PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Opinion

November 4, 2013

District clerk race major battleground

At least four candidates are expected to file as early as Saturday in the Republican and Democratic 2014 primaries for Jefferson County District Clerk.

While Democrats are accustomed to contested primaries, this will be unusual for Republicans who have at least two contested races so far and are expected to field candidates nearly countywide for the first time since the Reconstruction era.

Democrats will hunker down to protect their existing incumbencies while Republicans push for what they see as a long-time-coming slate of willing and qualified candidates.

The phrase “synergy” is being used among Republicans and they have their sights set.

The recent death of former District Clerk Lolita Ramos opened up the field for that seat with at least one Democratic candidate announcing he was running just days before she passed away.

(A vacancy for district clerk is an anomaly in that all district judges must unanimously vote for the replacement. Otherwise, that task falls to the governor. In this case they did and chose longtime assistant district clerk Jane Birge to fill the remainder of the term.)

To the uninformed voter, the $95,373 yearly salaried district clerk’s position might sound just like a clerk position.

In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth.

The district clerk is the one person who assigns all civil and criminal cases to the eight district judges. The office is also responsible for the handling of tens of thousands of filings including lawsuits and motions.

Because of that fact, political contributions from attorneys supporting both political parties will pour in by the truckload including more money in that race than some other countywide races combined.

Jefferson County is historically known on the state and national level for being a litigious friendly field for civil lawsuits. It is equally known locally for stringent punishments handed down in criminal cases.

In the Republican Primary, Karen J. Stewart, the current assistant director purchasing agent for Jefferson County and daughter of former tax-assessor collector Miriam K. Johnson, will face Charles Wiggins, Jr., a retired 30-year employee of Jefferson County who previously served in the Constable, Precinct 1 position.

Wiggins held the constable post for two election cycles but lost in 2012 to Nick Saleme by a 17,403 to 16,114 vote.

Democrat and current Beaumont Councilman Jamie Smith announced last week that he would run. Jefferson County bailiff Stanley Hatcher, who once ran against former district clerk Ramos and lost, made his announcement October 9 to also run as a Democrat.

Ramos lost her battle to cancer at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston on October 13.

All candidates for political office on the state and local level can file as early as Saturday and have until 5 p.m. December 9 to file. This includes party precinct chairs, positions that both political parties lean on heavily in getting out their respective parties’ votes.

Republicans also have a contested race to replace State Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, who is not seeking re-election.

Beaumont attorney Dade Phelan is running against Judy Nichols, a Tea Party activist from Nederland and owner of a management and land company.

The Golden Triangle Republican Women, considered by some to be the backbone of the party, meets tomorrow in Beaumont. Meanwhile, Democrats are just as anxious to start their push for countywide and local precinct races.

While the filing period runs Saturday through December 9, candidates will most likely file within prior to Thanksgiving but odds are there will be one or two last minute candidates to file.

Other high profile races Republicans hope to wrest away from Democrats include district attorney, county clerk and the 58th and 172nd judicial districts.

Voter sentiment has changed so much from the last election cycle and there are at least two factors that highlight how Republican strength has grown to where they have local contested primaries and a slate of candidates running countywide.

Not long ago straight-ticket voting favored Democrats which used to account for 75 percent of all those types of ballots cast. In 2010, the gap was narrowed with Democrats accounting for only 53 percent of straight ticket ballots.

Second factor is the recent party switch by Precinct 7 Justice of the Peace Brad Burnett Precinct 2 County Commissioner Brent Weaver. Their announcement last month to join the Republican Party brought state Chairman Steve Munisteri to Jefferson County.

In 2010, Burnett won with 55.5 percent of the vote in a contested Democratic Primary while Weaver received 51.2 percent of the vote. Neither faced a Republican in the general election.

For all candidates, the number of votes received is all that matters but to get there, a candidate has to spend money and it does not hurt to brag on who you know.

While state law no longer requires it, candidates for local and statewide races routinely list their campaign treasurers on all political advertising.

Stewart boasts former Democratic county judge Richard P. LeBlanc while Wiggins has Ron Arceneaux, of Arceneaux and Gates Consulting Engineers, Inc.

If you love politics, this season is like Christmas every day between now and the 2014 General Election and voters are the ones playing Santa.

Dan Bledsoe has more than 23 years experience in media and politics and lives in Groves.

 

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 16, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Obama's equal pay exaggeration leads us all into danger

    The president's claims of national shame over gender-based pay inequity spring from distorted calculations, as well as some convenient political math.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Taking someone out to the ballgame gets expensive

    Families in big-league cities like Boston and New York pay steep prices to catch a baseball game. It's not so expensive everywhere - especially if you're frugal.
     

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Don't blame voters for low turnout

    Suppose nobody votes this year. On Nov. 4 the doors to the polling places are thrown open, and there isn't anyone in line. No absentee ballots are filed. No one litigates, charging either fraud or discrimination, because there weren't any voters.
    It won't happen. But if it did, pundits and activists would surely blame public apathy for such a catastrophe. I'd name a different culprit: the major parties, their candidates and their acolytes in the news media.

    April 7, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Voters beware of oligarchs and bogeymen

    Scaring voters to distract them from issues is a tired - and bipartisan - ploy sure to be in heavy rotation this campaign season.

    April 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Legal marijuana can be government's new cash crop

    Officials holding out against legalized marijuana may "evolve" their thinking because of one number: Colorado says it gathered $2 million in taxes from pot shops in January, as business was just getting started.

    March 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sherry Sad story shared by too many

    March 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Young athletes face alarming risk of head injuries

    Concussions are a growing injury among young athletes and cause for alarm. Reasons for the trend are varied, but we at least need better data and more study of how to avoid them.

    March 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Banning a 'B-word' teaches girls the wrong lesson

    Striking the word "bossy" from the language doesn't help young girls learn to speak up or become leaders. It teaches them how to be, well, bossy.

    March 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wild Hog politics tearing Port Arthur

    February 4, 2014

Video
US Proposes Pay-for-priority Internet Standards Wife Mourns Chicago Doctor Killed in Afghanistan FDA Proposes Regulations on E-cigarettes Kerry Warns Russia of Expensive New Sanctions Mideast Peace Talks Stall on Hamas Deal Cody Walker Remembers His Late Brother Paul Grieving South Korea Puts Up Yellow Ribbons Raw: Kerry Brings His Dog to Work Raw: Girls Survive Car Crash Into Their Bedroom Three U.S. Doctors Killed by Afghan Security Yankees' Pineda Suspended 10 Games for Pine Tar Colleagues Mourn Death of Doctors in Afghanistan Ukraine Launches Operation Against Insurgents Obama Reassures Japan on China Raw: Car Crashes Into San Antonio Pool Time Magazine Announces Top Influencers List Raw: Angry Relatives Confront SKorea Officials Bigger Riders Means Bigger Horses Out West Yankees Pineda Ejected for Pine Tar Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US
Facebook
Sports Tweets
Photos