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Alcántara Faces Runoff Challenge In Race To Lead Fractured Bexar County Democratic Party

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Challenging candidate Grace Rose Gonzales (L) and incumbent Monica Alcántara (R)"

Incumbent Monica Alcántara will face off with challenger Grace Rose Gonzales in the July 14 primary runoff election for chair of a divided Bexar County Democratic Party.

The two candidates had a narrow tally margin after Super Tuesday. Gonzales, a design professional, received 27% of the vote -- just behind the 30% won by incumbent and litigation paralegal Alcántara.

Both have Bexar County roots and served on various boards, committees and commissions.

Monday’s forum opened with incumbent Alcántara, who won the most votes on Super Tuesday. 

“Since being elected in 2018, I’ve worked consistently to improve and grow the party. Under my leadership, I led the successful, coordinated campaign of 2018 that won 51 out of 51 county-wide races. I’ve also modernized the party’s administration processes, such as having applications and verifications of precinct chairs online,” Alcántara said.

But Alcántara said the most important aspect of her term was the restoration of trust and transparency. Alcántara has been endorsed by over 100 precinct chairs, members of the Bexar County Democratic Delegation and multiple democratic clubs.

Grace Rose Gonzalez is Alcántara’s challenger. Gonzales said her priorities are election and voting rights, women- and minority-owned businesses, and neighborhoods.

“I am interested in being and wanting to be the Democratic Party Chair because I saw the disenfranchisement, and having served on many boards and commissions, I know what leadership means, and leadership means to listen,” Gonzalez said.

In recent years, the Bexar County Democratic Party's internal operations have been tumultuous, to say the least. Dramas have dominated the narrative, crippling the fractured party's ability to conduct business as usual.

Gonzalez expressed her concern about lack of trust in the party, saying it needs to be reinstated for the party to retain its strength.

“For me, going back to the rules is actually most paramount because people understand then what’s going on,” Gonzalez said.

Alcántara disagreed with the idea that the party was in disarray. 

“Our Democratic Party House is not broken. We are strong, we are vibrant and we are working extremely hard,” Alcántara said. She also denied Gonzalez’s allegation that she broke rules. 

Opposition to the current chair caused verbal spats between members, various calls for resignations and escalated to a lawsuit and accusations of financial improprieties that ended up with the FBI.

Alcántara first won the position in 2018 by a more than 2-to-1 margin against former chair Manuel Medina, a controversial figure whose loyalists have bucked his opponent's authority ever since.

The two factions have caused both internal and external confusion with dueling meetings and social media accounts. Alcántara, who was supported by the Texas Democratic Party throughout the infighting, even unveiled a new logo to attempt to differentiate them.

Both candidates support mail-in ballots for the upcoming election and the general election in November, especially as a way to increase voter turnout. Gonzalez said San Antonio should work with elected officials to make the mail-in process happen:

“We should have it. Other cities, other states have it. This should be a non-issue,” Gonzalez said. Gonzalez added that the current requirements restrict younger voters from using mail-in ballots.

Alcántara agreed, explaining that she is also working to ensure people feel safe voting in-person.

“We are working extremely hard to ensure that those that can vote or feel that they need to vote by mail-in ballots do so. We have already been working through the party alongside the Texas Democratic Party and working with our legislators and our commissioner to ensure that message is out there,” Alcántara said.

What are Alcántara and Gonzales' qualifications and motivations for running to lead the Bexar County Democrats? What are the candidates' goals and how do they plan to accomplish them?

What are the candidates' plans to support Democratic candidates in Bexar County ahead of the November general election?

Do both candidates intend to reunite their splintered party and if so, how? Will the factions be willing to rally behind this runoff's victor or will the BCDP continue to be plagued by infighting?

What are the most important issues for Democrats in Bexar County? What do they want in a leader and for the party's future?

Early voting in Bexar County is June 29 through July 10. Election Day is July 14. More information here.

Guests:

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call  833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org  or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Monday, June 15.

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Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.