Campaign signs raise questions over Starr JP position

Driving through Starr County, one would think Justice of the Peace Jose Francisco “Kiko” Perez was running for another office in 2020, raising questions about why he hasn’t resigned from his current position in accordance with state law. However, Perez himself says he hasn’t officially announced and is still undecided on whether he’ll run at all.

Perez is currently the Pct. 8 JP in Starr County, a position he’s held since 2016 upon winning a special election. He was re-elected last year and is not up for re-election again until 2022.

So when campaign stickers bearing a large, red “K” — similar to the logo used during his 2018 campaign — with “2020” slapped across it, it prompted speculation that he was running for the county commission.

“Well, I haven’t announced anything,” Perez said Wednesday. “I haven’t decided if I’m going to run yet. I have until December to decide.”

If he were to announce his candidacy, he would automatically have to resign as justice of the peace in accordance with Article 16, Section 65 of the Texas Constitution. However, what constitutes an announcement is unclear in the law.

The signs placed throughout the Escobares area that appear to reflect that he is, in fact, running were not paid by him, Perez said.

“I didn’t put them up, I don’t know what impression people are getting,” he said. “I’m still in the thinking process.”

The bottom of one sign states that the political advertisement was paid for by someone named Maria Ramirez.

The Monitor was not able to obtain contact information for Ramirez but Perez said that she and others who have printed campaign memorabilia are trying to force him to run.

“They’re trying to push me to run,” Perez said. “They’re twisting my arm and forcing me and well, like I said, I’m still undecided.”

He said his decision is hinging on whether County Commissioner Jaime Alvarez will seek re-election to the Pct. 1 position on the county commission.

“It all depends on Commissioner Alvarez, if he’s running or not,” Perez said.

However, Alvarez publicly stated months ago that he would not be running for re-election.

On Feb. 4, Alvarez posted an announcement on his Facebook profile confirming that he would not be running for office again.

“I will not seek the re-election. For county commissioner, nor I will see the election of any other political position,” he wrote. “The time has come for me to pay attention to my health and financial well being.”

When it was pointed out to Perez that Alvarez had announced he wasn’t going to run for re-election months ago, Perez replied, “I’m not sure because he changes his mind quite often.”
County Attorney Victor Canales said he had heard rumblings about Perez possibly running for office but said Perez also told him he was undecided.

Canales said that a clear announcement of his candidacy would be a campaign sign paid for by the candidate, a post on Perez’s own social media account or an announcement to a room of people.

State agencies were not able to provide much more clarity on the issue.

A spokesperson for the Texas Attorney General’s office said Wednesday that an official announcement was when the candidate’s name was on the ballot but referred to the Texas Secretary of State’s office for more information.

When The Monitor inquired about the issue with the secretary of state’s office in March, a spokesperson pointed to several AG opinions that dealt with the issue.

However, the only one that actually dealt with the definition of “announcement” was an opinion from November 1995.

“In determining what constitutes an announcement of candidacy, it seems evident that the paramount consideration must be the impression one’s statement makes upon his auditors and potential voters,” the opinion read. “If a reasonable person may conclude after hearing the statement that the individual intends, without qualification, to run for the office in question, we believe that the individual may be said to have “announce[d] his or her candidacy.’”