COPP & League of Women Voters host judicial candidate debate at UTSA’s downtown campus


The League of Women Voters and the College of Public Policy partnered to host a Judicial Candidate Debate on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at the UTSA Downtown Campus in the Aula Canaria Lecture Hall. The debate featured Republican candidates vying for criminal district court judge in Bexar County. Students and members of the community gathered to hear the candidates' positions. Audience members submitted questions and Moderator Phyllis Ingram of the League of Women Voters posed questions to each of the candidates for discussion.

A group of students from Criminal Justice Lecturer Henry Meade’s class titled "Special Topics in Policing" showed up to gain knowledge about the candidates as well as learn more about the role of the criminal courts and the importance of judicial elections. 

Associate Dean and Professor Francine Romero welcomed guests and candidates to the debate, thanked the League of Women Voters for their partnership every year with the College and asked the College’s student groups to be recognized. President of the Public Administration Student Organization (PASO) Nohelia Villeda talked about the mission and role of PASO. Vice-President of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society Alpha Phi Sigma (APS) April Demendonca spoke about the mission of APS and their role at UTSA. PASO and APS members served as ambassadors for the evening by volunteering to handle various event duties such as assisting with sign in and registration for students seeking extra credit, collecting questions, keeping time, and handing out voter guides.

The candidates in attendance are representing the 187th and 226th districts. Members of the 226th took to the stage for the first half of the evening. They were David Martin, Todd McCray, Kristen Mulliner, an alumna of UTSA who graduated with her degree in criminal justice from the College of Public Policy, and Libby Wiedermann, who taught criminal justice courses for the College. 

The 187th members, Karl Alexander, Jan Ischy-Prins, Veronica Legarreta, and Virginia Maurer, discussed their positions for the second half of the evening. Each person from the 187th and 226th had one minute to give an introduction, respond to questions, and give closing arguments. Some of audience's questions sparked discussions involving the following: how judges handle cases related to unlawful possession of firearms, how the courts protect the rule of law, the importance of impartiality, and whether or not to move to a nonpartisan system for judicial elections.

APS Vice-President April Demendonca says that she learned a great deal about the candidates’ qualifications and goals.

“This experience helped me put a face to the names on the ballot.” “I got to hear their voice on what their goals were if elected.”

April added, “If it wasn’t for this event, I would not have had a chance to meet the candidates.” “Plus, it was entertaining to watch their demeanor and how they handled themselves answering questions under a minute!” 

COPP and the League of Women Voters hosted this debate to engage the community in public policy and elections. Their goal was to help Texas voters make informed decisions when casting their ballot in the joint primary election on March 6 and to provide a platform to promote civic conversations among students and the community.

The judicial elections are so important to how we live our everyday lives that we want voters to have as much information about the candidates as possible,” noted Phyllis Ingram, of the League of Women Voters.

“It is important for the UTSA College of Public Policy to host this event, since public policy intersects with fundamental issues that judges make decisions about everyday,” UTSA College of Public Policy’s Associate Dean and Associate Professor Francine Romero said.

“We hope citizens and students will take this opportunity to get to know the candidates and their positions in order to cast an informed vote prior to the joint primary election.” Romero stated.

NowCastSA livestreamed the debate. The program is available on YouTube. Click here to watch the webcast.