Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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April 29, 2014

JP candidate disqualified

CHEROKEE COUNTY — A petition filed by an incumbent Democratic Cherokee County official stating her Republican opponent in a Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace contest was ineligible for candidacy met with success Monday, as visiting Judge Jerry Calhoon ruled in her favor during a bench trial held in the 2nd District Court.

Judge Calhoon granted an injunction instructing Jerry Rix, Republican Party county chairman for Cherokee County, “and his successor to not certify Rodney Wallace as a candidate in the 2014 general election,” explained John Ament, a Jacksonville lawyer representing Vera Foreman, who is the Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace.

In her petition, filed in March after a primary election, Foreman claimed Wallace – who ran unopposed in the Republican primary – was ineligible for election due to residency requirements.

According to Ament, the judge offered 12 findings of fact as basis for his ruling, “using findings of fact and conclusions of law.”

Neither attorney Mike Wallace – representing Rodney P. Wallace – nor Steven Guy, who represents Jerry Rix, were available for comment as of press deadline Monday.

Earlier during the hearing, after opening statements from Foreman's and Wallace's lawyers were delivered, Judge Calhoon told the parties that a decision “needs to be rendered” in a timely fashion so that “whatever I decide, I want for whoever wants to appeal” an opportunity to do so to satisfy state election code deadlines.

“I'd rather go ahead and do that today,” the judge said.

State election code says that appeals must be concluded “at least 74 days before the November election.”

Both Wallace and Rix were sworn in for testimony during Monday's hearing.

In her petition, Foreman – the uncontested Democratic incumbent in a local March 4 primary –  also claimed that 29 of the 57 signatures he procured on a petition to be placed on the primary ballot were dated after a Nov. 13, 2014, the date Rix said he received the petition.

Her case was based on a candidate application filed by Wallace – reflecting a Jacksonville address – stating he had “continuous residence in the county … for 11 months as of the date the application was sworn.”

The petition stated Wallace was ineligible to be a candidate in the primary – and therefore ineligible to be a candidate in the Nov. 4 general election – because “he was not a resident of Cherokee County for a period of six months prior to the filing deadline for primary elections, said deadline being December 9, 2013.”

During Monday's hearing, Wallace was primarily questioned about his residence in Ponta – a farm passed down through several generations of his family – and when he registered as a Cherokee County resident.

“Five years ago, prior to the previous election cycle, I started making steps” to run for office, he said, later adding that about the same time he decided to leave the Fort Worth area, where he served as a police detective.

This past year, he said, he gradually began moving contents from the Fort Worth residence – owned by his wife prior to their marriage and listed in his name after the couple decided to refinance their mortgage in 2011 – to Cherokee County.

He said he permanently moved to Ponta in October of 2013, which coincided with the period when he filed a petition to be placed on the Republican primary ballot.

Rix fielded questions about Wallace not meeting residency requirements, saying that he was unaware of this until “after it was presented to me that he had voted in Fort Worth in November and signed up (presented his petition to Rix) in December.”

After contacting the Texas Secretary of State and Republican primary officials, Rix said they “told me I do not have the authorization to disqualify any candidate.”

“I never thought I had authority to do that,” he said, then when asked by Foreman's attorney, clarified that “the court (has that authority).”

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