Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Cindy Vara-Leija

Precinct 1 Constable runoff overview

Here’s the Chron overview of the Democratic runoff for Constable in Precinct 1 between Alan Rosen and Cindy Vara-Leija.

Alan Rosen

Rosen is an investor and a reserve major with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, who has been a certified peace officer for 21 years. He spent six years with Precinct 1 in the 1990s as a full-time deputy and a volunteer reserve. Vara-Leija retired from Precinct 1 as a captain last fall after more than three decades.

Both pledged to perform a thorough review of the agency. Rosen says he will implement an ethics policy; Vara-Leija says she will form an office to investigate external and internal complaints and monitor staff behavior.

“I have valuable insight that my opponent does not. I did come from Precinct 1,” Vara-Leija said. “I know exactly where to go, how to take care of problems that I know are already there.”

Rosen countered that his broad experience – including stints at three constable precincts and the Sheriff’s Office – better places him to restructure the department. “It’s not going to be the same old cronyism that goes on down there,” he said. “I’m a candidate of change.”


Cindy Vara-Leija

Vara-Leija accused Rosen of misrepresenting his post at the Sheriff’s Office by not clarifying that he is a reserve. Rosen called that a “non-issue,” noting that reserves have the same training and arrest powers as full-time officers and that his training hours and patrol experience exceed his opponent’s.

“The sheriff himself does not designate the difference between a reserve or a paid person,” Rosen said. “I’ve arrested hundreds of felons.”

Though the Harris County District Attorney’s Office had been asked to investigate how some Precinct 1 deputies had received mail from the Rosen campaign – officers’ addresses are exempted from public disclosure – prosecutors have confirmed that Rosen was not the target of the probe.

Online, Rosen supporters have questioned whether Vara-Leija knew of Abercia’s alleged crimes while at the precinct.

“My responsibilities and my duties were to supervise and to make sure those under my command were taking care of the community’s needs,” Vara-Leija said. “Whatever was going on in the constable’s office, I was not privy to.”

My interview with Cinday Vara-Leija is here, and my interview with Alan Rosen is here. Unlike the Precinct 2 Constable race, the Chron has made an endorsement in this one, recommending Vara-Leija in May. I think they’re both good people and good candidates, so you can’t go wrong whoever you choose. As long as you vote, it’s all good in this race.

July campaign finance reports for Harris County candidates

You know the drill by now.

Office Candidate Raised Spent Cash Loans ============================================================ Sheriff A Garcia 47,025 41,900 357,818 0 Sheriff L Guthrie 70,176 75,646 33,075 157,000 Sheriff C Pittman 11,309 11,566 5,217 24,000 DA M Anderson 73,888 60,980 33,371 0 DA L Oliver 0 150 0 0 County Atty V Ryan 56,571 33,047 145,606 0 County Atty R Talton 7,250 17,359 2,020 39,250 Tax Assessor M Sullivan 2,900 24,126 1,966 20,000 Tax Assessor A Bennett 8,500 5,344 3,657 0 HCDE Pos 3 M Wolfe 0 0 9 0 HCDE Pos 3 D Trautman 6,674 1,722 8,849 0 Commish 1 EF Lee 307,025 199,407 3.2 M 0 Commish 1 C Maricle 0 4,085 3,520 2,500 Commish 3 S Radack 86,250 63,619 797,044 0 Commish 3 G McPherson Commish 4 J Cagle 16,850 36,738 178,700 0 Commish 4 S Hammerle 1,348 2,918 357 866 HCDE Pos 4 K Smith 0 0 31 0 HCDE Pos 4 S Mintz 710 2,000 506 0 HCDE Pos 6 E Lee 17,255 20,769 0 0 HCDE Pos 6 J Johnson HCDE Pos 6 BartlettPack Constable 1 C VaraLeija 32,264 3,056 13,404 0 Constable 1 A Rosen 54,811 69,130 16,600 0 Constable 1 S Danna 0 2,299 0 3,500 Constable 2 Z Guinn 12,275 2,669 9,637 0 Constable 2 C Diaz 9,950 11,748 28 23,337 Constable 2 C McDonald 0 2,013 0 0

My comments:

Some candidates do their fundraising through committees. These are the reports you have to check, their personal reports will show nothing. Such candidates include Adrian Garcia, Mike Anderson (I made this mistake with him before), and Jack Cagle.

I didn’t blog about this story about the colorful histories of Garcia opponents Louis Guthrie and Carl Pittman, so I figured this was as good a place as any to include it. I’m sure we’ll hear plenty more about it during the campaign.

Believe it or not, there was an actual debate between Mike Anderson and Lloyd Oliver. The mind reels. You can find links to footage of the debate here. I will note that Oliver did apparently manage to file a finance report this time, but it has not been posted on the County Clerk website as of this publication.

Vince Ryan seems to have learned from the example of his predecessor, Mike Stafford, who hadn’t raised much money for his 2008 campaign. I’d have thought Talton would have raised more by now as well, but then Ryan didn’t raise much as a challenger, either. That may just be how it is for County Attorney hopefuls.

Erica Lee not only has a July finance report up, she also has an eight day report, which covers the period of July 15 through July 18, up for viewing. She raised an additional $825 and spent $10,407 during this time period. Neither Jarvis Johnson nor JuLuette Bartlett-Pack, the GOP candidate, has a report of any kind that I can see. A. Robert Hassan, opposing Steve Radack for County Commissioner in Precinct 3, also has no report.

Cindy Vara-Leija does have a report filed, but like Oliver’s it is not viewable. As her filing date is given as July 16, I have no idea why this is so.

