American Cancer Society volunteers, Tracy Shaw, Lisa Warden, Diana Fey, Vicki Cantrell, Colleen Douglas, Ruby Vera, Celita Borchers, and Mary Ochoa met with Henry Bonilla to discuss cancer concerns in the Pecos community. Volunteers went to Celebration on the Hill 2006; a nationwide event held in Washington, D.C., Sept. 19-20, that engaged Members of Congress. They were among 10,000 fellow Celebration Ambassadors, cancer survivors and volunteers from every congressional district in the country at the event, which was hosted by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM.
During the event, volunteers met with lawmakers to demand that Congress make cancer a national priority by boosting the federal commitment to cancer research and programs. Participants also converged upon the National Mall to share stories about how their lives have been touched by cancer. Celebration Ambassadors are community leaders, survivors, caregivers, health professionals, cancer researchers and volunteers who believe that defeating cancer will require courageous policy decisions by government officials at the federal, state and local levels. For further information, visit acscan.org/celebration.
The federal government plays a critical role in reducing the cancer burden on this country. In December, Congress passed legislation that cut the budget of the National Institutes of Health for the first time in 35 years and reduced funding for cancer research for the first time in a decade. Ambassadors work to restore and increase federal funding for lifesaving cancer research and programs at the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In addition, Ambassadors work to reduce cancer’s disproportionate burden on the underserved by asking Congress to reauthorize and expand the CDC's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. By reauthorizing the program, states will have more flexibility to reach eligible women who are most in need. Increasing funding by just $45 million would enable the program to serve an additional 130,000 or more women.
First held in 2002, Celebration on the Hill was organized under the auspices of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). ACS CAN is the Society’s nonprofit, non-partisan advocacy sister organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major public health problem through voter education and issue campaigns aimed at influencing candidates and lawmakers to support laws and policies that will help people fight cancer.
The American Cancer Society is partnering with ACS CAN, its sister advocacy organization, to eliminate cancer as a major public health problem. Founded in 1913 and with national headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, the Society has 13 regional Divisions and local offices in 3,400 communities, involving millions of volunteers across America. For more information anytime, call toll free 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit www.cancer.org . ACS CAN uses voter education and issue campaigns aimed at influencing candidates and lawmakers to support laws and policies that will help people fight cancer. ACS CAN does not endorse candidates and is not a political action committee (PAC). For more information, visit www.acscan.org .
USDA sets deadline for EQIP program sign-ups
The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Texas has set a Dec. 15, 2006, sign-up deadline for the 2007 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
“The funds allocated for EQIP will help farmers and ranchers improve natural resources on private working lands in Texas,” said Dr. Larry Butler, NRCS state conservationist for Texas. “The program provides cost-share and incentives payments to producers applying approved conservation measures that help solve natural resource problems.”
Natural resource concerns are established in each county by local work groups, who identify the most important natural resource issues in the area. Through EQIP, NRCS also funds projects that address special statewide resource concerns recommended by the Texas State Technical Committee. The 2007 statewide resource concerns are animal waste, invasive species, plant condition, water quality, water quantity, and wildlife emphasis areas.
Immediately following the end of the sign-up period, all applications will be ranked.
Producers with an approved application will work with an NRCS conservation planner to develop a contract and a plan and will begin implementing conservation practices next spring.
Local NRCS field offices have complete details for their county and the applicable state concerns. Additional information, including ranking criteria, eligible practices, and cost-share rates for all programs, can also be found on the Texas NRCS Web Site at www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/ .
Rayos celebrates seventh birthday
Anakin Rayos celebrated his seventh birthday on Oct. 24, with a party held in his honor at Gattiland in Odessa.
Family and friends were on hand to help him celebrate the special occasion.
Flores Elected to Statewide Association Board
The Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) has elected David L. Flores of Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD to a three-year term on the TASB Board of Directors, representing TASB Region 18.
Flores has served four years on his local board and has held the position of secretary. He is the religious programs coordinator for the Reeves County Detention Center (RCDC), where he has worked since 1986. The new TASB director is president of the Evening Optimist International (local) and member of the RCDC Employees Club. Flores attended Pecos High School and Odessa College.
TASB is a nonprofit organization established in 1949 to serve local Texas school districts.
School board members are the largest group of publicly elected officials in the state. The districts they represent have a combined annual budget of $38 billion, employ approximately 580,000 people, and serve more than 4.4 million public school students.
December GED test dates announced
GED Testing will be held Tuesday, Dec. 5 and Wednesday, Dec. 6, at the Pecos High School.
Registration is scheduled for 1-4 p.m., Monday, Dec. 4, at the Pecos High School Counselor’s Office.
Examinees must present a Texas Driver’s License or Texas Department of Public Safety ID Card.
For more information call Pat Cobos/Eva Arriola, Pecos High School Counselors at 447-7229.
Credit by exam sign-ups this week
Credit by Examination (without prior instruction), sign up will be this Tuesday through Thursday, in the counselor’s office at the Pecos High School.
Students can sign up with Pat Cobos or Eva Arriola.
Test dates are Dec. 5-7, at 3:30 p.m., at the high school.
Credit by examination for acceleration allows students enrolled in grades nine through 12 to be awarded credit toward high school graduation for acceleration.
Students who wish to obtain credit for any class that counts toward graduation may apply to take the examination for acceleration. The student may not have been previously enrolled in the class. Application may be obtained from the student’s guidance counselor.
Credit is granted to students who attain 90 percent or above mastery on the examination for acceleration. The test will only be administered once in the fall and spring semesters.
A copy of the testing schedule and application deadlines may be obtained in the counseling office.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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