El Campo’s candidate application period opens today with an immediate mystery – who will replace District 2 Representative Gloria Harris?
Harris has announced her intention to retire in May, leaving a council seat that has faced little opposition in 30 of the past 32 years and is limited to one absence per decade as mandated by term limits in the city charter.
Ward 2 covers the southwestern side of the city, completely encompassing the historic black neighborhoods of the West End and Ox Blood south of the railroad tracks and west of South Wharton.
An El Campo native, Harris attended segregated schools before beginning her career as a secretary at the EA Greer School in El Campo and continuing her career at ISD after desegregation at Louise Hutchins Elementary School . She is a recognized font of institutional knowledge in El Campo. It would take more than a few pages to list every major El Campo decision she’s been involved in, from the creation of a membership district to this week’s vote calling for state action on federal rail funding.
She has repeatedly expressed hope that the next District 2 councilor will also be a minority.
During the council’s mandatory term limits, District 2 was represented by Robert Anderson and Charlotte Brown.
“I want the district (assembly representation) to be black American. It (the school district) was designed for that,” Harris said before starting her current term.
In 2021, however, Harris defeated challengers Thomas Coblentz and Blanca Petty 58-31-3, respectively.
The other three regional positions are likely to be considered in a ballot on Saturday, May 6 or, if there is no contest, a direct election.
District 1, which covers the southeastern side of the city, is currently represented by Anisa Longoria Vasquez, who has come under scrutiny after a dispute over loud music at her home led to her arrest in 2021.
There has been no public apology to the ECPD or the public she serves. In 2022, Vasquez tried to have her conviction quashed, only to receive another six months of probation.
Vasquez, an administrator at a local medical clinic, is an El Campo native who entered politics in 2013 when he was appointed to a general position vacated by city councilor-turned-EMS director Chase Nielsen. Vasquez won terms in office from 2014 to 2018 but opted not to seek re-election in 2018.
She was then reappointed in 2020 to fill the District 1 position vacated by Assemblyman Jeff Allgayer, and won her bid to serve her unexpired term in November 2020.
Vasquez faced no opposition in the last election.
District 3, represented by David Hodges, covers West Norris Street to the north, North Mechanic Street to the east and the railway tracks to the south.
If he chooses to run again, Hodges will seek a third term.
Hodges, a former El Campo ISD trustee, won the council seat in the May 2019 election by defeating incumbent Assemblyman Tommy Heathfield by a vote of 155 to 125.
In May 2021, Hodges defeated challengers Anthony Garcia and Lance Lurker. The three received the votes 270-90-37, respectively.
Working with current Mayor Chris Barbee, Hodges helped push for a 2020 city charter referendum to give El Campo voters a say in determining the city’s professions.
El Campo City Council decides for itself who will be mayor before voting 2,655 to 884 to change the bylaws.
The city’s mayor is now the person who receives the most votes in general elections, serving a two-year term. The mayor pro-tem is the second in line for the big contenders.
John Hancock Jr., a representative of El Campo’s historic leadership base, became the leader of the city’s COVID-19 response after Mayor Randy Collins stepped down in 2020 Volunteer generals of war.
A former school board representative, Hancock completed his third term on the board in May.
District 4 is generally north of West Norris Street and west of North Wharton Street, although it also includes the area around El Campo Middle School.
Hancock’s bid to join parliament in 2017 ran unopposed, replacing Ed Owen, who opted not to run. Hancock was unopposed in 2019 and defeated his first challenger, Russell Hrncir, in 2021 by 252 votes to 79.