Chris McDonald is listed on the campaign finance reports page as being a candidate for Commissioners Court, but his actual finance report correctly lists him as a candidate for Constable in Precinct 2.

All right, that’ll do it till the 30 day reports. Is there anything in here that stands out to you?

UPDATE: Per the comments, I incorrectly identified A. Robert Hassan as the winner of the Dem primary for County Commissioner in Precinct 3. Gloria McPherson won that race, but like Hassan she has no report filed. The reports for Cindy Vara-Leija and Lloyd Oliver are now visible on the County Clerk site, and I have filled in the appropriate values for them. Still no reports for Jarvis Johnson or JuLuette Bartlett-Pack. Finally, in going over all this again I realize that I managed to overlook the Tax Assessor race in my initial roundup. I have included the totals for Mike Sullivan and Ann Harris Bennett as well. My apologies for the oversight.

UPDATE: Added in totals from Commissioner Precinct 1 at the request of Republican candidate Chuck Maricle. Commissioner El Franco Lee’s cash on hand total is $3,279,326, but I didn’t leave enough room in that column for a seven-figure total, so I abbreviated.

Cindy Vara-Leija: Political Activism, Great-Grandma Style

The following is from a series of guest posts that I will be presenting over the next few weeks.

Cindy Vara-Leija

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, a mother of six would take her youngest children along as she set up her folding table and chair outside her local grocery store. She was there, as was the standard of the time, to sell poll taxes to her friends and neighbors. More importantly, she was there to make sure that her friends and neighbors understood, in whatever language they spoke, the importance of paying the poll tax so that despite this obvious attempt to keep them from exercising their Constitutional right to vote they were able to cast their ballots and make their voices heard.

Throughout her adult life, she also served as a poll worker, an officer in the Denver Harbor Civic Club, a volunteer with her local Garden Club, a PTA/VIPS volunteer with her local public schools, a founding member of the Reata Committee (which later evolved into the Go Tejano Committee), a member of the Catholic Daughters, and a member of other various community organizations.

This woman was a prime example of political activism in her day, someone who was willing to give of her time, and that of her family, in order to make her community a better place. I’d also say that this woman is a prime example of the political activism that we need today, someone who is willing to, as she’d say, leave a place better off than how she found it.

This woman, my mother, will turn 90 years of age in October. If it wasn’t for the effects of the Alzheimer’s disease she was diagnosed with in 2003, she’d probably still be working at the poll on every Election Day and registering people to vote in the months before.

However, she continues to serve her community through the example she set for her six children, her fourteen grandchildren, and her twenty-two great-grandchildren.

Her legacy, though, isn’t and shouldn’t be limited to those of us who call her mom or grandma. It shouldn’t even be limited to those of us who’ve had the privilege to personally know her. It should, as should the legacy of the many community and political activists who came before us, be for entire generations who are now at a crossroads.

As we watch what is happening to our community – the all out attack on women, the attack on public education, the corruption that seems so prevalent in politics and Corporate America – it seems that the example my mother set over fifty years ago of getting involved in your community and participating in the political process should be what we teach our children, and one another, on a daily basis. After all, as mom so eloquently puts it, “Remember to vote always. It costs you nothing, but you can pay dearly if you do not.”

She is indeed an example of the political activism we need now. As the 4th of July comes next week, I’m reminded of her strength and belief in civic duty. I promise to keep up her fight, and as the holiday nears and elections come quickly, I hope you’ll do the same.

Cindy Vara-Leija is a candidate for Constable in Precinct 1 in the Democratic primary runoff.

Endorsement watch: One more down, still many more to do

After a three-day hiatus, the Chron gets back on the endorsement track by recommending Cindy Vara-Leija for Constable in Precinct 1.

Cindy Vara-Leija

We believe Cindy Vara-Leija, who retired last October from a 32-year career in law enforcement, is the strongest candidate to clean up the mess in Precinct 1.


Vara-Leija’s lengthy experience in the mental health division also recommends her candidacy. She observes, perceptively: “As a sergeant [supervising the serving of] mental warrants, you have to really care. You have to understand that we’re not arresting them, we’re transporting them to a safe place where they can get care.”

Among other changes, Vara-Leija would pursue opportunities to cross-train with the Harris County Sheriff’s Department and the Houston Police Department in the mental health area.

We believe Vara-Leija has the experience and leadership ability to begin removing the stain from the Constable Precinct 1 office and move it into a more transparent and service-oriented future.

My interview with Vara-Leija is here; I interviewed her and the three other candidates who filed during the initial period: Grady Castleberry, Alan Rosen, and Quincy Whitaker. This race has been quite visible – I see many signs for Vara-Leija and Rosen around, with scattered signs for other candidates, and I have received mail from Vara-Leija, Rosen, and Castleberry. I expect the runoff to be a bruising fight.

As we know, Precinct 1 was the only Constable race in which the Chron planned to endorse, so they can now cross that off their list. Still to go: Every Congressional primary except CD36; all three SBOE races; SDs 04 and 11; every State House race except HD137; all of the HCDE races. Election Day is Tuesday. Good luck with that.

Interview with Cindy Vara-Leija

Cindy Vara-Leija

Next up for Precinct 1 Constable is Cindy Vara-Leija. She is the only one of the four candidates to have worked as a Constable deputy, spending 35 years in the Precinct 1 office before retiring last year. She started out as a clerk, then got her law enforcement certification and became a deputy, then moved up the ranks to eventually become a captain. Here’s what we talked about:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2012 Harris County Primary Elections page. You can also follow this blog by liking its Facebook page.