Gandara Calls Out Perez For Not Speaking Spanish

POSTED: 06:28 AM MDT Sep 22, 2011    UPDATED: 08:42 AM MDT Sep 22, 2011 
EL PASO, Texas -

Does it matter whether your local representative speaks Spanish?

Precinct 3 County Commissioner Willie Gandara Jr. says it does. And it's a interesting question, especially in the Borderland.

After Precinct 3 challenger Vince Perez called out Gandara earlier this week for his spotty attendance record as a commissioner, Gandara called Perez out for not knowing how to speak Spanish.

So ABC-7 asked Perez, "Habla Español?"

"You know, that's been a question that's often been asked of me," Perez said before admitting he is not fluent in Spanish.

But he doesn't think that will be an issue with the more than 94,000 voters in his precinct on primary day in March.

But Gandara is convinced it will be an issue.

"I know what they want, what they need, because I lived it," Gandara said. "There's a difference between living it and not living it."

Perez, a Bel Air High School grad who grew up in Precinct 3, says he's "lived it," too.

"I have an ultimate desire to help this neighborhood where I came from," Perez said. "I think that's what's most important."

After speaking with Perez, ABC-7 took the question to the people of Precinct 3.

"Yes, it is important that they speak Spanish," Precinct 3 resident Rosa Taylor said.

"No, it doesn't matter to me," said registered voter Carlos Reyes.

"He should be able to communicate a little bit in Spanish," said voter Clay Waters.

Precinct 3 resident Nick Turpin said the question is an important one to him.

"I've filled out job applications at different places and they've turned me down because I don't speak Spanish, which I think is wrong," Turpin said.

Registered voter Patricia Contreras told ABC-7 it did matter to her.

"Because there's a lot of people that live here that speak Spanish and not English," Contreras said.

Area resident Alfonso Sanchez Tarango said, "It doesn't matter to me. I understand both languages."

When asked whether that issue would be important enough to vote one way or the other, he replied, "I would pick the best candidate, regardless."

Gandara told ABC-7 he doesn't think Perez fits the "criteria" for Precinct 3. He also feels speaking Spanish is "of the utmost importance" for a commissioner.

Perez said he will have someone on his staff who speaks Spanish.