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 May 21, 2018

Interstate 35 (Hays County): Reduced to one southbound lane between FM 2001 and RM 150 from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday nights. Interstate 35 (Travis County): The left lane on the southbound access road will be closed between Blackson Avenue and St. Johns Avenue until 9 p.m. July 5. The southbound two right lanes will be closed between...
Party boat company returns to Lake Austin dock after legal cease-fire
Party boat company returns to Lake Austin dock after legal cease-fire

At least one Lake Austin party boat company will be able to pick up passengers off of Lake Austin Boulevard this summer, after a reprieve in the legal tussle over the use of a public dock there. Austin Party Cruises sued the city of Austin and Parks and Recreation Department Director Kimberly McNeeley in January after the parks department declined...
PolitiFact: In governor’s race, abortion divides Democrats
PolitiFact: In governor’s race, abortion divides Democrats

Houston investor Andrew White says he’ll protect abortion rights if elected governor despite personally believing abortion to be wrong. During the debate for the Democratic nomination for Texas governor, White declared that a national abortion rights leader, Cecile Richards, said there’s room for people like him in “her movement.&rdquo...
Southern Methodist University removes cultural survey from public view
Southern Methodist University removes cultural survey from public view

Southern Methodist University distributed a survey last fall that asked students to rate how much they wanted answers to such questions as “Why are black people so loud?” and “Do black people hate America?” The survey, distributed by SMU’s Cultural Intelligence Initiative and posted online, was taken down Thursday after...
Cedar Park police, detective arrested wrong Nathan Cook, lawsuit says
Cedar Park police, detective arrested wrong Nathan Cook, lawsuit says

An Austin man is suing Cedar Park and one of its police detectives over a case of mistaken identity, according to a federal lawsuit filed this week. Nathan A. Cook was arrested on a charge of felony theft of services, and escorted out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in August, according to the lawsuit. It names the city of Cedar Park and...
More Stories