University of Texas at Tyler pre-law student Noah Butler said his challenge for the Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 position represents a serious run to get younger voters politically involved and introduce changes to the office.
Butler’s run started as a joke in a Texas political science class. He met the limited requirements needed to become a justice of the peace in Texas (you have to be 18 years old, a U.S. citizen and a resident in the jurisdiction for six months) and said, “I should run,” while in class earlier this fall.
Now he has a campaign staff made up of his colleagues who are learning disciplines geared toward campaigning, such as public relations.
“We’re going to campaign hard,” he said. “We want to make a change and serve the community.”
Butler is challenging Justice of the Peace James Meredith, 57, who has been in office since June 2002. JP Precinct 3 includes the southeastern portion of Smith County, including the cities of Whitehouse, Chapel Hill, Arp and Troup.
Other students’ reaction to his decision has him excited about the prospect of unseating Meredith. The university is within the precinct and Butler said he had registered 400 students to vote since beginning his grassroots campaign.
Students who want to become involved in media and political campaigns have begun working on his campaign, Butler said.
Butler has been involved in campaigns and worked for elected officials before. He volunteered to help Democrat Shirley McKellar’s campaign for U.S. House District 1. He interned for Rep. Louie Gohmert’s office this summer.
Meredith said he won’t begin campaigning in earnest until after New Year’s when he will begin putting out campaign signs, campaigning and attending candidate meet-and-greets. He said he doubts Butler understands what it takes to run an elected office.
“There’s no way in the world he knows what he’s in for or what the job entails,” Meredith said. “He’s in for a surprise (if he wins).”
Butler said he knows the basics, that the justice of the peace officiates weddings, declares deaths, and oversees small-time criminal and civil court proceedings, such as traffic tickets.
He said he wants to engage younger voters because of abysmal statewide turnout rates among 18 to 29-year-olds and slipping Republican Party appeal with college students. But if he wins, he views himself as an example for other “millenials” to get involved within politics and possibly seek office.
“It would be good for them to see someone like me in office,” he said. “They’d see it’s not only bald, white men.”