sophisticated campaign tactics in May, when the two of them drove together to Austin to attend several days of candidate school. At any rate, about a month before the election, they sent out campaign letters to hundreds of military personnel and spouses living outside the county. It’s not clear what prompted them to do this. Testifying in pre-trial depositions, Jernigan and Kachel’s statements didn’t exactly match: Jernigan claimed his wife and some volunteers learned about the FPCA voters one day when they were down at the County Clerk’s office, while Kachel said that he provided Jernigan with the list of applicants after going to the office on his own initiative. The FPCA procedure, as codified in a 1973 statute, is intended to allow a member of the military to request a ballot for and votein federal elections. The law leaves it to the states to determine what sort of ballot is sent out to postcard applicants; in Texas \(and in fact mail out offices automatically the full WHO HAVE NOT SET FOOT IN THE MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES when the COUNTY FOR YEARS, EVEN DECADES, ticketeven a “fed CAN VOTE IN LOCAL ELECTIONS BY voter requests PICKING UP A POSTCARD AT THE eral” ballot, for no such BASE WHERE THEY ARE STATIONED, ballot is printed by the state. As a result, mem SENDING IT TO THE VAL VERDE bers of the armed forces COUNTY CLERK’S OFFICE, AND REwho have not set foot in CEIVING THE FULL MAR-IN BALLOT the county for years, FOR THEIR PRECINCT. even decades, can vote in local elections by picking up a postcard at the base where they are stationed, sending it to the Val Verde County Clerk’s office, and receiving the full mail-in ballot for their precinct. Murry Kachel anticipated that an international mailing for a county race might seem improper, and he addressed that issue in the first paragraph of his letter to Air Force voters who requested FPCA ballots. A Murry Kachel Courtesy of Del Rio News Herald Nevada, Oklahoma, or San Antonio: Perhaps you might remember me as the Tower or Radar Chief Controller at Laughlin. Or as the guy that recovered the drowned airman at Lake Amistad. I was probably the MARS radio operator that handled your message back to your family while you were overseas handling a world conflict. Maybe we met when I was the President of the Amistad Kennel Club or other clubs. I have been there when the base and our fellow military people needed me…. But local elections in West Texas are still won in cafs, in church parking lots, in line at HEB, or at backyard tamaladaswhere voters who know something about candidates talk to voters who don’t. In such places, the background stories of the two Republican candidates who left federal employment to look for work with the county might have been discussed. Dear Absentee Voter! I’m writing to you today because, throughout my 23 year military career, I realize how difficult it is to try to stay abreast of local election issues while stationed overseas….I was always hesitant to vote for candidates that I knew NOTHING about. I have included a card about myself because I want you to vote for me….I NEED YOUR VOTE. So, when your ballot arrives, vote for the candidates of your choice but please… look down the ballot… \(you may Precinct 1, and mark my name, Murry M. KACHEL. In fact it’s doubtful whether this letter had any effect on the military voters. Most of them had already mailed in their ballots by the time it arrived; others don’t recall ever receiving it. But almost all of the 799 FPCA voters had Anglo surnames and almost all were officersin other words, they were likely to vote Republicanand on election day, Jernigan and Kachel carried the twentieth precinct \(where the base is located and where most of the FPCA voters In his mailing Kachel even set out to rekindle a sense of community among the voters of the Air Force diaspora, who had moved on to Japan, Germany, Hawaii, Delaware, California, /n the strip-mall office of his attorney, Robert Garza, we asked Sheriff Gonzalez about one such story. A barrel-chested, impatient man whose grandfather was a Val Verde county judge, Gonzalez was appointed sheriff to fill a vacancy in 1996. In 1990, while Gonzalez was a sheriff’s deputy, D’Wayne Jernigan reportedly got wind of a Mexican cocaine-smuggling operation that was moving 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 14, 1997
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