Though Rebeca Clay-Flores and Gabriel Lara are on opposite sides of November’s ballot, they agree on one thing: Precinct 1 of Bexar County needs a responsive commissioner representing it.

Clay-Flores, the Democratic candidate in the race for Precinct 1 county commissioner, ousted current Commissioner Chico Rodriguez in the July primary runoff. The special projects manager for the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District will face Lara, Republican candidate and retired paramedic, in November.

The two candidates sat down for a half-hour forum on KLRN, the local PBS affiliate. During their talk, Lara pointed to the fact that Precinct 1 only received 13 percent of the County small business loans and grants, a program established to help businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic and administered by microlender LiftFund, as evidence of residents not being connected enough to their commissioner.

“We, as elected officials, need to be out in the community,” he said. “That’s why many of them probably were not aware that the funds were there. As elected officials, it’s imperative that we be out in the communities. We cannot be in an office, and this is not a part-time job.”

Clay-Flores said she was concerned when she heard that Precinct 1 received so little of the funding.

“I think part of the problem is that there needs to be a relationship with the elected official and the neighborhood associations and members of the community themselves,” she said. “I really think that’s where it was lacking because it’s up to the county commissioner to get the word out. You can’t wait for a pandemic to then build relationships; you can’t wait for a pandemic to then start to communicate.”

Clay-Flores and Lara also outlined what their budget priorities would be if elected. Lara said he would put emphasis on public safety, property tax relief, and getting high school students vocational training opportunities. Clay-Flores said she wanted to see funding put toward mental health, community and economic development, and giving resources to social programs and partner organizations to stop the “school-to-jail pipeline.”

“In some of our zip codes, definitely where I grew up, there is a school-to-prison pipeline, and that is something that we need to break in the state of Texas,” she said. “And also … in the state of Texas, our jails are the No. 1 providers of mental services, which is utterly unacceptable.”

Both Clay-Flores and Lara agreed that voting access was a significant issue in their precinct. Clay-Flores said she wants to see more voting centers added to the precinct and inform people on how to register to vote and when and how to vote. Lara added that that engagement campaign should extend to internet communication and advocated for more voting access for unincorporated Bexar County residents. 

“Unincorporated areas of Bexar County have never had early voting locations, never,” he said. “Why? I don’t know. So we need to get early voting locations in unincorporated areas of the county.”

The voter registration deadline is Oct. 5. Early voting starts Oct. 13. Election Day is Nov. 3. Find out more about voter registration and voting here.

San Antonio Report is a nonpartisan news organization and does not support or endorse political candidates or ballot propositions.

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.