Area candidates had the opportunity to say what set them apart from their opponents during a candidate forum held at last week's Northwest Business Association luncheon.

District 34 State Rep. Candidate Abel Herrero said early on that the area's best interests are not being served in Austin.

'Whether you talk about public education, access to healthcare for seniors, or windstorm insurance rates, if you look at my opponent's voting record, you will see that the best interests of this district are not being represented,” Herrero said. “I'm very disappointed my opponent isn't here. I understand campaign season is difficult, so I'm taking this time to challenge my opponent to a debate.”

During introductions, Precinct 1 County Commissioner candidate David Torres said he will always be available to the public. After 32 years in law enforcement with the Corpus Christi Police Department, Torres said he attended hundreds of community meetings, hearing their concerns.

“What I found fascinating during that time is that I was never asked if I was a Democrat of Republican, liberal or conservative. People just wanted their concerns heard and they wanted to have their issues fixed,” Torres said. “Being a public servant, the emphasis should be on the people, and I look forward to giving you a voice in the county commissioners court.

Torres said one of the major concerns he said he saw, that brought him into the race, was financial issues with the court, and what he claimed were “under the table” issues he saw.

“I want to give you a voice to talk about those. I'm results oriented,” Torres said.

Pct. 3 County Commissioner Oscar Ortiz said he enjoys his job so much, it is one of the main reasons he gets out of bed in the morning. After 18 years in the position, Ortiz said two of the things the public should look for in their candidate is accessibility and relevance.

“Over the past 18 years, we have accomplished much, from the shores of Padre Island to the Jim Wells County line. We have worked and been successful, to the JFK Causeway to sitting in this facility (the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds) initiated by a previous court,” Ortiz said. “I see the people in the audience who are appreciated. Thank you for having us as your employees.”

Pct. 3 County Commissioner candidate Richard H. Mitchell focused on the numbers during his forum comments. After 26 years working for the Nueces County Appraisal District, Mitchell had the taxable property values close at hand.

Last year, the total value of all taxable property was just under $19 billion. This year, Mitchell said, the accessed value of taxable property was more than $19.5 billion.

“But they couldn't cut the tax rate one penny. They said, “we are not going to raise the tax rate,” but they expect us to jump up and dance like an organ grinder monkey. I would have voted against this building, (the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds) because I think people have a right to pass a bond issue. If you vote for me, I will look after you,” Mitchell said.

Sheriff Jim Kaelin said his record stands on its own.

“I cleaned up the Nueces County Jail. The jail passed all inspections since I became sheriff, we brought the federal inmates back into the jail, restoring a revenue stream and went under the $1.5 million budget,” Kaelin said. “I also oversee two private detention centers, which bring $1.5 million into the general fund.”

Pusley said an election comes down to three things, the incumbent's record, who is going to provide good government in the future and the differences between the candidates. He pointed out that although Torres is a career police officer, all four area law enforcement agencies have endorsed Pusley's reelection.

“When I came before you four years ago I made some promises. I promised to restore integrity in the county government, we've done that. I promised you we would get the city/county working together again in a positive way, we've done that. You wanted County Road 52 done, we got that done. We got a drainage project on County Road 69 completed,” Pusley said. “Now we are in the process of having a public water supply along CR52, with fire hydrants, so we are running a whole lot of new things. We need your support and I want to be your community commissioner in the future.”

Pusley said when Nueces Electric Cooperative contacted him about their desire to build a new facility, he was able to partner with the company to split the $300,000 price tag on a necessary drainage project, which saved the multi-million dollar investment in the community.

“Those are the things we are going to have to work on to make Northwest Nueces County move forward,” Pusley said.

David Garcia, a candidate for Constable Pct. 1, said he wanted to serve the public as constable because he feels it is important to be involved with children and the elderly in the community.

During his time within the Nueces County Sheriff's Department, Garcia said his time as a DARE officer in the area made an impact on him concerning the importance of officers coming out to the schools and talk to the children.

“They need to know that we are here to protect and serve them also. Over the years, I haven't seen that much law enforcement in the area, and we need to see more,' Garcia said. “We know what happened to our friends in Alice. It's a good community, but you get bad people coming in and it will ruin a small town, and we don't want this to happen to our community, our children.”

Garcia said increasing law enforcement's presence in the area will be a priority if elected.

Nueces County Sheriff's candidate Isaac Valencia said traffic enforcement is a powerful tool for patrol operations. He said traffic stops have led to the arrest of individuals on several higher charges, up to and including murder.

“I can tell you, having worked out here recently, traffic enforcement is lax. The sheriff's department pulled the radar outside of the cars, and come up with excuses,” Valencia said. “I'm telling you, it's a tool that's needed. It needs to be put back into the cars, a minor expense when you can save the life of someone.”

He went on to call it a bad public policy position to say they are not going to accept class c misdemeanors, because it counts against the jail roster.

“It does not,” Valencia said. “It's bad public policy and needs to be reversed.”

Kaelin said none of Valencia's comments were true.

He said officers do accept class c misdemeanors. Kaelin said the city's detention center takes class c's, and that the jail takes in the constable's and Department of Public Safety's class c misdemeanors.

“Class c misdemeanors are like a speeding ticket,” Kaelin said. “Jail is not meant for you to take people and stuff them in jail as punishment.”

He said his officers do enforce traffic laws for stops, meaning to see if anything else is going on.

“But you take young officers and what they want to do is run up and down the highway here, and enforce traffic laws and not provide protection to the rural part of this community,” Kaelin said. “Where my opponent and I disagree, is that the people who live in the rural part of the community deserve patrol officers patrolling their businesses and neighborhoods, not running up and down Highway 77 to Bishop and Driscoll or Agua Dulce writing speeding tickets.”

Kaelin said the radars were not removed from the cars. He said the officers were given a directive not to work radar until they were trained to do so. Kaelin called political campaigns interesting, because the first thing that happens is someone wants to lie, he said, calling Valencia's comments lies.