Candidate forum draws crowd to hear from those seeking office
With campaign signs spread all across the county, it will likely come as no surprise to anyone that the Shelby County Republican primary election is drawing near.
The vote will be held on March 3 with early voting taking place from Feb. 18 through Feb. 28. Weekend voting will occur on Saturday, Feb. 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Sunday, Feb. 23 from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM.
As the campaign draws nearer to its conclusion, it’s more important than ever for political opponents to distinguish themselves from their competition. On Thursday, Feb. 6, the Light and Champion teamed up with the Rio Theatre to present a political forum for the candidates and, more importantly, for the public.
The proceedings began with an invocation provided by Pastor Chris Collins. Center Mayor Pro Tem Leigh Porterfield led in singing the “Star Spangled Banner. Following the opening prayer, Texas Railroad Commissioner Chairman Wayne Christian was introduced as moderator and provided opening remarks and presented the forum rules.
The first candidate to take the stage was incumbent State Representative Chris Paddie. Rep. Paddie has represented District 9 within the Texas State House of Representatives since 2013.
He began by explaining his connections with Shelby County. Paddie was born in Center and has relatives within our community. Rep. Paddie used the rest of his time to discuss his track record as a State Representative and provide his endorsements.
“I am proud to have the support and endorsement of a lot of folks, particularly proud to have the endorsement for reelection from our great governor, Gov. Greg Abbott,” Paddie said. “I am also honored to be endorsed and “A” rated by the NRA and the Texas State Rifle Association for my stance on the Second Amendment. And also endorsed by the Texas Alliance for Life because of my four terms of one-hundred percent prolife voting record.”
Following Paddie was his challenger, Mark Williams. Williams also mentioned his ties to Shelby County, having grown up just north of Tenaha and the county line in Woods Community. Williams explained that he has seen “a need for citizens to step up” and compete for these important positions.
Both candidates stressed the importance of the upcoming elections, as the imminent redrawing of district lines within Texas presents a danger to rural representation.
Next, the audience heard from the two candidates within the 123rd District Court District Attorney race. As the incumbent, Stephen Shires took to the podium first.
Shires took the time to reestablish his track record as D.A. Shires is especially proud of his work with the Children’s Advocacy Center. Shires also called into question Karren Price’s history as Shelby County District Attorney.
“Folks, things have drastically changed in Shelby County since she last practiced law here, criminal law here in Shelby County,” said Shires.
Karren Price was then offered the podium for her opening remarks. Price went on the offensive by offering numbers indicating that from January 2013 to January 2019 the pending docket grew from 331 active cases to 1,015 with 2,720 indicted.
This period included Shires’ time as the assistant district attorney and his time as the D.A., she said. Price then went on to explain that the number of active cases on the Panola County docket went from 654 to 424 with about 1,000 less cases indicted than Shelby County, and that Nacogdoches Counties docket grew from 654 to 757 with around 5,000 indictments.
Following the D.A. candidates’ time, the candidates for Shelby County Sheriff took center stage. First on the ballot, and therefore first to speak, was former Shelby County Sheriff Newton Johnson Jr.
Johnson is currently serving as deputy constable to Precinct 3. He assured voters that he would keep the tax paying citizens of Shelby County at the forefront of his decision-making process. He also touched on adding drug programs to clean up our communities.
Next was Derek Barbee. Barbee used his opening remarks to touch on the growing suicide rates of 10-24-year-olds within the nation. He explained that East Texas ranks among the highest within the state.
Barbee promised to prioritize protecting children from the dangers of drugs and depression among other things. He proposes putting into place programs for our youths that offer resources and information about suicide awareness, social media risks and the dangers of drugs.
Joey Hudnall used his time to explain his belief that attacking the drug problem within our county is of the utmost importance. Hudnall promised to be a proactive sheriff for Shelby County.
He offered those listening a glimpse into his history including details of his extensive background in building cases against drug offenders. Hudnall took the time to explain that he wishes to “untie the hands” of the good people currently employed with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.
Following Hudnall, Tanner Peace stepped up to the podium. Peace plans on making the safety and security of Shelby County citizens his priority if elected.
He also spoke on improving relationships with other law enforcement agencies within the county. Peace stated that he wishes to research and explore the opportunities offered by grants to help ease the tax-payers’ burden and improve what the sheriff’s office can offer.
“Folks, we’re 10-15 years behind everybody else,” Peace said. “We are outdated in so many ways. The thing is that it doesn’t have to be that way. As I spoke on earlier, on researching and utilizing grants, we have so many opportunities to update and get the things our deputies need, because when it comes down to it ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got to keep them safe so that we can keep y’all safe.”
Finally, current Chief Deputy of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Kevin Windham was given his time to speak. Windham touched on his relationship-building skills, letting voters know that he intends to improve relationships with other related offices.
Windham also spoke on the importance of being on the inside and recognizing the needs of the office. He stated that he understands the ins and outs of the Sheriff’s Office and can help lead them toward the direction they need to go.
Also speaking at the forum were Shelby County Pct. 3 County Commissioner candidates Stevie Smith, David Cheatwood and Willis Blackwell. Pct. 1 commissioner candidate Donnie Borders also addressed the audience.
Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace candiates Melba Rogers, Don Jones and Sean Permenter also addressed the audience. Several other candidates attended the forum and used the event to meet the public but they opted not to speak.