District 3 runoff candidates talk turnout, city needs ahead of runoff
Published 12:30 am Wednesday, June 14, 2023
As the June 24 runoff nears, the two candidates vying for District 3 are solidifying their hopes and plans for constituents.
With early voting underway, Doneane Beckcom and Wanda Bodden continue to campaign after neither secured more than 50 percent of the votes during the May 6 election.
Of the 560 votes cast in the race, Bodden received 145 or 25.89 percent, and Beckcom received 217 or 38.75 percent.
The position became open when previous District 3 councilman Thomas Kinlaw ran for and won an at-large position.
Now, with months of campaigning behind them, the two women are shedding light on what they’ve seen and what they hope to see.
When asked what they’ve learned from constituents, Bodden highlighted her personal feelings.
“Something that I practice all of the time is just to be kind to everybody, and that everybody has a voice, and that everybody that has a voice needs to get out and vote,” she said. “I just think that you have to be resilient, persistent, consistent and be the same all of the time. So I’ve learned from them that just being kind — because a lot of them have gotten behind me and supported me in the runoff. The No. 1 thing I was told was that I was always kind to everyone out there, and that I listened.”
Beckcom said what she’s noticed is a need for change.
“They are tired of the same things happening on council and throughout our city,” she said. “They are tired of having issues with various city services. They are tired of lack of code enforcement. They are tired of needless spending, and they are tired of lack of transparency. This is not an exhaustive list. We are all ready for change.”
Both say it has been a fair race.
“All has gone well,” Bodden said. “It’s been a good clean race. I like it. You present your platform and if the people that are out there agree with your platform, then they’ll get out and support you.”
Beckcom is pushing to get out in front of misinformation.
“From a procedural perspective, yes it has been a fair race,” she said. “In hindsight there are things that could have been done better or differently. However, from a personal perspective there has been a great deal of negativity and false statements made about me, my career and my intentions. That is not the way I choose to run my own campaign and my supporters do not participate in the negativity.”
Voter turnout is also a concern.
According to information from the office of the city secretary, only 2,497 or 9.13 percent of the 27,346 registered voters cast ballots in the City Council, Port Arthur Independent School District Board of Trustees and Sabine Pass Authority Port Commissioners elections during the general election.
“Turn out for the general election was terrible, hands down,” Beckcom said. “I had voters tell me that they do not vote in municipal elections because they are not important, so my team spent a lot of time educating voters about the importance of local elections. My district has over 6,000 registered voters and just over 500 votes were cast in the general election.
“I have a team of people from all over Southeast Texas, not just from Port Arthur, who are helping in many ways to increase voter turn out for the run off. It has been a boots-on-the-ground effort for sure.”
Bodden has taken a similar route to reach voters.
“I get out. I get among the people. I get out into the community. I go to where the people are,” she said. “People like to meet you, people like to be able to talk to you. They like to be one-on-one. I’ve done that (since) the beginning and will continue to do that. The voter turnout in the initial race was somewhat low, but I think from today that it’s getting really, really brisk and people will get out.”
Port Arthur Newsmedia chose to ask the candidates about one particular issue discussed among residents: Should those in Port Arthur be happy with the current street project?
“The residents need to be educated on exactly what the streets project entails. There is a great deal of misinformation on the subject. There’s a big difference in ‘repair’ and ‘replace’ when it comes to our city streets,” Beckcom said. “There are also drainage issues that are ongoing that tie into the street project.
“My plan is to hold town hall meetings with the neighborhoods in District 3 to be sure our residents are educated about the nature of the streets and drainage projects that we have upcoming, and answer any questions they have about this and other ongoing issues in their neighborhoods.”
Bodden said residents shouldn’t be happy, and noted she was speaking as one of them.
“And there’s money that’s been allocated that hasn’t been appropriated to do exactly what it’s there for,” she said. “And that’s a big deal. And it’s not just the streets, but the quality of life — which is also the streets where you live. I do believe we have to deal with some basic needs that need to be met, and the streets are part of that. I live in Royal Meadows, and going down 9th Avenue from Jimmy Johnson to (TX) 73, there’s about 20 lights and just about five of them work. So not only do the roads need to be not repaired — some of them need to be resurfaced. It’s gotten that bad. Patching the roads is not going to work anymore.”
Early voting and Election Day
Early voting times are:
- Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Friday, 7 a.m. to 7p.m.
- Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- June 20 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Polls will be closed June 19 due to the federal holiday.
Early voting can be done at Port Arthur City Hall or the Port Arthur Public Library. On Election Day June 24, all residents must vote in their precinct.