San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

May 26th, 2008
Taking page from her opponent, Prado adds evening court hours

Managing Editor

Call it a Jo-Anne-come-lately.

More than three years into her four-year term, Precinct 1, Place 1 Justice of the Peace Jo Anne Prado has decided she needs to start putting in longer hours. Weeks after she beat former Precinct 1 Constable Lupe Cruz in the Democratic Party primary, Prado announced she would start keeping her office opened until 7 p.m. one day a week.

“My decision to stay open late on Wednesday is to give an opportunity to those individuals who cannot take off from work or school during the day to come by in the evening to take care of their court business,” Prado said.

Prado faces a Republican Party challenger in San Marcos police Sgt. Rodney van Oudekerke who has for months campaigned on adding evening hours to accommodate working residents and students. van Oudekerke did not want to comment directly on Prado’s apparent attempt to co-opt a main plank of his platform. Instead he referred to previous statements and campaign literature in which he said he would hear cases until 7 p.m. at least one night a week.

Besides the typical caseload of traffic and other misdemeanor offenses, precinct 1 justice of the peace benches play a unique countywide role because they serve the county seat. The place 1 judge, in particular, arraigns a disproportionate share of people held at the Hays County jail in San Marcos are called on frequently by San Marcos police and Hays County sheriff’s office investigators seeking search and arrest warrants.

Encompassing Hays County’s poorest and most racially diverse areas mostly east of Interstate 35 in San Marcos and Kyle, precinct 1 is generally considered solid Democratic territory. Prado however won her first term in 2004 by a relatively slim 450-vote margin over Republican Nick Iccossipentharos out of more than 16,000 votes cast, 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent. Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe, by contrast, did not even draw a Republican challenger the same year and, in 2006, Pct. 1, Place 2 Justice of the Peace Margie H. Hernandez also ran unopposed in the general election.

Still, Prado handily bested Cruz in the Democratic Party primary election in March, tallying 3,477, or 60.8 percent, to Cruz’s 2,221, or 39.2 percent. And Hays County Democrats in general are heartened by the 20,179 who voted in their party’s primary on March 4 compared to 8,039 in the Republican Party primary. Republicans counter that their presidential nomination race was all but over by the time Texas voted and the county ballot had no contested races except for party chair and voting precinct chair contests that drew virtually no mainstream media attention.

On the same ballot, Ingalsbe won even more convincingly over former school board president Celestino Mendez Jr., who received 1,168 votes, or 35 percent, to Ingalsbe’s 2,169, or 65 percent. However, 2,331 fewer precinct 1 Democrats cast ballot in the commissioner’s race than did in the justice of the peace race which could indicate a significant number of voters rejected or had doubts about both Ingalsbe and Mendez. Ingalsbe faces Republican challenger Nick Ramus in the Nov. 4 general election.

DISCLOSURE: Prado arraigned me in October 2006 on a Class C misdemeanor public intoxication charge that was later dropped.

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