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Carlton Soules Kicks Off Campaign For Bexar County Judge

Former San Antonio City Councilman Carlton Soules officially kicked off his campaign Sunday to run in the Republican primary for Bexar County judge.

Soules is fairly new to the political scene, having won the City Council District 10 seat in 2011. But in just a short time, Soules said he has learned a lot, and wants to stop spending he thinks is ruining the county. He said he has a three-step plan to take the county back from what conservatives say has been out-of-control spending for far too long.

First, he wants to stop what he calls "legacy projects" like streetcars.

"Would you be willing to reach into your pocket and your kid's pocket and pull out $250 to spend on [Bexar County Judge] Nelson Wolff's streetcar project?" he asked the crowd gathered outside the Catholic Life Insurance building off 410 Sunday.

"No!" replied supporters.

"Absolutely not," continued Soules. "But that's what they're asking you to do. And they're just getting started. If this goes through, it's the beginning of something much larger so it's important that we stop it now. That's one of the reasons I got into this."

Secondly, Soules said he will create jobs for the 40,000 people locating to Bexar County every year. And third, he said he will rein in the debt that he said has grown to $1.3 billion on Wolff's watch.

Republicans say Soules has a good shot of taking control of the top spot in Bexar County government. The conservative theme ran through the core of everyone's message, including Bexar GOP Chairman Robert Stovall, a businessman who said he has a mentality very similar to his conservative cohort.

"We get up in the morning and we run our business," Stovall said. "We can't spend what we don't have. We can go borrow but eventually we know we've got to pay that note back but it becomes very difficult to make those payroll checks if we're borrowing money and if we're not increasing our sales or our customer base and those kind of things."

New District 10 Councilman Mike Gallagher -- appointed to the seat after Soules stepped down -- continued the pep rally, bragging on Soules as a numbers man who gets that there isn't an unlimited pot of money to draw from.

"Let's get rid of these silly glory projects and let's start doing the things that we should be doing for the taxpayers of the county and for the taxpayers of our city," said Gallagher. "Let's protect them, let's protect their security, let's fix our streets and those sorts of things and we can do that through the leadership of Judge Carlton Soules."

Soules praised the fact that leaders brought Toyota to town, but chastised those like Wolff who keep bragging on the achievement a decade later. Soules said there should be a "championship" every year so that more jobs are created every year.

He likened the Toyota analogy to University of Texas coach Mack Brown, who won a 2005 championship.

"We want wins each and every year. My son's sitting here, and I told you he went to UT. Well, you can only ride championships so long. Anybody want to know what happened to Mack Brown this year?" said Soules to laughter.

"We've had our championship, we need another championship. We're going to get another one but it's going to be with a new coach," said Soules.

Soules is looking past the primary already, where he's up against Gerard Ponce, who has run for judge twice before, once as a Democrat and once as a Republican.

Ponce told TPR by phone Sunday that he also believes the county needs to stop spending money. Regarding same sex marriage, Ponce said he believes in civil unions only, not marriage yet, based on his religious views. And he also said downtown streetcars is a bad idea.

"I think that we actually need to take care of traffic because I think traffic congestion is going to keep getting worse," Ponce said. "I believe that money should have been used for something like a rail system going up [Hwy.] 281 to the end of the county line."

Soules said he is confident he'll breeze past Ponce in the March Republican primary. Instead, Soules is really concentrating his effort on Wolff, who is facing Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson in the Democratic primary.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.