Willacy district attorney race drawing strong turnout

RAYMONDVILLE — Voters are coming out in strong numbers to cast early ballots in the March 1 primary election in which Willacy County District Attorney Bernard Ammerman faces former longtime District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra and attorney Annette Hinojosa.

Ammerman is vying for his third term while Guerra seeks to return to the office he lost eight years ago.

Hinojosa, a longtime Raymondville attorney, has served as a public defender in state district court.

Elections Administrator Mary Hope Barrera said the district attorney’s race is driving many voters to the polls.

“It’s pretty steady. It’s a steady flow,” Barrera said yesterday. “We haven’t had a slow day.”

Ammerman said he is running on his record as a prosecutor who helped bring down the county’s crime rate to a 10-year low, slashing violent crime by 43 percent.

“I’m proud of my record of seeking justice for victims of crime,” said Ammerman, who was elected president of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association this year. “It’s up to the voters if they want law enforcement in this county. The voters have a choice but they’ve got to turn out to vote.”

Guerra, who was first appointed to office in the early 1990s, won election in 1997, going on to serve through 2008, when he lost a primary election.

“I’m just giving the public another option,” Guerra said.

Hinojosa, who has worked as a lawyer for 15 years, has served as a public defender for 13 years, representing clients prosecuted by Ammerman and Guerra.

“People are ready for a change,” Hinojosa said.

Ammerman disputed claims that his prosecution is too tough.

“I think long and hard before I prosecute a case,” Ammerman said. “Before I go forward, I look at all the evidence. I don’t send anyone to prison. A jury or a judge does that.”

Ammerman said he is not lenient on criminals to win supporters in this small, tight-knit community.

“I’m not here to let people walk out the front door to win votes,” Ammerman said. “I don’t play the compadre system. I put taxpayers and this office higher than friendship.”

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