Opponents absent: Christopher Bates, Gene Winston talk constable races before public

Published 12:14 am Thursday, February 13, 2020

The opponents of Christopher Bates and Gene Winston were no-shows, but the Jefferson County Democratic Party candidate forum wasn’t much of a debate, anyway.

This week’s forum at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Port Arthur was a public introduction of candidates for two of the county’s constable offices. Bates is seeking a third four-year term as Precinct 2 constable against Port Arthur Police Officer Terry Tran, with Winston, his chief deputy of seven years, going for the Democratic nomination in Precinct 8 against incumbent Eddie Collins. Tran and Collins were absent Tuesday.

“With all due respect to Constable Collins, you cannot improve on his legacy,” said Winston, a 28-year veteran of law enforcement. “He’s done a great job. He’s gotten involved in the community since he’s been elected. Everyone loves Constable Collins. I’m going to continue to do what he’s done. I’m going to continue to engage the community, just as he’s done. I’ve worked with him for 10 years. He’s shown me how to engage the people.”

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Bates, an 11-year law enforcer, told the crowd inside the church’s Cody Hall that he can show potential voters what he’s done rather than telling them what he wants to do as constable, but often emphasized he’s about living up to a title rather than just holding one.

“If you’re passionate about doing work in the community, you’re going to do it anyway,” he said. “We don’t want to take steps backward. We want to be passionate about progress. I can’t do it by myself. I need God and a whole bunch of help.”

The two candidates addressed the importance of undergoing training for dealing with those who are mentally ill.

“We’re required to have the training and it’s important we continue to go out and get that training,” Bates said. “We want to stay on top of that. We want to bring that information back to our community and utilize that. Mental illness is real.”

Bates added part of his job includes working with mental health officers in Jefferson County.

Winston said exemplifying patience is key to talking down a mentally ill suspect.

“One of the biggest trainings come from God,” he said. “You can’t learn [patience] in school. You have to have that in the heart. You need to be patient and try to talk them down. That’s what patience does for us.”

Winston emphasized that while he and Bates are not running a joint campaign, he wouldn’t mind contributing to Bates’ fundraising efforts for scholarships and other charitable acts if he were a constable. Winston would like to start a mentoring program for underprivileged children, whom he said he would continue to help even if he doesn’t win.

“I would like to start a welfare program and check on all seniors in Precinct 8,” Winston said. “I’d like to know if their kids live out of town. I want to provide some type of entertainment when they get out of the house.”

Bates said he’ll still be a part of the community, even if he doesn’t win.

“Titles don’t make this position,” he said. “What’s in your heart makes this position.”

Early voting begins Feb. 18 and concludes Feb. 28. Election day for primaries is March 2.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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