Bexar County DA Democrat Candidates Face Off Over Checkered Past

Dem DA candidates on 'Texas Week' - MARY TUMA
Mary Tuma
Dem DA candidates on 'Texas Week'

Local attorneys Nicholas “Nico” LaHood and Therese Huntzinger are going head to head this March to duke it out for a shot to defeat long-time Republican incumbent District Attorney Susan Reed. While Huntzinger makes her inaugural bid, it’s LaHood’s second attempt to unseat Reed—he lost to the current DA by eight percentage points in 2010. Aside from the inevitable standard criticism candidates face when running for office, LaHood carries a particularly muddled criminal past, and the campaign is an open invitation for his political challengers to dive in.

As the Current previously reported, LaHood was arrested in 1994 on a charge of aggravated delivery of a controlled substance. The then 21-year-old LaHood was caught with 200 pills of Ecstasy at a local nightclub and faced arrest by an undercover officer. It was later revealed that LaHood had a handgun in his car at the time. He later sought to expunge—or destroy—his offense records. While he could have spent up to 99 years in prison and paid a $100,000 maximum fine, a judge gave LaHood (the son of County Court Judge Michael LaHood) 10 years probation (later reduced to a year and a half), 320 hours of community service and a $1,000 fine.

When asked about his former drug arrest during a recent visit to Rick Casey’s KLRN show, Texas Week, (that pitted the two primary challengers against each other for one uncomfortably tense and compelling interview) LaHood deftly wove the criminal stain into his personal narrative, “I had two choices, I could let my past choices and tragedies destroy me or mold me. I chose the second. I’m not proud of [what I did] 20 years ago but I’m proud of the man that I am today.”

Having a cast of high-profile endorsements, including long-time friends San Antonio Spurs players Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, probably doesn’t hurt LaHood’s confidence or war chest either, despite the tricky past. LaHood raked in more than $110,000 on the campaign trail so far ($25,000 from his own law firm; $30,000 from Duncan), outpacing his Dem opponent, who drew less than $28,000 according to recent Bexar County campaign finance filings. (But low funds aren’t fazing Huntzinger, who said she expects to raise $75,000-$100,000 in the next month alone sans big ticket donors.)

A one-time supporter of LaHood, Huntzinger is now taking shots at her opponent’s perceived lack of experience. The criminal defense attorney spent more than 13 years prosecuting a range of felonies and supervising units within the DA’s office—a professional track record, she says, that dwarfs LaHood’s experience in litigation.But Huntzinger isn’t without her own checkered history—she was slapped with a DWI out of college, a blemish on her record she pointedly says she “did not try to expunge.” And while she ran for district judge in 1998 as a Republican, Huntzinger is now vying for a spot as a Dem, a flip that could give critics ammo.

In any case, the DA primary winner will have to step into the ring with Reed, a 15-year incumbent determined to hold on to her seat and, as a result, unlikely to grant sympathy when it comes to youthful indiscretions.

The primary election takes place on March 4.

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