Two candidates hope to break Precinct 3's dynasty of change - FOX34 Lubbock

Two candidates hope to break Precinct 3's dynasty of change

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In one month, voters in northeast Lubbock County will cast ballots for the most hotly-contested race for our area: county commissioner for Precinct 3.  Three Democrats and two Republicans are vying for that seat on a very different dais. Long-time commissioner Bill McCay is retiring and Precinct 2's Jason Corley, Precinct 4's Chad Seay, and County Judge Curtis Parrish are all in only their second years in office.

For the past 20 years, three of these candidates have held the seat, exchanging representation: current incumbent Gilbert Flores (D) faces former commissioners "Bubba" Sedeño (D) and Ysidro Gutierrez (R). None of them have won sequential re-election; Flores won the seat in 2000, then lost it in 2004 to Gutierrez (as a Democrat), who lost it to Flores in 2008, who lost it to Sedeño in 2012. Flores then beat Sedeño in the 2016 primary election by 84 votes. No Republican challenged him in the general election.

Voter turnout in Precinct 3 is historically low; in the 2016 primary, only 2,500 voters cast ballots out of the more than 33,000 registered voters. In 2018, there were more than 35,000 registered for the midterms. This year, it's on track to have fewer voices.

RELATED: Voter registration ends Monday.

Along with the traditional trio, two other challengers are contesting the race, both Republicans. Victor Flores is an entrepreneur who wants to bring business-friendly policies and development to northeast Lubbock County, while Cary Shaw wants new leadership that understands the needs of rural residents.

In his campaign announcement, Commissioner Flores said it's vital he be the first to win re-election due to next year's redistricting efforts; he says state leaders want to split his precinct and disenfranchise Hispanic voters.

"They're going to dilute and delete our precinct," he declared. "If they pump another 15,000 people into my precinct that don't understand me or my culture, or why I need to be here, I'm not going to be able to win."

Democratic challenger "Bubba" Sedeño didn't hesitate to blast his rival during his campaign announcement. He accused Commissioner Flores of excessive absences and said he's not governing.

"Even today," he said at his event in December, "my opponent will hardly show up for work -- golfing is more important to him."

Gutierrez, Victor Flores, and Shaw are vying for the Republican nomination; the GOP hasn't held that seat since the 1980s. Gutierrez ran as a Republican in 2012 and lost to Sedeño, but he said it's time for conservative values to take over this region.

"The reason conservatism works," he explained, "is because it challenges the individual to excel. It allows businesses to be free to operate. It makes government smaller, and therefore less intrusive."

Victor Flores owns multiple businesses in Precinct 3, and said he wants to bring more development to the region; while he said he's ready to focus on the "X's and O's" of governing, he wants to focus on inspiring Precinct 3 to grow itself.

"The opportunity's here," he told FOX34 Friday, "and we have to embrace it, and we have to come together and we have to change some things in order for us to all believe in and change the perceptions of the constituency."

Shaw is a rancher from Becton, north of Idalou; he made a living building fences. He said his biggest safety priority isn't roads, like other candidates and commissioners have focused on; instead, he wants the county to ensure ambulance service remains in Idalou. Shaw said Friday UMC is threatening to shutter it without a $500,000 payment to keep it running.

"They're worried about Woodrow Road as a safety concern," Shaw said Friday, "but the loss of an ambulance service in that part of the county is a far greater safety concern than Woodrow Road will ever be."

Shaw agreed Woodrow Road needs work, but said that shouldn't be a priority for Precinct 3's commissioner.

Shaw's the last candidate to hold a formal campaign announcement. It's Monday at 10 a.m. at the county commissioner's courtroom on the 5th floor of the Lubbock County Courthouse.

The party primaries are Super Tuesday, March 3.

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