Democratic Primary Preview: Travis County Constable Precinct 2

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This article is part of a series of profiles on contested Democratic primaries around Austin and across the state of Texas. These articles do not constitute an endorsement. They are for informational purposes.

As we approach the May 29 elections (less than three weeks away!), Travis County Democrats have a duty to evaluate the local races that affect their lives, whether the candidates are vying for the U.S. Congress or a constable's office. There are several Democratic constable primaries, with often stark differences between our options.  

A constable is a peace officer whose role is to serve civil process papers like subpoenas and warrants as well as to direct crime-fighting forces within their precinct. Voters who live in northwestern Travis County neighborhoods like Jonestown have been under Precinct 2 Constable Adan Ballesteros' leadership since 2009. Ballesteros faces two Democratic challengers, Paul Labuda and Michael Cargill, who want to bring change to the office.

Adan Ballesteros has served as constable for three years and has been with the constable's office for 14 years. He boasts 32 total years of law enforcement experience and has been awarded Constable of the Year by the  Central Texas Justice of the Peace and Constables Association. Ballesteros told BOR that since being elected, his office has exceeded expectations of revenue from civil process papers by 7%. “I attribute that success to our deputies and their work ethic that I impose. We do a great job in the civil process,” Ballesteros told BOR.  If re-elected, Ballesteros says he will keep his focus on “making the office more effective and efficient.” Ballesteros also believes that the office needs to develop a focus on the youth in the community to ensure they have necessary support. He founded the Constable's Outreach Program in which he goes out into the community and teaches at-risk youth about their opportunities and challenges, and the means for improving their circumstances.

Michael Cargill is challenging the incumbent despite his own lack of law enforcement experience. His campaign seems to center on his CHL training business and general opposition to gun control. He operates a concealed handgun license training facility in South Austin where he teaches area residents about gun safety and self-protection. Cargill boasts that he's taught “a majority of attorneys and prosecutors for the last 5 years the Texas penal code on the concealed handgun.” If elected, Cargill promises to continue running safety courses in his capacity as constable and pledges to give free pepper spray (paid for by Cargill himself) to all women who attend.

Cargill's undying dedication to guns is not be underestimated. He has publicly advocated for Ron Paul's gun positions, including (1) forcing the FAA to allow commercial airline pilots to carry guns, (2) repealing the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, and (3) repealing the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (which instituted federal background checks). Cargill has also publicly stated that he voted for extremist Republican Debra Medina in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary. Cargill is heavily involved in Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, and his campaign manager/treasurer is the head of that group. Cargill talks about his business incessantly, blurring the line between his role as a candidate and a businessman promoting his CHL training course business.

The candidate has accused Constable Ballesteros of getting fired from the Department of Public Safety fifteen years ago for allegedly “allowing over 200kg of cocaine to enter the U.S.” Ballesteros counters that he was never formally charged, and that, though he was fired by DPS, the Texas Workforce Commission later found no evidence that he committed any of these crimes. The race heated up when Ballesteros sued Cargill for defamation in an attempt to get him to stop making these cocaine allegations. The Statesman reports that “[a]ccording to the lawsuit, Cargill and his associates have attended Ballesteros' speaking engagements and placed placards calling him 'the cocaine constable' on people's cars, and have posted Tweets saying Ballesteros has allowed the importation of drugs into the country.”

Paul Labuda is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and currently a police officer in Florence, Texas, who ran for the office in 2008. “I intend to use my qualifications as a certified crime prevention specialist to increase the safety of the residents of northern Travis County,” Labuda told BOR. He argues that there has been “too much of a focus placed on law enforcement functions and not enough on crime prevention” in the last few years. Labuda says aside from serving civil process papers and warrants for the courts, he would not conduct investigations into specific civil process cases that he says are a waste of the constable's time. “I will focus instead on improving lives through crime prevention and community policing,” he said. “I would like to get grants to resume truancy enforcement,” Labuda said of his plans to make sure more kids stay enrolled in school. Truancy money has been taken away from the constable's office in recent years. In Florence, Labuda goes out and talks to youth about the dangers of alcohol abuse. Labuda is also a very active Democrat here in Austin: he has also been the president of the North by Northwest Democrats since 2010 and is deeply engaged with local activists.

