Commissioner Justin Rodriguez (Pct. 2) officially announces his 2020 campaign. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

In a cold room next to a bingo hall on the West Side that will serve as his new campaign headquarters, Commissioner Justin Rodriguez (Pct. 2) spoke to a crowd of around 200 people on Saturday.

Rodriguez formally launched his campaign Saturday morning, complete with balloon pillars, a live mariachi band, tacos and coffee, and speeches from local government officials throwing their support behind Rodriguez in the upcoming 2020 election.

Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7), State Rep. Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio), former State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, and Rodriguez’s oldest daughter Miranda all shared stories of Rodriguez’s past in public service and urged supporters to help him through the March primary.

“I watched him work on policy initiatives [at the Texas Capitol],” Minjarez said. “I watched him take on some of the biggest, drag-out fights without any fear. But Justin, what you really emulated was the importance of working with everybody, even with people that you may not agree with.”

Rodriguez thanked the room full of supporters holding signs bearing his name and bundled against the weather.

“I know … it was cold this morning, so getting out of bed was a little trickier,” he joked.

“This has been overwhelming to see some old friends, new friends, and then to hear from the likes of Ana and Ina and Leticia … and to be introduced by my daughter was a little surreal because I felt old for a second.”

Rodriguez’s successor, State Rep. Ray Lopez (D-San Antonio), Mayor Ron Nirenberg, and Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar were also among the elected officials who attended the event Saturday.

Rodriguez was appointed by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff in January to replace the late Commissioner Paul Elizondo, who died last December soon after being elected to his 10th term. Rodriguez is running to finish the current term, which expires in 2022.

Rodriguez served as a San Antonio Independent School District board trustee from 2004 to 2007. He was then elected to City Council in 2007 and served for two terms. He went on to represent House District 125 in the Texas Legislature for three terms and was elected to a fourth term before being appointed to the Precinct 2 commissioner seat.

He told supporters that coming back home to serve in Bexar County felt right because his family was here.

“When I got the call from Judge Wolff to consider this appointment – I’m sure my family will tell you – we struggled with going back and forth [on] whether this was the right thing to do at the right time for us,” he said.

“But to come home and serve locally is really where my heart is … That’s what drives and should drive public policy. Good public policy always comes organically from communities.”

The crowd holds up signs in support of Commissioner Justin Rodriguez (Pct. 2).

Rodriguez will face Queta Rodriguez, who ran against Elizondo in the 2018 primary and forced him into a runoff, in the March primary. Queta Rodriguez told the Rivard Report when she launched her campaign in September that she likes Commissioner Rodriguez, but the community had zero input on his appointment. 

Commissioner Rodriguez said he’d continue to work hard to show voters why they should check his name on their ballot in March. He also urged people in the room not to get complacent about his standing in the race.

“I think we’ve seen examples in recent years, whether it was at the national level or local level, where people feel, ‘That person’s got it in the bag,’ and they let their foot off the gas a bit,” he said. That’s never been my style. You run hard and if you have opposition you respect everybody and take everybody seriously.”

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.