Democratic Party Chair Disses Disenfranchised Volunteers
Written by Evan Shimek on February 9, 2020
Observers: Why Can’t Alcantara Unify Bexar County Against Trump
By: James Brown, KROV Staff Reporter
A mischaracterization of state law, Democratic Party rules, and facts that was sent in an email by embattled Democratic Party Chair, Monica Alcantara, threatens an effort to bring unity to the Bexar County Democratic Party.
Three lawyers have teamed up to fight on behalf of precinct chairs. They prepared a lawsuit seeking to end a practice by Chairwoman Alcantara where she removes or denies appointments of precinct chairs perceived as un-loyal to her.
Those attorneys include David Van Os, former chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party and former statewide nominee for Texas Attorney General.
Jay Hulings, a corruption busting former U.S. Attorney and Democratic party Congressional candidate and Robert “Woody” Wilson, a lawyer who attempted to sign up as a Democratic Party chair but was rebuffed.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of dozens of Democratic Party volunteers known as precinct chairs; who were removed and also on behalf of volunteers who were prevented from serving the party by the chairwoman.
Plaintiffs against Alcantara won a Temporary Restraining Order in court on April 19, 2019 from Judge Sid Harle to protect the improper removal of precinct chairs, who are elected officials, protected by state election codes and Democratic Party Rules.
The court’s swift granting of the Temporary Restraining Order found that the purged precinct chairs had a likelihood to prevail on the merits of their case and enjoined Alcantara from appointing or removing precinct chairs, violating the State laws or County rules.
CLICK LINK BELOW TO SEE FULL TEXT OF ORDER:
At a second court hearing on May 13, 2019 at the Bexar County Courthouse, Chairwoman Alcantara conceded that she had not properly removed numerous precinct chairs that wanted to volunteer for the Democratic Party.
Judge Cathy Stryker made Monica Alcantara swear to abide by the law and rules of the party and stated that should “any procedural abnormalities occur in the future with regard to the removal of precinct chairs or appointment of precinct chairs to vacated seats this court would hear an appropriate request for a temporary restraining order on that issue given the court’s familiarity with the issues in this case.”
In court, Chairwoman Alcantara incorrectly asserted that the law and rules were just “guidelines.”
During an interview with Texas Public Radio’s David Martin Davies, Alcantara defended her purging of Democratic Party precinct chairs and blocking the appointment of precinct chairs by saying that “one could not become a precinct chair without first interviewing with her,” but that is not what Texas Election Code says.
Section 171.024 of the Texas Election code regulates the appointment of precinct chairs to fill vacancies.
The law details that “the county executive committee (CEC) shall fill by appointment any vacancy on the committee.” The law goes on to state the county parties have to establish what percentage of precinct chairs must be present for appointment. In the case of Bexar County’s Democratic Party that threshold is twenty-five percent of the precinct chairs. It also requires that to be “elected a person must receive a favorable vote of a majority of the members voting.”
State law trumps state or county rules.
According to the lawsuit filed by purged precinct chairs, “the statute does not say anything about who can call a meeting, how notice for that meeting is to be provided, who can chair that meeting, who can nominate a person to be a precinct chair, or even that a meeting has to be called at all. It also does not give the Chair of the County Party any role in the selection or approval of precinct chairs, directing that authority exclusively to the County Executive Committee (CEC).”
Because Chairwoman Alcantara had not called a meeting of the Bexar County Democratic Party from February of 2019 until June of 2019, the deputy chairs of the party along with a majority of the precinct chairs called a meeting on June 11, 2019 at the San Antonio Central Library in accordance with the rules of the Texas Democratic Party. The meeting had a quorum of more than 25% of all members of the CEC and approved a list of more than 60 new precinct chairs.
Chairwoman Alcantara wrote an email on Thursday, February 6, 2020 indicating that she was “happy” to sign an agreement it took her nearly 60 days for her to sign, but then she threw a bomb into the email that threatens to blow up the potential peace agreement and keep the party divided.
Plaintiffs who were disenfranchised by the chair note that she incorrectly wrote, “Those who were affected by the confusion were notified and invited to complete an application with the party to become eligible to be appointed as a precinct chair for the unexpired term. However, in lieu of that process, they have asked that during our next CEC meeting, the voting body move to appoint them as precinct chairs.” (Monica Alcantara email, February 6, 2020)
Evidence indicates that what chairwoman Alcantara stated is not true—the plaintiffs did file paperwork.
One of those plaintiffs not allowed to serve as a precinct chair, Grace Rose Gonzales, sent an email detailing that the chair and her attorney have 140 applications for precinct chairs and believes the email misinforms members of the CEC about the facts of the lawsuit.
Gonzales goes on in her email and challenged the chair to go under oath in a court of law to acknowledge that she lied about the volunteers not completing applications. Moreover, the settlement agreement Alcantara signed rebuffs the assertion that the chair and her supporters have echoed that “all the applicants had to do was meet with the chair.”
The lawsuit stated, “The position of Bexar County Democratic Party Chair is one of limited power. The chair must operate within a system of federal and state laws, rules set by the State and County Parties, and with a number of people with who the chair may disagree, sometimes intensely. Such is the nature of democracy. The chair cannot simply ignore the law, the rules, and the interests of properly elected or appointed officials. Yet that is precisely what Alcantara has done even after being warned by this court not to do so.”
Three candidates have filed to unseat Alcantara, who had no Democratic Primary voting history prior to her election in 2018, raising many doubts from elected office holders and party loyalists about whether the chaos and division she has created is intentional.
Candidates seeking the chair of the Democratic party include Grace Rose Gonzales, a small business owner who also is former chair of the San Antonio Arts Commission, former vice chair of the Port Authority, former member of the City’s Small Business Committee and member of the Bexar County Small Business Committee. She was denied the ability to serve as precinct chair in the neighborhood where she serves as president of the Keystone Neighborhood Association.
Also, Norma Witherspoon filed to unseat Alcantara and is the deputy chair of the Democratic Party for precinct 4. Her family is well known for owning the first African-American beauty supply stores known as Nick’s Drug & Beauty Stores. She has served as a community and campaign organizer and is well known for field operations in campaigns for numerous campaigns including for Senator Jose Menendez, State Representative Ray Lopez, Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert, Rep. Roland Gutierrez, and more.
In addition, Juan Hernandez, a registered nurse, is a candidate for Democratic party chair running against Monica Alcantara. Hernandez was chairman of both the Bexar County Democratic Party Campaign Committee and the Rules, Bylaws and Constitution Committee.
Juan Hernandez was illegally perched by Chairwoman Monica Alcantara in January of 2019. After he tried to work things out within the party process, he had no other recourse than to find relief with the law and was successful in court with the help of lawyer Robert “Woody” Wilson.
Early Voting begins February 18, 2020 and Election Day is March 3, 2020.