The race for Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace between a long-time incumbent and political newcomer is heating up with only two months before Election Day.
Opponents have been rare for Justice of the Peace Quincy Beavers. He’s only been challenged in the Democratic primary once since he took office in 1995, but candidate Flor de Maria Nichols is the first Republican to take a shot at the position.
Mrs. Nichols, 42, a real estate manager, believes Beavers has been in office long enough and the growing Hispanic community within Precinct 1 needs a voice and ear on the bench.
Beavers, 72, said he has been a fair, neutral judge for almost 20 years and support from various groups within Precinct 1 reflects his popularity.
“Support is coming from all parts of the community, from the African American, Hispanic and white community,” he said. “It shows I am fair and honest and try to serve the community.”
Beavers reported more than $15,000 in campaign contributions the last reporting period. Mrs. Nichols reported $1,250 in campaign contributions.
Most of Mrs. Nichols’ funds have come from the Smith County Republican Women’s Club. Club President Molly Harrington said Mrs. Nichols is a “good candidate who is connected to her community” and is working hard to win the race.
Mrs. Nichols said Beavers is “working like never before” because he knows she’s got a serious chance to unseat him. She levied several complaints against Beavers’ office, including a lack of accessibility, inconsistent hours and pressuring Precinct 1 residents and businesses to support his reelection.
As a property manager, Mrs. Nichols said Beavers and his staff often are late opening the office, take long lunches or leave early. When filing for evictions, delays cost landlords money, she said.
Beavers denied the accusations and said he and his two clerks handle filings as they come in. Bert Powell, of Powell Properties, rated Beavers performance as judge “an absolute F.”
He said he has had an attorney handle any filings with Beavers’ court after he felt the judge misled him about an eviction. He said it’s also impossible to get evictions filed from late November through early January.
Beavers denied not accepting filings.
“I follow the law,” he said.
Beavers said he’s been in office for 20 years, and if people had complaints, they would have surfaced in the media or county and state agencies that oversee his court.
Kim Oldham, manager at Keeling Properties, who handles evictions through Beavers, said she has had no problems with his office.
Several other property managers contacted by the Tyler Morning Telegraph would not comment for this story.
Mrs. Nichols will have to overcome more than money. She is running in a precinct dominated by Democrats. Though the jurisdictional lines differ slightly, Smith County’s Precinct 1 commissioner, constable and justice of the peace represent the lone Democrats in a county where Republican voters cast 70 percent of ballots.
Precinct 1 voters cast 3.5 times as many straight-ticket ballots for Democrats, 3,068, in the 2010 gubernatorial election as Republicans, 868, according to Smith County Election Office records.
Mrs. Nichols said much of her campaigning involves educating, empowering and motivating Hispanics to be politically involved. In the past decade, the Tyler area’s minority population grew about 66 percent with Hispanics representing 47.3 percent of that growth.
“I’m walking the streets, knocking on doors and talking to people about my mission and goal for JP 1,” she said. “Especially in the Hispanic community, we’re focusing on voter registration, encouraging people to look closer at what elected people do.
Beavers said he was concerned that Mrs. Nichols’ residency might be in question. As the Election Office and the state of Texas see it, Mrs. Nichols lives at 1526 S. Kennedy Ave. inside Precinct 1. But Beavers believes Mrs. Nichols lives at 204 Lindsey Lane outside the precinct and uses a rental property address for eligibility purposes.
Smith County Election Administrator said Mrs. Nichols changed her voter address (to Kennedy Avenue) and name on her voter registration form when she voted on May 3, 2013. She said Mrs. Nichols maintained a mailing address at Lindsey Lane.
Beavers said it would be a disservice to Precinct 1 voters if Mrs. Nichols did not live within its boundaries.
“We’ll put it to voters to answer that question. She’s the only one that knows for sure but it would be a shame if she was elected and going back and forth between (the two homes) to stay in office,” he said. “That’s not representing the people of Precinct 1.”
Mrs. Nichols said she moved inside the Precinct 1 before she considered running and maintains her residence at the Kennedy Avenue location.
Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace lies mainly within Tyler city limits but juts northwest along U.S. Highway 69 and southwest between Texas highways 31 and 155.
Election Day is Nov. 4.