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Medina Deflects Criticism, Opponents Deal With Their Own Controversies

Constituents on San Antonio's West Side say they are frustrated over a lack of leadership on the city council, a frustration that stems from current District 5 Councilman David Medina, but the field of candidates who are challenging him in this election also have their share of controversy.

Six candidates, including Medina, ironman competitor Shirley Gonzales, insurance agent John Carlos Garcia, businessman Richard Cardenas, attorney Ricardo Briones, and Frank Ramirez are all fighting for the job.

Medina has not received wide-spread praise from the community for the job he's currently doing, but he says he's got $175 million in reinvestment projects in progress right now.

"My opposition and my opponents are talking about ideas and visions," he said. "We've been producing for four years. That's why I'm running for re-election and I'm asking the district to continue supporting me because we already have a good thing going and we need to continue the progress."

Garcia ran for the seat in 2009 and will have to deal with his 2007 arrest; he was jailed for punching his girlfriend, Bernadette Valedez, but she later dropped charges. Garcia said they still run their insurance office together.

"Not a proud moment," he said. "Not something I'm proud of but something I have to take ownership of."

Garcia said that people will think what they want about any candidate's past, but he hopes people take "ownership" of their communities.

He said people on the west side deserve better and that they are the hardest workers in the city, but they come home to some of the worst conditions.

"They see all the pretty beautiful things; they commute out to the construction of new homes and then they come back to a lack of social services, horrible infrastructure," he said.

Briones is an attorney and life-long resident of district 5, and thinks Medina does have the experience.

"From what I understand he's done some things in regard with senior centers and I do want to build upon that. I do think there's a lot more that can be done for the district and I do think that I'm the right candidate to do a lot more for the district."

Briones is a former San Antonio Cultural Arts board member who resigned to run for office. While he was on the board, however, his boss offered legal help to recover thousands of dollars in stolen money by a former board member and interim executive director.

"It was a very difficult time, it was a simple solution. I just wanted to get the money back," Briones said.

Executive Director Harvey Mireles said the investigation is ongoing, but not everyone agreed with what appeared to be a conflict of interest.

Former District 5 councilwoman Patti Radle didn't like how it was handled. Still, she said that dirty laundry for any candidate doesn't do the voters any good.

"The governance while he was on the board I found questionable, and not of the highest quality," she said of the situation.

"Again, people need to look at the qualifications of all these people and what are their strengths? Maybe that's one of his weaknesses, but does he have strengths as well," Radle said.

Radle’s advice to voters doesn’t leave the candidate in the highest regard. She has openly disapproved of the job Medina's done on the council and said he insulted his constituents when he did not show up for a candidate forum held at the Guadalupe Arts Cultural Center earlier this month.

"People wanted him to be here, they wanted to hear what he had to say, it was an opportunity for him to explain himself on some tough situations," she said. "He turned it down, he ignored it and frankly I think he insulted his constituents."

Radle believes the race will be tougher than Medina is expecting. Resident Albert Orosco has been waiting for one thing.

"I feel like I'm way overdo on sidewalks," he said.

The race is crowded with three more opponents: Shirley Gonzales, Richard Cardenas, and Frank Ramirez. Medina could be starting to feel the pressure, though he maintains that he is confident.

So far this month his office has released more than 12 events requesting coverage for Medina. Last month there were only four.

"The community support is huge," Medina said. "I'm running for re-election because the district has asked me to do that."

Just how big the community support will be tallied on Election Day – if people turn out to the polls in an election that doesn't historically attract a lot of voters.