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Bexar County Republican Party Chair candidate and jewlery store owner Joe Solis stands at the counter of Luxor Fine Jewelry in the Colonnade. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

Local GOPers rush in to fill vacated party chair seat

While George W. Bush prepares to vie for reelection and ponders ways to build the first United States presidential library on the moon, two local Republicans have announced their campaigns to fill the unpaid position of Bexar County Republican Party Chairman, which will be vacated by Roy Barrera Jr. after 12 years.

It's a race between Bexar County Courthouse insider and attorney Richard E. Langlois, and upstart Joe Solis, proprietor of a North Side jewelry store.

Solis said his campaign is geared to win the hearts and votes of Republicans who live in Alamo Heights, Terrell Hills, and other enclaves in Bexar County. He will rely on the Internet as the backbone of his campaign, much like Democrat Howard Dean has conducted his presidential campaign.

"The days of running the Republican Party as a private party are over," Solis said. "It is no longer necessary to send direct mail when we can send e-mail to 3,000 people at no cost."

Solis said he is going after "coupon clippers," conservative women, by sending out 180,000 direct mail messages. "That voter bloc will determine the success of this race. People talk about soccer moms and how important they are. They will determine our success."

Solis has lived in San Antonio for 24 years, and has operated Luxor Jewelers at The Colonnade for 10. He acknowledges that his opponent, Richard Langlois, is "probably a great orator. But after 12 years, we don't need another defense attorney running this party. Attorneys think politics revolve around the courthouse."

"Experience at the courthouse gives me respectability," explains Langlois, who graduated from St. Mary's Law School in 1975, and has practiced criminal defense law since 1978. In 2000, his wife, Barbara Parker Hervey, was elected to a six-year term to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

"I am someone who can balance the old guard and new guard Republicans. I want to increase the number of Republican people in the party, recruit new people and new candidates for future elections," Langlois explains. "I think I can be the bridge between all the members of the party and the people who are elected."

Langlois said he has many friends in Bexar County, including Democrats, who would support him in his campaign for the party chair. "That's what my strong point is. I have friends who are Democrats who will vote Republican."

Langlois credits the Republican women of Bexar County as the secret of success for Republicans. "Women's groups are the backbone. They are hard-working."

Add two to the Demo ticket

Rodolfo Casias is running for Democratic Party Chair in Bexar County- and the number of entries very likely could force a runoff in the faction-riddled political party.

Casias is a retired Civil Service employee who hails from Somerset, a south San Antonio suburb, and currently resides in District 8.

"The party chair is someone who can raise funds, communicate with people and get them to vote. I have more than adequate qualifications for the job," Casias explains. He acknowledged that he has no political background, but cites extensive activism for his church, St. Francis of Assisi. He has a bachelor's degree in psychology from Our Lady of the Lake University.

One problem for Democrats in Bexar County, Casias maintains, is that there are only 300 precincts when there should be 600. "We need to build an atmosphere of trust, and build one party, not six. He calls for an audit of the office, and wants to have precinct chairs running the party.

R. Esmeralda Monreal de Mercado, is married with a 2-year-old daughter, has a master's degree in education, and is tossing her rebozo into the ring for the party chair.

Monreal, 34, campaigned against Tom Lopez for a seat on the San Antonio Independent School District, and has served as a precinct chair since she was 18 years old. She also has campaigned for U.S. Congressman Charlie Gonzalez and State Senator Leticia Van De Putte. "I feel that even if I don't win, we still need to unite. May the best man, or woman, win."

Monreal, who hails from District 1 on the West Side, said the Democrats need to take their country back. "Get the Democrats in government and show that we are the true party for the people." •

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