Runoff Elections To Begin Monday
By ADAM RUSSELL
Smith County voters will help decide three local races beginning Monday with a week of early voting.
The May 29 primaries left Republican races for sheriff, county commissioner Precinct 3 and constable Precinct 3 unsettled and headed for a July 31 runoff.
Five statewide primary races also will be decided. There are four Republican runoffs, including the race to replace Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the U.S. Senate between Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former solicitor general Ted Cruz. The Democratic U.S. Senate runoff features former state Rep. Paul Sadler, of Henderson, and Grady Yarbrough, a retired educator from Tyler who now lives in San Antonio.
All registered Smith County voters who did not vote in the Democratic Primary are eligible to vote in the sheriff's race and the statewide races. Voters who cast Democratic ballots can only vote in the Democratic runoff for Senate.
Eligible voters can cast ballots in the countywide runoff between Chris Green, a retired 20-year game warden, and Larry Smith, a retired Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent.
The race has become a heated contest. Green and Smith have traded public barbs during several candidate debates since the race began last year. Now the race is down to two after Smith and Green received 44 percent and 37.6 percent of the vote, respectively.
The runoff has amplified tensions.
Supporters writing the Tyler Morning Telegraph indicated why they would give Green or Smith their vote.
Green patrolled Smith County as its game warden for the past 16 years. Supporters believe his local history of getting to know landowners, patrolling the county and knowing "the patterns of the community," make him the best candidate to make changes in the office. Green's business degree and experience as a building contractor before he entered law enforcement make him the most rounded candidate to run the office's $25 million budget, supporters say.
Smith supporters say his 34 years law enforcement experience, which began in the Gregg County Sheriff's Office and ended at the ATFE, give him the experience, leadership skills and temperament to lead the office. Smith worked 11 years in the Gregg County Criminal Investigation Division (the last eight years as captain of that division), several years with the DEA, and 22 years with ATFE.
Despite contrary public statements by Green supporters, Smith has been involved in several local investigations, including the 2010 church arsons and high-profile capital murder cases.
Both candidates have said addressing poor response times and improvements to rural patrols are their top priorities, though they shared differing plans. Green said the administration is too top heavy and expects to make salary room for additional patrol officers by thinning top level positions. Smith has proposed changes at the top but said there are enough positions within the department to increase the office's patrol presence and effectiveness with schedule shifts.
Precinct 3 voters will decide the runoff between incumbent Terry Phillips, who is seeking his second term, and challenger Ronnie Pilcher. Precinct 3 covers the northern half of Smith County, including Lindale, Winona, Hide-away-Lake and portions of Overton and Tyler.
Phillips, 55, said he has delivered on campaign promises that got him elected.
He said the county has made strides with regard to saving taxpayer money.
Phillips said he was willing to make tough, unpopular decisions, including reducing employee benefits and positions, to keep the county on track.
Change is good, Pilcher, 45, of Winona, said during his campaign.
Pilcher said he wants to be involved as a steward of taxpayer money and listen to precinct residents.
Pilcher said better budgeting and accountability for tax dollars will be his focus. He began routinely attending weekly court meetings almost two years ago and said running for office and becoming a voice for residents was the next step.
Jimmy Hawley, a candidate from Lindale who missed the runoff, has thrown his support behind Pilcher.
The four-person race for Precinct 3 constable ended with the incumbent failing to make the runoff. Jimmie Blackmon, a Bullard police officer and former Precinct 3 deputy constable, and Scott McAuley will face each other.
Blackmon received the most votes, 1,873, 30 percent, while McAuley finished second with 1,650 votes, or 26 percent.
Blackmon, 44, began his decade-long law enforcement career in Precinct 3 under former Constable Danny Smith and wants to return to the office's helm. McCauley, 49, said he has been in law enforcement for 30 years, starting as a reserve police officer and working his way up to police chief. He has been Arp's chief for 25 years, he said.
Voters will also be able to weigh in on statewide races for U.S. Senate, Texas Railroad Commissioner and Texas Sup-reme Court Justice Place 4.