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Two Aim To Unseat Precint 3 County Commissioner

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In tomorrow’s Super Tuesday primary, two challengers are trying to unseat Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff, the county’s only Republican commissioner. Pamela Lill did not respond to our request for an interview, but retired naval commander Mike Koerner and Wolff did. The candidates differ on several key issues.

For almost eight years Kevin Wolff has represented Precinct 3, in North Bexar County.  It’s a fast growing area that extends north of Loop 1604. He’s a Navy veteran with an MBA who’s served in senior business positions, and a former San Antonio council member. Wolff says his background is part of what makes him the better candidate.

"Well, I certainly think I have the experience, after having done it for the past seven years. It’s been a tremendous honor to serve. Couple that with 20 years of business background and military background, I think I’m the most qualified candidate," he says.

Mike Koerner says his experience is also what makes him the better candidate.  He’s a retired naval officer who spent the last three years as Senator Ted Cruz’s regional director. Before that he worked for Republican Congressman Francisco "Quico" Canseco.  Koerner has tea party support.

"I feel that my experience as a senior naval officer, my experience working with large groups, my experience at the state and federal level as a staffer and building relationships brings a quality of leadership and experience to commissioner’s court and would allow to facilitate those relationships and would work to bring whatever we need here to the county in order to provide for folks who live in Precinct 3, specifically, in the county, overall," Koerner says.

If re-elected, Wolff says his priorities would continue to include protection of military bases and public safety.

"One of the things that we really are moving forward on this coming year are more law enforcement activities in the unincorporated area. So, we’re building two new substations for the sheriff’s deputies- one in the northeast and one in the northwest," Wolff says. 

Another priority would be transportation, and Wolff points to his accomplishments in that area.

"One of the biggest things we’ve been able to do is finally put all the money together to expand 281, non-tolled, by six lanes all the way from 1604 to the county line. We’ll also be able to do I-10 with an expansion of four lanes from 1604 ..., again non-tolled," Wolff says.

Koerner says his take on transportation differs with Wolff’s.  

"I’ve been anti-toll from day one. I’ve been endorsed by organizations that are anti-toll including TURF and Texans for Highway Reform. I oppose street cars in any shape, way or form. Kevin in his votes in the MPO and the AACOG have voted for that in the past," Koerner says.

Koerner’s talking about transportation policy organizations. Wolff points out that he voted no on the street car twice and voted against tolls for both 281 and I-10.

Koerner says, if elected, his focus would be getting the commissioner’s court back to what he considers its original responsibilities.

"It’s very specific. It’s listed in the Texas Constitution what the commissioner’s court was designed to do, what their scope and range of requirements are. They have some core functions which roads, bridges and infrastructure, which is probably what most people focus on. They also deal with public safety and public health. What I’ve seen is we’ve strayed away from that, and have started to venture off into more economic development," Koerner says.

But Wolff is hoping Koerner doesn’t have the chance to take his place.

"I love doing this job, and I’m very grateful to the folks who put me in office. And I think they know when they look out there and they see things like 281 and I-10—I completed Wurzbach Parkway—I helped save the missions on Camp Bullis by making sure they could continue to do the medical field training there. So those are the things I like to do, and I hope the voters will send me back to continue doing them," Wolff says.

Koerner says he’s the more conservative candidate. Wolff says his record is one of accomplishment. Whoever wins the Republican nomination will face unopposed Democrat Brandon Johnson in November.

Louisa Jonas is an independent public radio producer, environmental writer, and radio production teacher based in Baltimore. She is thrilled to have been a PRX STEM Story Project recipient for which she produced a piece about periodical cicadas. Her work includes documentaries about spawning horseshoe crabs and migratory shorebirds aired on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered. Louisa previously worked as the podcast producer at WYPR 88.1FM in Baltimore. There she created and produced two documentary podcast series: Natural Maryland and Ascending: Baltimore School for the Arts. The Nature Conservancy selected her documentaries for their podcast Nature Stories. She has also produced for the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s Distillations Podcast. Louisa is editor of the book Backyard Carolina: Two Decades of Public Radio Commentary. She holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her training also includes journalism fellowships from the Science Literacy Project and the Knight Digital Media Center, both in Berkeley, CA. Most recently she received a journalism fellowship through Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution where she traveled to Toolik Field Station in Arctic Alaska to study climate change. In addition to her work as an independent producer, she teaches radio production classes at Howard Community College to a great group of budding journalists. She has worked as an environmental educator and canoe instructor but has yet to convince a great blue heron to squawk for her microphone…she remains undeterred.