About 50 area residents were able to meet and ask questions of the Precinct 5 Constable's candidates Saturday during a forum at Molano's Family Restaurant in Robstown.

Four of the five candidates running for the Democratic nomination for Precinct 5 Constable were at the event.

Frank Flores III, chief deputy constable for Precinct 5 Constable Mike Roldan, said Monday he was unable to attend due to a campaign meeting that was also scheduled for Saturday

"It was something I couldn't reschedule," Flores said. "I had a meeting going on here in Agua Dulce. That was something I had planned from way back when."

Flores said his campaign is going well and he is emphasizing his 25 years of experience with the constable's department. Flores has been the chief deputy since 1996 and he has the backing of Roldan.

"It's going real good," Flores said. "I'm working with the communities, getting out there to talk to them, and let them know I'm running and I want to continue the good job that the department is doing."

The other four constable candidates gave statements, answered several questions and laid out their agendas during Saturday's 1 1/2 hour forum.

Lt. Gilbert Gomez of the Robstown Police Department emphasized that the constable's office exists to serve area residents.

Gomez said his law enforcement and administrative experience make him the best candidate to succeed Roldan. Gomez was RPD chief of police from June 1998 through October 2003. He became a lieutenant in March and is one of the top three ranking officers in the 25-person Robstown Police Department.

Gomez said he is proud of his accomplishments as chief, including reducing crime rates.

"I've done a lot of things, but I couldn't have done it without community support," Gomez said.

Gerardo "Gerald" Ochoa, a deputy marshal for Corpus Christi and owner of a Corpus Christi investigative firm, had a large contingent of supporters at Saturday's forum, many of whom were wearing his campaign T-shirts.

Ochoa emphasized that he is from a family of public servants.

Ochoa began his law enforcement career with the Robstown Police Department in September 1996, achieving the position of a shift supervisor, before leaving the department in 2001.

He has been a deputy marshal for the city of Corpus Christi since 2001.

"I think I'm the person to move forward with that responsibility," Ochoa said. "I have the education, the experience, now I just need the votes."

Rolando Martinez, owner of Hwy 44 Auto Parts since 1988, said he would beef up the constable's office. Martinez also said he would reduce police response times to 30 minutes and crack down on area drug dealers.

Martinez defended his lack of law enforcement experience, saying he would hire only experienced officers and give them the law enforcement tools they needed.

Martinez said a change in leadership is needed at the Precinct 5 Constable's office, with better pay and benefits for deputies.

"If you want change, I'm your man," Martinez said. "I have the eagerness, drive and desire to get the job done."

Dionicio "Don" Ysassi ran unsuccessfully for Precinct 5 Constable against Johnny Calderon in 1992.

Ysassi is a retired U.S. Marine with 20 years of military service, including combat service in the Vietnam War. He was a military policeman for eight years and served as Marine recruiter based in Kingsville for three years.

After retiring from the Marines, Ysassi and his family returned to his hometown of Robstown.

Ysassi has been a truancy officer at Seale Junior High School for 17 years. He said if elected constable he would crack down on truant students wandering the streets and improve police response times.

"I do have the experience to lead this department," Ysassi said.

Precinct 5 encompasses 320 square miles, bordered on the west by Jim Wells County, FM 1694 on the east, San Patricio County to the north, and Driscoll city limits on the south.

The constable's office has 13 full-time officers and serves as the principal policing agency for Agua Dulce, Banquete and Bluntzer, while also covering Robstown.