- Jade Esteban Estrada
- Therese Huntzinger
Aside from a few predictable runoffs, Greg Abbott’s hot mic and Matt McCall’s entertaining, emotional (#TMI) KTSA interview, many would agree that the most dramatic local contest from last week’s mostly lukewarm primary elections was the climactic clash between defense attorneys Nico LaHood and Therese Huntzinger in the Democratic primary for Bexar County District Attorney. LaHood, temporarily victorious by 50 votes until the unceremonious announcement that some ballots hadn’t been counted, may not, at press time, be the candidate to challenge incumbent Susan Reed in November’s general election after all. But then again, he might be.
While results take their time coming in, a peripheral reality has quietly entered the room. In a mere four months, the virtually unknown Huntzinger was somehow able to rally sufficient support to nearly match LaHood voters, effectively casting herself in the role of a new leader within the obviously fractured local Democratic party.
“I didn’t seek out the [traditional] inner circle,” said Huntzinger via phone, making no attempt to veil her disappointment. She didn’t expect the uncounted votes to make a difference in her favor, either. She and LaHood, 41, were both successful in winning new voters from the city’s pool of political apathy. Huntzinger, who students of early-21st century queer theory may one day describe as “post-gay,” partially credits her voter turnout to targeting the LGBT demographic. “The female vote helped,” she said. “I have a huge network of friends ... who are not political ... who had never gotten into a campaign before, get involved.” In reference to her opponent’s base, she joked, “Nico brought out the CrossFit people.”
Actually, it’s LaHood’s army of suspender-lovin’, mostly Hispanic, thirtysomething female admirers on Facebook that is unprecedented. Huntzinger recalled LaHood’s race against Reed in 2010 as one in which she and many in the criminal justice community “had to bite the bullet. That was a difficult time to sit through for Democrats,” she said during an interview last month, referring to Reed’s merciless flogging of LaHood. “If Nico gets out of this primary, it means Reed gets to sit back, go on vacation all summer long, print the same spots she printed the last time. The goal is to defeat Reed,” said Huntzinger.
As a child, Huntzinger was always “fascinated by crime.” While the other children in her large family gravitated towards Archie or Fantastic Four comic books, Huntzinger could be found poring through the pages of True Detective. “That courthouse is family to me and Nico’s like a younger brother,” she said. Huntzinger has prosecuted in Reed’s court but she says their relationship goes no further than that. “Fifteen years ago, before she decided to run, Reed encouraged me to run for DA. We have not had a relationship since she’s become DA.” Her eyes deepened as she spoke more passionately. “I don’t find any inspiration in Susan Reed right now. I’m disappointed, Jade!” Wait. I just heard a thump. “Did you just stomp your foot just now?” I asked. “I did,” she replied. Are you that frustrated? “I am!”
Her drawl is deep and undeniably Texan. After our interview, when I took a photo of her, I complimented her on her beautiful white and silver hair. With her left hand she grabbed a fistful of it and growled, “It’s wisdom, Jade! It’s wisdom!” Wisdom and waiting.
* UPDATE: According to the Bexar County Elections website, nine provisional votes were added to the final count on Monday; six for Huntzinger and three for LaHood. LaHood, the Democratic nominee, will challenge Susan Reed in November.