Voters To Choose Sheriff, Other Positions Today
From Staff Reports
Republicans and Democrats will decide the fate of 22 candidates in eight contested Smith County primary races Tuesday.
Because there are no general election challengers in the eight races, including state House District 6, Smith County sheriff, Precinct 3 county commissioner and four constable races, these primary races will decide who ultimately will fill these positions.
Four candidates -- Bobby Garmon, Chris Green, Donn Rust and Larry Smith -- are vying for a hotly contested sheriff position. In January, one of the men will be sworn in as sheriff and replace J.B. Smith.
Garmon, 52, Smith County Sheriff's Office chief deputy since 2003, touts more than 31 years within Sheriff J.B. Smith's office and said he oversees much of the day-to-day operations already.
"My opponents want to promise you this and that, but we have one of the top sheriff's departments in the state," he said. "My opponents are good at what they have done, but I am the only one who has been on the job."
Green, 50, who retired as a Texas Parks and Wildlife law enforcement officer after 20 years, said he will focus on providing more patrol deputies for unincorporated areas of the county by thinning administrative positions.
"We need more people in the field," he said. "I have experience as a small-business owner and a law enforcement officer and the combination makes me the most qualified candidate running."
Rust, 54, a businessman and captain for the Precinct 3 constable, said the sheriff position is the CEO for the department, and he is the best potential executive in the race because of his business experience. He outlined a five-point plan to raise revenues via jail book-in fees and decrease costs by deferring veteran inmate medical costs to state and federal veteran services.
"I have run a $170 million budget and managed hundreds of employees," he said. "The department can be more efficient and effective."
Smith, 54, a former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent with 34 years of law enforcement experience, said he has a vision for the department and the experience and leadership skills to deliver.
"I am not the type of person to be satisfied with the status quo," he said. "It's time for new blood and new eyes to give you taxpayers what you have been paying for but not fully getting."
Political observers believe the race will go to a July 31 run-off because no single candidate will garner the 50 percent plus one vote needed to win the nomination outright.
A run-off also is a possibility in the four candidate race for commissioner. Incumbent Terry Phillips is facing challengers Jimmy Hawley, Ronnie Pilcher and Ed Watts.
Phillips said he has delivered on his campaign promises to be a conservative voice for precinct residents. His challengers said Phillips is not in touch with precinct communities including, Lindale and Winona.
Long-time Precinct 1 Constable Henry Jackson faces Reginald "Reggie" Wilson in the only contested local Democratic race.
Another long-time constable, Dennis Taylor, of Precinct 5, faces retired Department of Public Safety trooper. The Precinct 3 constable contest pits incumbent Dustin Rust against Scott McAuley, Jim Blackmon and Bob Overman.
Constable Andy Dunklin faces James Lee in Precinct 2.
Incumbent state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, is facing challenger Matt Schaefer of Tyler in the race for the District 6 seat on the Texas House of Representatives.
Berman, 76, elected in 1998 and seeking his eighth term, said his voting record is one of the most conservative in the House.
Schaefer, 36, an attorney and Naval Reserve officer, said Berman's record is not as conservative as it appears and has led to more regulation on businesses, fewer personal freedoms and increased state government bureaucracy.
There are other Texas House races throughout the area. Rep. Chuck Hopson, R-Jacksonville, faces two challengers -- Travis Clardy, a Nacogdoches attorney, and Alto resident Tony Sevilla -- for District 11. Former state Rep. Tommy Merritt is attempting to retake the District 7 seat from Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview.
Meanwhile, Republicans Thomas Ratliff, the incumbent, faces Randy Stevenson, of Tyler, for the District 9 spot on the State Board of Education.