If the race for District Court judge proved anything, it’s that you can’t shoot yourself in the foot more than twice and expect to run a successful campaign in Webb County.
Fernando Sanchez, a candidate strongly backed by the Mayor and a sitting judge (who will remain nameless out of respect for his position, not to mention all the lawyers he bullied into supporting the wrong candidate), shot himself in the foot so often that we’re surprised he can stand, let alone run for office.
Sanchez, to his credit, made a compelling argument against Beckie Palomo, but did such a horribly poor job of it, that Palomo wound up with the most convincing victory in Webb County this year. The fact that Palomo’s supporters were so passionate and her message so easy to grasp that she was a shoo-in almost from the get-go.
What did Palomo do right? Just about everything. Her bright red signs were easily the most visible anywhere in Webb County. She didn’t complicate her ads with a bunch of bullcrap. And she smiled. A LOT! She easily had the most energetic supporters in the county and her popularity snowballed with each passing day.
In the debates, Palomo didn’t have to point out the differences between her and her opponents. They were busy doing it for her, attacking so hard and so often, that even Newt Gingrich would have blushed had he been on stage when Sanchez and “Mister” Lopez started pounding on Palomo. At the end of the day, voters rejected the uber-negative attacks.
So even if Sanchez WAS more experienced. Even if he WAS more qualified. Even if he WAS right about Palomo’s legal status (which as we all know the state Supremes refused to buy), he was so acerbic, abrasive and obnoxious in his campaign that he couldn’t have won a cockfight in Nuevo Laredo if it was him versus a chicken.
What did Sanchez do wrong? Just about everything. For starters, he alienated himself from a large portion of the voting population by leaning on the Mayor and his Judge friend. It gave the appearance of patronage, and folks like their judges to be independent.
Then he tried to get Palomo off the ballot by suing her over some legal, Bar Association, technicality that most everybody didn’t understand. The Appeals Court temporarily took Palomo off the ballot, but she never stopped campaigning. She was a mother of five under attack by the big bad lawyers who wanted to take away YOUR voice at the polls. STRIKE ONE.
Meanwhile, Sanchez got caught accepting a fishy “loan” from a quasi-family member which broke about every campaign in the rule book. The Ethics Commission came down hard on him and might yet levy hefty fines, in the six-figure range. STRIKE TWO.
Finally when the Supreme Court of Texas threw Sanchez’s case out, it was ALL over. Even though the suit was filed against then-Democratic Chair Sergio Mora, it was clearly viewed as a personal attack on Palomo, a likeable, enthusiastic young attorney with a big cross around her neck.
When the Supremes threw out Sanchez’ case, he had lost and she had won. The campaign was a downhill pull afterwards. STRIKE THREE.
When Sanchez continued to press the attack on radio, TV and by trying to intimidate Palomo campaign workers, it only made matters worse.
Fernando Sanchez might have made a decent judge. But instead, he made himself the biggest villain in Webb County. Voters might have overlooked the misbehaviors of some candidates, ahem, but he wasn’t going to skate on this one.