Cherokee County politician deemed ineligible for placement on ballot

Published on Wednesday, 30 April 2014 00:07 - Written by Faith Harper, fharper@tylerpaper.com

A disqualified candidate on the Cherokee County ballot has a shot at getting his name back on the ticket.

Rodney Wallace, the Republican challenger to Democratic incumbent Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Vera Foreman, was deemed ineligible for placement on the ballot in a hearing Monday before Judge Jerry Calhoon in the 2nd District Court. The decision can be appealed.

John Ament, Judge Foreman’s lawyer with the Jacksonville firm Ament and Peacock, said a statute requires anyone filing for the office to live in the precinct for six months prior to the Dec. 9 candidate-filing deadline.

Ament said Wallace, who owns land in Ponta, filed to be placed on the ballot on Oct. 31. Wallace owned land in Cherokee County, but it was not his primary residence at the time, Ament said.

“He voted in Tarrant County, Texas on Nov. 5, 2013 — that’s the clinching factor,” Ament said. “We got a copy of his voting record, and (Wallace) also had a home in Fort Worth at that time, and he worked for the Crowley Police Department and retired in November 2013.

“Under the (statute) and the facts of the case, the judge made the only order that could have been made,” Ament said.

Ament said the case was quickly put before a judge to ensure Wallace would have time to appeal the decision before the November election.

Mike Wallace, Rodney Wallace’s attorney with the Jacksonville firm Day and Wallace, said he disagrees with the decision but respects it.

“It was a factual determination,” he said. “We respect the judicial system, and that’s what the court found.”

Mike Wallace said his client has 30 days to appeal the judge’s decision and has not decided if he will challenge it.

Under the Texas Election Code, the Republican Party has a right to appoint candidates to fill vacancies on the ballot if the candidate died, withdrew or was deemed ineligible,” he said. The appointment has different criteria than the original filing candidate, and would be approved by a vote of the party’s executive committee.

“We believe the residence issue is moot at that point because (that) requirement is six months prior to the nomination date,” Mike Wallace said.

Karen Morris, Cherokee County Republican chairwoman-elect, said the executive committee will meet in June, and comprises each of the county’s precinct chairs. She said at least 25 people would be involved in the decision.

Ms. Morris said at this point there is no way to know if Rodney Wallace will be selected to be put back on the ballot by the executive committee, but it is a possibility. She said Judge Foreman would have a Republican opponent on the ballot, even if Rodney Wallace was not picked.

“We will have a Republican on that ballot,” she said. “Whether it’s Rodney Wallace, I don’t know. It will have to come to a vote. … I’m sure he will talk to us about seeing if he wants us to be the candidate, but I can’t say it will be him.”

Judge Foreman said she knew there would be a Republican challenger on the ticket, but wanted to make sure her opponent was qualified by the legal residency requirements. She declined to comment on if she would contest if the Republican committee selected Rodney Wallace.

Mike Wallace said the fight might not be over for his client.

“We anticipate that there may be another legal battle, but we don’t know yet,” he said.