I had a shocking experience while collecting voter signatures in San Marcos to get Bill Wyatt’s name placed on the Hays County November election ballot as a write-in candidate. Bill is running for Hays County Precinct 1 commissioner against 12-year incumbent Democrat Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe.We were knocking on doors of homes in the Sunrise Village Retirement Community and enjoying the opportunity of visiting with the elderly residents who often invited us in to talk and to sign our Petition in Lieu of a Filing Fee for Bill Wyatt. One elderly lady wanted to vote by mail, and I promised to deliver a mail ballot application to her. An elderly gentleman was born on Pearl Harbor day in 1942, and we chatted about our fathers’ World War II military service. Behind every door was someone who greeted us, engaged in welcome conversation and either willingly signed our petition or chose not to for their own reasons.
Sunrise Village is a development by Southside Community Center, a non-profit funded each year by Hays County, City of San Marcos and other sources. Ruben Garza is Executive Director of Southside and Ralph Gonzales (Commissioner Ingalsbe’s father) works for Southside as a carpenter. Commissioner Ingalsbe serves on the board of Southside Community Center. Ralph, Ruben and Debbie are a team.
We encountered Ralph Gonzales while working our way through Sunrise Village and he inquired what we were doing there. Not that it was any of his business, but we told him we were collecting signatures of registered voters to get Bill Wyatt on the ballot as a write-in candidate for Precinct 1 county commissioner.
“Why are you running someone against my daughter, Debbie?” Ralph asked. “Why don’t you like her?” he said. “Bill Wyatt is not a minority and every county must have a minority elected, and Debbie is a minority, and she has to be elected,” Ralph went on to say.
I was dumfounded. Debbie “…had to be re-elected because she is a minority?” What happened to giving voters the right to choose their elected officials? “Surely you don’t believe Debbie has an entitlement to be Precinct 1 County Commissioner,” I responded. “Precinct 1 voters will decide who their commissioner will be.” Not knowing what else to say, I asked Ralph if he would sign the Wyatt petition. He declined.
Ralph then hustled over to the nearby Village office. It wasn’t long before a woman claiming to be Beatrice Natal, the leasing manager, interrupted a voter signing our petition by telling us that we had to leave. No reason given, we just had to leave. I tried to explain that we were simply giving these voters an opportunity to exercise one of their most important civil rights, but Natal insisted that we leave.
Ralph stood by watching. He had been successful in violating the civil rights of these elderly voters who he believed, for some unfathomable reason, had no right to vote for anyone other than his daughter, Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe. I assume Ralph made clear to Natal that her job could be in jeopardy if she allowed us to continue our time-honored efforts.
As they have done in the past, I expect Ralph, his daughter Commissioner Ingalsbe and other members of their family will confront some of those who signed the Wyatt petition. This is not how their democracy works in Precinct 1. The Gonzales view reminds me of politics in Mexico. His daughter is entitled to be Precinct 1 Commissioner, and through Debbie, Ralph and Ruben Garza can continue their hold on Precinct 1 for their own rewards.
When informed voters go to the polls I believe they will act in their own best interests, and not in the self interests of elected officials. And no one should interfere with our democratic process for electing public officials. Fair, open and honest competition is a hallmark of the American way. Entitlement is a perverted view of democracy.
By Dr. CHARLES O’DELL
Co-founder of HAYSCan