Candidates spend frenzied last weekend

Published 3:48 pm Sunday, October 31, 2010

Going into the homestretch for Tuesday’s general election, political candidates were spending a frenzied weekend winding up campaigns while final early voting totals signaled strong interest in this year’s election.

Early voting concluded Friday with 35,544 of the county’s 154,271 registered voters casting their votes prior to Tuesday’s election. On the last day of the two-week early voting period 5,099 voters cast their ballots early.

The heavy turn-out is fueled by a heated state gubernatorial race and contested local races including the county tax assessor/collector, county treasurer and the Justice of the Peace Precinct 7 seat.

Republican candidate J. Shane Howard is squaring off against Democrat Thomas Sigee for the tax assessor/collector position. Both say they are pleased with the way the race has gone thus far.

“The amount of support I have been getting from all across the county has been overwhelming,” Howard said. “North County, South County, Mid-County, the support everywhere has been extraordinary.”

On Saturday, Howard said he planned to join other local candidates at rally in Beaumont with special guest Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Since February, Howard has owned and operated Engage Group LLC., a public affairs firm that also offers economic development and business management expertise.

Prior to starting his own business, Howard worked locally for Leap Engineering as director of business and finance for about five years. He has also worked in the insurance industry.

Going into the final weekend, Howard’s opponent characterized the race as “pretty close, too close to call.”

“Right now, it could go either way,” Sigee said.

Sigee said he had been doing a lot of door knocking, passing out literature and making sure signs blown over from last week’s strong winds, were back up.

Because he is a 32-year military veteran, Sigee said the support he’s received from local veterans has made him proud.

“I am happy with the effort myself, my family, friends and others  put into this campaign,” Sigee said. “We’ll be doing more door knocking this weekend as we head toward the finish line.”

 Sigee has worked for Jefferson County for 18 years. He is currently a collections officer, working in the auditing department. Prior to that, he was director of the county’s pre-trial release program for two years — a position he left when he was called up for active duty. He remains an Army reserve. 

Candidates for the county treasurer race are just as busy during the last few days before the election.

Democrat Georgine Guillory believes she has covered all areas, but is not sitting back over the weekend.

““This last few days, the pressure is on and the speed will increase. They will be little sleep and a lot of long work hours,” she said.

Guillory said her experience gained through owning her own businesses is enhanced through her work as commissioner on the Port of Beaumont. She serves as treasurer of the board, and has been a port commissioner since 2003.

Her opponent, Republican Tim Funchess, said his campaign was feeling a lot of momentum going their way, and was thrilled at the number of people voting early.

“We knew a lot of attention was going to be given to this election, but was surprised very much by the early voting,” Funchess said.

Funchess, 49, is a lifelong member of Beaumont, and has worked in the field of finance most of his life.

For the past 15 years, he has been president of Westbury Farms Inc., a family corporation in Beaumont. There, he has performed the company’s financial operations including oil, timber and agriculture interests and investments.

Prior to his work with Westbury Farms, Funchess was in the banking industry for 15 years.

Justice of the Peace Precinct 7 candidates are also winding down their campaigns.

Incumbent Peace Brad Burnett, 56, is ready for Nov. 2.

“We’ve been working real hard and I’ve personally been at the polls and my family as well. Everywhere we go we’re getting major support,” Burnett, of Port Neches, said.

Burnett has received input from voters who cite his “impeccable record as justice of the Peace for the past eight years; 17 when taking into account his time on the Port Neches-Groves school board.”

“We’re encouraging people to get out and vote,” he said.

Burnett is a former plant manager at U.S. Intec Inc., and the former owner of two businesses. Burnett and his wife, Teresa, have two children and three grandchildren.

Burnett and family are members of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Port Neches.

His opponent David Reeves, 59, also feels confident about election day.

Reeves, of Port Neches, said while he is running his campaign on a shoe string budget, he has been able to place signs in strategic areas and distribute literature via block walkers.

He believes the personal contact between block walkers and the citizens will help in the election.

Reeves began work as a police officer in 1972 and recently retired from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office as chief deputy.

Reeves and his wife, Rose, have three sons and a daughter.

He and his family are members of Val Verde Baptist Church in Groves where he serves as junior church minister.

Statewide, gubernatorial candidates didn’t slow down. The Associate Press reported Democratic candidate Bill White criss-crossed the state stumping for votes while his opponent, incumbent Rick Perry, focused on West Texas.

A poll released Friday for major Texas newspapers showed Perry leading White among likely voters, 49 percent to 37 percent. Green Party candidate Deb Shafto has 3 percent and Libertarian Kathie Glass has 2 percent in the poll. The rest were undecided or declined to answer.

skoonce@panews.com