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Proving voters not ready for 'term limits,' incumbents prevail in BCRAGD election

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

When the ballots were counted and the political signage returned - or not, as the case may have been - incumbents prevailed in the Saturday, May 11, election for the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District. Eight candidates vied for the quartet of seats up for grabs.

Early voters cast 289 votes with 225 residents waiting until Election Day to twirl their political dials. A total of 514 votes were cast.

In Precinct 1, with 43 votes - 48 percent of the total - incumbent Don Kruckemeyer squeaked by opponents Robert Koimn and Joe DeHoyos.

DeHoyos muddied the election waters when he belatedly "withdrew" from the election. Because his withdrawal occurred after the ballots were printed, DeHoyos still received seven votes, proving again, "you can't unring a bell." Koimn garnered 40 votes for 45 percent of the total.

In Precinct 3, veteran director Jerry Sides prevailed decisively over challenger Robert Skinner with 185 votes and 58 percent of the total to Skinner's 136 votes and 42 percent.

The resignation of Leroy Kneupper left the field wide open in Precinct 4 for newcomers Bob Williams and Richard Lingk to battle it out. Williams took top honors with 64 votes and 65 percent of the total to Lingk's 35 votes.

Since BCRAGD President Don Sloan ran unopposed in Precinct 2, the district election was cancelled in that precinct.

Other river authority directors include Precinct 1 Ernest DeWinne, Precinct 2 Karen Ripley, Precinct 3 Gene Wehmeyer, Precinct 4 Neil Boultinghouse and Director-at-Large Sid Gibson.

In a letter dated May 7, Bandera County Election Administrator Toba Perez-Wright advised candidates about proper Election Day conduct. "I am reminding you that in past elections, there have been some concerns about candidates electioneering and loitering within 100 feet of the entrance of a polling place," she wrote.

According to Sec. 61.001 of the Texas Election Code, a candidate commits a Class C misdemeanor if he is in a polling place "for a purpose other than voting or official business in the building in which the polling place is located."
Additionally, Perez-Wright suggested that candidates appoint a representative to check updated totals of votes cast at precinct polling places on Election Day.
According to Perez-Wright, a state inspector monitored polling places throughout the county on Saturday. The Office of the Texas Secretary of State contracted the inspector, who was from the Texas Workforce Commission. " I know the inspector went to Medina, the Ray Mauer Annex, the bus barn, Bandera High School and the Pipe Creek Community Center," Perez-Wright said in an interview on Monday, May 13.

As she explained, it takes 15 people to sign a petition requesting the presence of a state inspector at local elections. "The petition can be downloaded from the Secretary of State's website," she said. "Jim Hannah came here to get the certificate numbers of people who signed the petition."

Perez-Wright continued, "If irregularities occurred in this election, I'll receive a report from the Secretary of State's office. We've had state inspectors monitor elections before and I've never gotten a report. I guess in this case, no news is good news."

As the days to the BCRAGD election came down to the finish line, accusations of pilfering of campaign signage surfaced. Hannah, a member of Bandera City Council, sent an email on Sunday, May 25, revealing that "all" of Skinner's campaign signs had been stolen in Medina and along Highway 16 North. For the record, four of Skinner's signs had been removed. Within days of the removal, three were apparently reposted after clarifications of previous miscommunications.

In a Thursday, May 9, article on the incidents, the Courier invited anyone interested to drop by the newspaper office to read Hannah's email in its entirety. Interestingly, the only person who stopped by 1136 Main Street to read the email was Hannah himself.

Regarding future elections, a bill currently before the 83rd Texas Legislature proposes to move BCRAGD elections to November. If all goes according to plan, the bill will be moved to the local consent calendar shortly and has been given an 80 percent chance of approval.

A similar bill went before the 2011 Texas Legislature. That bill, however, was allowed to die after directors with the Bexar-Medina-Atascosa Water District tacked on an amendment giving BMA authority over Bandera County. Currently, Bandera County is not represented on the BMA Board of Directors.

The May election cost local taxpayers approximately $4,000. Moving biennial BCRAGD elections to November would not only save money, but would also result in higher voter turnout.