A Corpus Christi mayoral candidate wants a federal judge to bar police and firefighter unions as well as the Caller-Times from endorsing candidates in the upcoming election.
“The Corpus Christi Caller Times, Police officers association, the Firefighters association, and the fraternal Order of police are under mining (sic) our election process,” Reynaldo “Ray” Madrigal wrote in a Feb. 14 letter addressed to U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos.
The Caller-Times also was mailed a copy of the letter.
“I feel that they are influencing the vote, and I don’t think that’s right,” Madrigal told the Caller-Times on Thursday.
Madrigal asked the judge for a restraining order, but he has not taken formal legal steps. Upon learning from the Caller-Times a letter to Ramos would not necessitate action, Madrigal said he plans to file a motion next week.
“I didn’t know what the process is, so I just wrote the letter,” he explained.
Caller-Times attorney Jorge Rangel said if a lawsuit were filed, he would argue it constitutes “prior restraint,” which is a settled legal matter decided by a 1931 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Near v. State of Minnesota.
“The freedom of speech and freedom of the press are specifically protected in the U.S. and Texas constitutions, and an abridgment of that freedom by enjoining (endorsements) keeps the press and individuals from exercising their first amendment rights,” Rangel said.
Scott Leeton, president of the Police Officers Association, also said an attempt to silence the officers would violate constitutional rights and be a disservice to the public.
“One of the biggest benefits is these are the folks working in the trenches who understand what’s going on and are involved in it,” Leeton said. “So endorsing gives you a real world perspective.”
At the Local Lodge 27 of the Fraternal Order of Police, President Jason Rhodes dismissed the potential legal action as unfounded.
“I don’t see anything constitutional that would bar us or any organization from endorsing or not endorsing,” he said. “We have that right.”
Madrigal, a frequent political candidate at the state and local level, is one of six candidates vying for mayor. He said his reasons for wanting to bar the named endorsements are divided into two categories.
The issue is a conflict of interest created by the police officers’ and firefighters’ unions endorsing politicians who then have to approve contracts, he said.
Madrigal’s opposition to the Caller-Times’ endorsements was less clear and founded on a lack of understanding.
“They’re the most influential organization in the area, and I don’t know about the Caller-Times because it changes owners quite often,” Madrigal said. “We don’t know if they’re owned by foreign organizations or foreign countries.”
The Caller-Times is part of the USA Today Network and owned by Gannett, a U.S. company publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
The letter also referenced the election process and potential hacking by other countries.
“Maybe our election process is being hacked by the Soviets, Chinese or Mexico,” he wrote.
He would not elaborate on how those countries would hack the election, but said his concern is with potential foreign influence on the Caller-Times editorial board that determines endorsements.
“Some of the candidates that are endorsed by the Caller-Times win, so it’s clear that it’s very influential in the election process,” Madrigal said. “I don’t think that’s right.”
From The Caller Times