The Chron is taking a detour in these last few pre-early voting days to endorse in elections other than City of Houston races, but they did endorse Conchita Reyes for At Large #1 along the way.
Reyes is a native Houstonian — her family has roots in the city dating back to 1926 — and a small business owner. She’s got some political experience, having worked for the city controller’s office to pay her way through college. She has familial ties to the City Council — her aunt, Gracie Saenz, was the first Latina to serve in an at-large position during the 1990s. She also boasts significant political support, having been endorsed by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, County Commissioners Adrian Garcia and Lesley Briones and former Mayor Annise Parker, among others.
What really made Reyes stand out is her facility with numbers, a quality that could prove valuable in the coming years, when the city will have to make some difficult financial decisions to balance the budget.
An accountant by trade, Reyes’ eye for detail was on display during our screening with candidates for this race. While many political candidates offer banal bromides about valuing “fiscal responsibility” and holding government agencies accountable for wasteful spending, few actually spend time watching City Council budget hearings, hoping to pinpoint areas to find efficiencies or save money.
Reyes is open to supporting a ballot referendum that would allow the city to bust the revenue cap, but only for public safety agencies, particularly the fire department. She noted that some Houston neighborhoods, even in more affluent areas such as Kingwood, have fire stations covered with mold and holes in the ground patched up with plywood. True to form, she rattled off the exorbitant costs of ambulances and fire engines, adding that firefighter cadets make subpar salaries for a city that is becoming less affordable to live.
Reyes would also hold the distinction of being one of the only Latina citywide representatives in a city that is nearly 45 percent Hispanic. She hopes to add to her family’s legacy of public service by opening the door for more economic development in Hispanic communities.
“When we had council members like my aunt, Gracie Saenz, we had more representation, more voice and more business opportunities,” Reyes said.
I reached out to her campaign to schedule an interview, but never heard back from them. I will admit I’ve probably given her candidacy less consideration than I should have because of that. She’s raised a decent if not remarkable amount of money for her campaign; perhaps with those prominent endorsements she’ll be better placed in a runoff. We’ll see how that goes. I will note that we have serious Latino/a contenders in all three open At Large Council races, with Reyes, Holly Vilaseca, and Richard Cantu. We could wake up on December 10 and find out that we’ve gone from one Latino on Council to five. That may be a stretch, but this is the first time in awhile there have been this many strong contestants.