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La Prensa Profile: Judge Alfonso González

By La Prensa Staff

Alfonso J. “Jess” González became the second Latino Lucas County Judge when he was appointed to the Lucas County Common Pleas Court, General Division 18 months ago. But now the Holland Republican must run in the November general election to retain his judicial post.

 


Gonzalez swear-in with Maryjane Flores and Judge David Lewandowski, May 2019

Some political insiders see the first-time candidate as an “incumbent underdog,” mainly because he’s facing a strong challenge from a well-known Democratic candidate, long-time juvenile court prosecutor Lori Olender. Add in the changes to a political campaign caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and Judge Gonzalez knows he’s facing a battle.

“The traditional way of campaigning of festivals, door knocking, parades and debate has gone out the window due to social distancing regulations,” the judge said. “It’s been a very challenging time fundraising and maintaining a presence in the community as a public figure, as an elected official trying to retain his seat. I’m pretty much an unknown commodity in my first election.”

Ohio’s governor appointed Judge González to replace Judge Gene Zmuda in March of 2019, after Zmuda was elected to the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals. Prior to that, González served as a magistrate in domestic relations court. The new judge already has presided at seven jury trials, some of which garnered media coverage. But judicial races are traditionally low-key, commonly overshadowed by elections for president, governor, and legislative seats.

“People ask me every day, ‘How’s it going?’” he said. “I don’t know how to respond. It’s difficult to gauge. It’s a known fact that many people get to the polls and they skip over the judges. They don’t know anything about them and they don’t even vote. You have that dynamic on top of everything else.”

However, Judge González credits what he calls “a very capable campaign team” handling everything from social media to signs. His all-volunteer team already has warned him the campaign “will ratchet up” and “run him ragged.” He now calls the race “a sprint” because early voting starts Oct. 6, 2020 and believes the pandemic will make that a bigger factor.

“It’s moved up the timeline on some things that people think is important for a variety of things you normally do a little closer to the election,” he said, admitting name recognition likely will be the deciding factor in the election for either candidate during a coronavirus campaign.

While González and Ms. Olender are both first-time judicial candidates but experienced litigants, he plans to point to his experience on the bench as the main thing that sets him apart in the race.

“It’ll be a year-and-a-half to two years judicial experience as a judge and before that, four years as a magistrate, so it’s almost like a full term as being a judge,” he pointed out. “Being a magistrate, I handled a lot of the responsibilities of being a judge—trials and dockets.”

Judge González was previously in private practice as an attorney when he was sworn in as a magistrate. He spent dozen of his 15-year law career as a general practice attorney, much of that handling family law and juvenile court cases. The other time he spent as a staff attorney for Judge David Lewandowski. He also spent a year as an attorney at Sandusky County Job and Family Services.

The Findlay native is one of five siblings, the son of Mexican-American migrant farmworkers who met in Laredo, Texas and relocated to Northwest Ohio. His father later worked at Cooper Tire as a millwright for more than 30 years. His mom worked as a surgical assistant for a time, but spent most of her life as a homemaker.

González received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and masters of public administration from Bowling Green State University. He earned a law degree from the University of Toledo.

Judge González did receive a public reprimand earlier this year from the Ohio Supreme Court for ‘operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated’. In Hancock County Common Pleas Court, Judge González owned up to the incident, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor DUI charge. He received a suspended jail sentence, attended and completed a driver intervention program, a victim-impact panel program, and had his driver’s license suspended for a year.

“It was an unfortunate situation for me, because I know better. I shouldn’t have been in that position,” he admitted. “I made a mistake just by getting behind the wheel. It was a human moment, that’s all I can say. I don’t think it defines me, nor should it define me…; it’s there. All I can hope is that people are willing to consider the fact it’s not me,” he said. “It’s a situation that happened and a mistake on my part. Hopefully they don’t hold it against me.”

Judge González stated he still carries the teachings of his legal mentor with him to this day—the late juvenile court Judge Joseph Flores.

“He was a very good man to me. The very first day I worked in Toledo and had moved up here, he came to see me without knowing me,” he recalled. “That’s the kind of man he was. He knew I didn’t know anyone and had no family in town, told me to come see him if I needed anything. I owe that man and hope to continue his legacy.”

Judge González has continued to maintain a friendship with Mary Jane Flores following her husband’s death in 2003. She is serving as one of his campaign co-chairs during the November election. González raises his daughter with his wife.

 

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2020 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 09/01/20 15:54:08 -0700.

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