If Precinct 2 voters are happy with the direction of their local civil law enforcement, they have an incumbent intent of continuing to serve. If they are dissatisfied with Ballesteros or concerned about the criminal allegations that continue to dog him on the campaign trail, they have to weigh Cargill's gun-centric approach and background against LaBuda's community-based vision for the office as well as his background.

On the Web:

Adan Ballesteros: www.adanballesteros.com

Michael Cargill: www.cargillforconstable.com

Paul Labuda: www.paullabuda.com

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About Author

Ben Sherman

Ben Sherman has been a BOR staff writer since 2011. A graduate of the University of Texas, Ben has worked on campaigns, in political consulting, and has written for other news outlets like Think Progress. Ben considers campaign finance reform the fundamental challenge of our time because it distorts almost every other issue in American politics.

4 Comments

  1. Enjoyed the article
    Just letting you know that Labuda is not a police officer.  He is a reserve, which is an unpaid position.  He has no real police experience. It is nice that he wants to be community based, but Ballesteros is already community oriented.  He and his deputies and staff participate actively in the community.

    • Kernan Hornburg on

      The above is blatantly false.
      Officer Paul Labuda works for the Florence Police Department and is not a reserve officer. He's a fully licensed and commissioned peace officer.  It's also offensive to say that the brave men and women who do volunteer their time as reserve officers are not real police.

      It's interesting that you hide behind the user name “bruhaha” instead of revealing your identity. Is it because you know what you wrote is libelous?

  2. Austin Democrat on

    No, the information is not False!
     Kernan, I don't think this guy bruhaha is saying that reserve police are not real police. I think what he is trying to say is that Paul is not a fulltime paid police officer. Although he is fully licensed he just volunteers his time. Now back on point. I'm going to agree that Paul needs a little more than “I volunteer to talk with kids” kind of police experience. Paul is a good guy, experienced he is not. Paul needs to understand that Ballesteros already does everything Paul wants to do and more. So what about Civil Process and Warrants, Ok Paul has shown he has no experience already, you cannot get throw out junk civil papers. The Civil process has to be served by Constables and as long as it is signed by a judge it is a good paper and shall be served. I am no civil expert but isn't this why Constable Elfant endorsed Ballesteros because he was so experienced in Civil Process? And Bruce Elfant was a civil clerk for many years before he became constable. My point being he had about 8 years dealing with civil process before he became constable. I voted for Bruce and he will make a Great Tax Assessor. But Paul is not a good choice to take on the republicans in November. North Austin votes on experience and the lineup of republicans have 20 plus years. Ballesteros is the more experienced and he will prevail in November mark my words. If we put Paul we will lose, the republicans want the least experienced candidate. Thank god Burnt Orange called out the TEAPARTY gun nut, too Bad the Chronicle got fooled. I am also supporting the following Constables.

    Danny Thomas 30yrs

    Adan Ballesteros 32yrs

    Sally Hernandez 30yrs

    Maria Canchola 30yrs

    Carlos Lopez 34yrs

    Thanks for allowing me to respond,

    Alyssa  

    • Kernan Hornburg on

      Welcome to BOR, “Austin Democrat”. Still false!
      Officer Paul Labuda is a paid police officer for the City of Florence, Texas. He is not a volunteer, but even if he was, what is wrong with volunteer civil service?

      Again, you, “Austin Democrat”, and “brouhaha” hide behind the cloak of anonymity. Alyssa, you've never posted on BOR before and apparently don't have a last name.

      Bruce Elfant agreed to publicly support Adan (and it's not a strong endorsement) as did the other Democratic Clubs before the filing deadline when Paul wasn't even in the race.

      You'll likely label this old news, but the fact is Adan was fired from DPS and from the Precinct 2 Constable's office. Michael Cargill has made this the center piece of his campaign and likely crossed the line, but it doesn't change Adan's past.

      Even though the documents are openly available, I've yet to ever see them published online, even by Cargill, but they are now;

      Adan Ballesteros

      Cargill's brought Adan's baggage yet again to the light of today, yet you think that Herrera or Miller will play nice in the general election?

      Officer Labuda is more than qualified to be Constable of Precinct 2 and has the character, integrity, honesty and knowledge to be Constable.

      Step out of the darkness and into the light. You can start by disclosing your name, if you can.

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