Former prosecutor running for state district judge

RIO GRANDE CITY — A former prosecutor is the first to throw her hat in the ring in the upcoming race for 229th district court judge.

Martie Garcia-Vela, who was an assistant district attorney with the 229th district attorney’s office for nearly eight years, announced her candidacy on Friday.

Her announcement came less than a week after the seat was vacated by Ana Lisa Garza, who resigned from the bench in order to run for state representative for District 31.

“When I heard the news I thought that it was the perfect time for me to seek a different way of staying in public service,” Garcia-Vela said, “because I always think that being a prosecutor is an arm of public service so this was just kind of a good fit for me.”

As judge, she said she hoped to continue the youth court program that was started during her time with the DA’s office. The program allowed kids to learn about the judiciary by role-playing different roles in the court. She said she’d also like to expand the veteran’s court and the mental health court.

“Sometimes it’s not an issue of whether the defendant should be in custody,” she said, “it’s where he should have treatment.”

Garcia-Vela graduated from Rio Grande City High School in 1999, then earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas-Arlington. She graduated from Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law in 2008. Now, Garcia-Vela is married with two daughters and said a judge’s set schedule was a big factor in deciding to run for office.

If elected, she would be serving in a court that holds personal significance for her. The 229th district court was where she was sworn in as an attorney and, she recently learned, she is related to previous judge Ricardo Garcia. Garcia was 299th district judge from 1976 to 1999.

Garza, the most recent occupant of the bench, appeared with Garcia-Vela during a meet-and-greet event in Roma over the weekend.

“She’s definitely somebody that has been a pillar in the community as far as mentoring women,” Garcia-Vela said. “I do admire her work. She’s been one of the women that I’ve considered a role model as far as doing this job and being successful.”

The former prosecutor said that, as judge, she would continue to work for the residents as far as the law would allow.

“I’m going to do my best to be a hard-working judge, both on and off the bench as far as the community’s concerned,” she said. “Within the bounds of the rules I’m going to do my best to continue to advocate for justice.”