Hays County JP runoff candidates compete on experience, community ties

Maggie Hernandez Moreno and Sandra Sepulveda Lopez, runoff candidates for the Hays County Justice of the Peace Place 2 Democratic nomination, know they have a lot in common.

Both are Hispanic women in their mid-30s, born and raised in San Marcos. Both hold government jobs and are in the process of obtaining criminal justice degrees. Both say they are eager to do a job that sometimes involves running out in the middle of the night to respond to a death and then presiding over court the next morning.

The winner of Tuesday’s runoff will face Republican Shane Scott, a former San Marcos City Council member, in November.

The $65,000 per year job has duties ranging from certifying circumstances when someone dies to hearing minor misdemeanor court cases. Though the position works closely with law enforcement and involves court duties, it requires neither a peace officer license nor a law degree in small counties such as Hays.

Moreno, 33, is a public health and prevention specialist with the Department of State Health Services. She watched her mother, Margie Hernandez, preside over the JP office for 12 years. When Hernandez died in April 2015, her caseload was transferred to the other San Marcos-based JP and there was a possibility the seat would be eliminated.

The push to keep it inspired Moreno to run, she said.

“Seeing the community support we got moved me,” Moreno said. “I wanted to make sure the next person who held the seat was someone the community would come out and support.”

She said she’s been more active in area community groups than Lopez and understands local concerns about balancing penalties for poor behavior against fines that many can’t pay. Her job has given her experience providing public services, she said.

Lopez, 36, a constable administrative assistant, said her job has given her far more experience relevant to the JP job. She has dealt with county politics, seen law enforcement work on a daily basis and served as a Spanish interpreter in court, she said.

“We may have the same general ideas, but I understand the system a lot better,” Lopez said. “I’ve seen the system on both ends. The verdicts that are rendered in (the JP’s) office, the fines and fees, they affect people in real life.”

Lopez said she has close ties to local schools, through her four children, and would like to work with them on outreach to young people who could end up in court.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Traffic report for Feb. 19, 2018

Interstate 35 (Travis County): The inside lane on the access roads in both directions will be closed either side of William Cannon Drive from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. Alternating closures on the northbound access road between Woodward Street and the Oltorf Street exit from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. The inside lane on the northbound...
Community news: Meet city’s health director finalists Wednesday

TRAVIS COUNTY EAST AUSTIN Meet health director finalists The city of Austin will host a town hall meeting from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday to give residents an opportunity to provide feedback to help the city select a new director for the Public Health Department. The forum will be in the Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center, 808 Nile St. Each candidate...
6 Republicans, 4 Democrats try for Rep. Farenthold’s soon empty seat
6 Republicans, 4 Democrats try for Rep. Farenthold’s soon empty seat

Six Republicans and four Democrats are running for Congressional District 27, an open House seat that stretches from Bastrop to Corpus Christi. U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, currently occupies the spot but gave up his re-election bid in December after a House committee began investigating sexual harassment claims made against him by...
PolitiFact: Bush’s military career didn’t reach ‘retirement’ level
PolitiFact: Bush’s military career didn’t reach ‘retirement’ level

George P. Bush, seeking a second term as Texas land commissioner, touts his time in the Navy in a campaign mailer brought to our attention by his predecessor. “Did you know there are 1.7 million veterans in Texas alone?” Bush’s mailer opens. His message continues: “Retired U.S. Navy officer George P. Bush is committed to protecting...
Police: Man lured his boss outside of house and shot at him in Austin
Police: Man lured his boss outside of house and shot at him in Austin

A man angry at his boss fired a gun four times at the man and the man’s house in South Austin on Valentine’s Day after saying he was coming over to get some tax documents, an arrest affidavit said. Victor Smith, 30, was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Smith...
More Stories