Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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February 6, 2014

Republican primary heats up with forum

JACKSONVILLE — Looking over the crowd peppering the Jacksonville College Chapel Tuesday evening, Cherokee County Judge candidate Tammy Blair thanked them for “being involved in the political process” before pointing out that the upcoming political primary  was neither “a beauty contest (nor) a popularity contest.”

Instead, she emphasized, “it's a job

interview.”

She was one of eight candidates representing seven primary races who attended a political party forum hosted at the college by the Cherokee County Republican Party Club.

With the exception of the three candidates vying for the County Court-at-law seat, other races only had one candidate representing them.

Although incumbent County Judge Chris Davis did not attend the forum, Blair – his opponent in the March 4 primary election – assured voters, “I came to the job interview because I care about the people here (and) I am bringing you a skill set,” that included years of administrative management experience, running meetings, and an understanding of how to oversee meetings, as well as constitutional principals and rules of law.

The evening's most heated comments were heard in exchanges between Court-at-law primary candidates Kelley Peacock and Janice Crosby Stone.

“There you go again, Kelley,” Stone told Kelley. “Trying to shift the focus of this election away from your youth and your lack of experience.”

Alluding to Peacock's action of filing a petition for a writ of mandamus against Stone on Jan. 20, which alleged Stone did not meet a residency requirement in the rules of eligibility to run for the seat, Stone pointed out the petition was denied.

“Mr. Childs has even publicly acknowledged that your actions are purely the act of an opposing candidate,” she said, motioning to Daniel Boone Childs, the third candidate in the court-at-law race.

The trio is vying for a chance at the position formerly held by Judge Craig Fletcher, who vacated the seat in late 2013. Peacock was subsequently appointed to fill his position on an interim basis.

Childs responded, “well, I'm stuck in the middle,” referring to his seat on the panel between Peacock and Stone.

As the audience's laughter died down, he said, “when Ms. Peacock told the paper this was some special duty of her position … to remove somebody from the ballot, that's really not her duty. Her duty is to stay neutral as possible.”

During their segment of the forum, Peacock reiterated several times that she was the best choice because she had already been chosen for the position.

“I think they interviewed all potential candidates and chose the person best suited to be court-at-law, and that person is me,” Peacock said.

Childs, who had once served as Court-at-law judge for the county, described himself as a litigating attorney with 32 years of legal practice under his belt, while Stone – a lawyer with 30-plus years of experience – described herself as “the only native of Jacksonville on the

ballot.”

While the three agreed that a court-at-law judge should not assess fees for medical hearings for Rusk State Hospital patients – “that's part of the job, I think the hearing of the cases as a judge” goes with the position, Peacock explained as the other two concurred – the candidates emphasized different areas of responsibility of the job in question.

As court-at-law judge for four years, Childs reminded the audience that he “worked very hard to straighten it up and clean

it up."

“There have been scandals before I took office, and unfortunately, there have been scandals after I left office,” he said. “I would like to get back into office to do what I done before. … People in the courthouse will tell you I was the last one to leave the courthouse on those days, the last one to turn out the lights, to lock the door, and I know it what it means to be a public servant.

“That's what I want to do for the people of this county: To serve them. I don't look at is as an office where the public recognizes me as something special, but I have a special job to do for them, and that's what I'd like to do again,” he said.

Peacock admitted that as sitting – albeit interim – judge, “I would like to keep my job because I have dedicated my career to public service."

“I've dedicated my time, my energy and my skills to protecting those that need protection in this community. I have proven myself here. Ms. Stone has told everyone that listens (that)this is a family-law courtroom – it is, and there are very important decisions made there, I've been a part of many of those decision over the last seven years that I've served Cherokee County. But this is (also) a criminal court. Ninety percent of the cases that are tried in that court are criminal cases.”

Stone disagreed, saying that in her review of court-at-law dockets, “it looks like four days of every week is spent on family law cases … four days a month, misdemeanors are heard in

(this court).

In closing statements, Peacock slammed Stone's voting record  and Child's experience in the courtroom.

“Somebody like myself needs to be in there, who knows what they're doing to man the docket, to man the huge caseloads,” Peacock said.

Childs said he is interested in getting his old position back, not because “this is the office I know best,” but because he understood the kind of dedication and selflessness it took to do the job.  

“Being a judge is something you have earned after you have had a long career in the law. You need age, you need wisdom, you need life experience. You need a little grey hair, a commitment to our values,” she said. “As Republicans … we believe that you should earn your position through hard work and

dedication.”

Forum candidates weigh in:

• State Representative District 11. Candidate Tony Sevilla, a naturalized American citizen, told the audience he “wanted to run for office since I was five years old,” describing internships with  state  Representative Bob Griggs and Senator Judith Zaffirini, for a total of 3 legislative sessions while pursuing a political science degree at Texas State in San Marcos.

He supported term limits for candidates – proposing three terms for both House and Senate members – and stressed that “we don't need politicians (serving the public) anymore; we need hard-working people.”

Incumbent candidate Travis P. Clardy was unable to attend.

• Cherokee County Treasurer. Candidate Murray Smith described the most important function of this position as “custodian of your taxpayer dollar.” His goal, he said, was to provide the best, efficient service to taxpayers, by streamlining and updating payroll and accounting systems. His opponent, incumbent Patsy J. Lassiter was not present for the forum.

• Pct. 4 County Commissioner. Glyn Dotson, who is vying for incumbent Byron Underwood's position on the commission, told the audience “everybody looks to the county commission to maintain roads,” and while that was an important aspect of the job, even more important “was making decisions on how (taxpayers') money was spent,” adding that the court needed to be “more responsive to the people.

Underwood, who was hospitalized earlier this week, did not attend.

• Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace. Incumbent Phillip Grimes was present for the forum, but his opponent, James Morris – who held the spot from 2003-2011 – said the most important aspect of the position “is to be available. People need to have access to (their JP).”

Neither Carl Wayne Morgan, nor Matt Hunt, candidates for County Surveyor, were present at Tuesday's event.

 

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