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Cover Story

Ten reasons to vote this year ... or not

Photo: Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock.com, License: N/A

Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Photo by Jeffrey Wright, License: N/A

Photo by Jeffrey Wright

Texas Legislature Representative Joaquín Castro, currently running for U.S. Congress, rallies students at a recent "Debate Night" event at Northwest Vista Community College.



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2. You Is Local. Former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill famously coined the phrase, "All politics is local," and most choices on the 2012 Bexar ballot concern local-level decisions. The hottest issue du jour in San Antonio is undoubtedly the "Pre-K 4 SA" initiative, which would boost the sales tax rate by 0.125 percent to the state cap of 8.25 percent in order to fund free full-day public preschool for qualifying four-year olds. At a time when public antipathy toward "raising taxes" ranks just below "raising anthrax cultures," Mayor Julián Castro's gambit might prove risky. In fact, he has declared that he is, "staking his tenure," on the program, backing it with a $363,000 PR campaign funded largely by area businesses. "When you are asking voters to approve a tax increase you have to make sure that people understand the purpose of it and that they believe in the purpose," says Robbie Greenblum, senior advisor to the pre-K campaign. "The evidence of the benefits is compelling." Cost of tax hike to median household: $7.81 per year; savings to median household: unknown, but Texas, which builds prison cells for the future based on fourth-grade literacy rates, spends $2.5 billion per year alone to incarcerate felons.

3. You Live Under The Lone Star. Texas residents will elect more than two dozen state officials on the 2012 ballot (some of which are district-dependent), and the stakes are anything but meager. Examples? Two commissioners of the three-member Railroad Commission, which regulates all oil and natural gas activity in the state (and has nothing to do with railroads). That includes the massive Eagle Ford Shale site, the exploitation of which last year paid out $186 million in salaries to county residents — but has also raised environmental concerns for its vigorous fracking, now ranking among the most nation's most active sites. In addition, Texas voters will renew the entire State Board of Education, which, among other duties, mandates all public school curriculum and selects textbooks. Also up for grabs: three Texas Supreme Court Justices and justices in the 4th Court of Appeals district, judges for the Criminal Court of Appeals (including the presiding judge) and lower district courts, and your district's state senator and representative.

4. You Live In CD-23. Five House of Representative congressional districts overlap Bexar County, the 20th, 21st, 23rd, 28th and 35th, meaning we'll have clout in the election of five lower-house seats with play on Capitol Hill. Two of those seats are held by Republicans, two by Democrats, one is new (but expected to go to Democrat Lloyd Doggett), and four out of five are boring races. The sprawling 23rd CD, though, remains a complete toss-up. Tea Partier and San Antonio businessman Francisco "Quico" Canseco, Republican, edged U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, a Democrat also from Alamo City, in the 2010 midterm Republican surge. But Quico now faces a tough challenge from Democratic state Rep. Pete Gallego, who could tip the House back toward the Dems. Pollsters say Gallego eked out a narrow edge after the Democratic National Convention, but Quico reclaimed it after the first presidential debate. The race has become one of the mostly closely watched in the nation; at this point, it's too close to call.

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