By Greg Ritchie
CROCKETT – It was a packed house at the Moosehead Cafe in Crockett, Thursday, Feb. 1, as political candidates met with voters to answer questions and state their cases at an event sponsored by the Republican Party of Houston County.
Hosted by Joni Clonts and moderated by Vance Drum of Grapeland and Joe Don James of Crockett, the event brought together many of the candidates running for office in Houston County and although a Republican party event, democrats were invited, too.
There were some lively moments at the event, with District Nine State Representative incumbent Trent Ashby and challenger Paulette Carson highlighting their differences in the race to Austin. Ashby spoke about his passion for the district and the work he has done to represent area voters, traditional values and issues like securing the borders, while Carson went after Ashby’s support of the State Speaker of the House and his vote on the impeachment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, saying that vote was her “red line,” making up her mind to run for the seat.
Ashby told about the large tax relief passed by Texas lawmakers last year and promised the legislature would work to go after out-of-control tax appraisals, while Carson disputed the new amendment was not the right thing for Texas property owners.
Next came Republican candidates for Houston County Sheriff, incumbent Randy Hargrove and challenger Zak Benge. Some of the public’s questions could be seen as biased for one candidate or the other, with Hargrove asked about tinting on the front window at the sheriff’s office and both men asked about stray dogs in the county. Hargrove was asked about transparency in the department, telling the group he tries to give updates on ongoing cases, but said he is often unable to do so, since they are open investigations. Benge was questioned if was ready and capable to do the job of sheriff, to which he responded his many years being a game warden exposed him to many different crimes and situations over the years.
The Messenger has again teamed up with the Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce to hold a forum for both men running for sheriff, to be held Thursday, Feb. 22 at the Crockett Civic Center. Please see related article in today’s edition.
In other notable county races, all three Republican candidates for Houston County Commissioner Precinct One were present: incumbent Gary Lovell, along with challengers Albert “Butch” Patton and Will Yates. All three men touted their many years in Houston County and their love and passion for working for the people. Incumbent Lovell touted grants and other monies he had been able to bring to the precinct.
Incumbent County Commissioner for Precinct Three Gene Stokes, running unopposed, thanked the crowd for their continued support and promised to do the work of the people of the county.
Stokes’ brief remarks provoked one of the biggest laughs of the night when he joked, “As a politician, you should never pass up the opportunity to speak to a crowd and you should never pass up the opportunity to shut up!”
Republican candidate for Houston County Tax Collector/Assessor James Angerstein told the crowd not to blame him for taxes, since that department doesn’t set taxes, but promised to make sure the taxes were assessed and handled correctly.
Assistant District Attorney Kristina Massey introduced herself to the crowd and as a candidate to take over the role of Houston County Attorney from Daphne Session, who is running unopposed to replace retiring District Attorney Donna Gordon Kaspar.
Precinct Two Constable incumbent Kenneth “Red” Smith said he must be doing something right, having served in the position for 20 years and said he was looking forward to another four.
In a motion of goodwill and bipartisanship, unopposed Democratic candidate for Houston County District Attorney Daphne Session was invited to speak, too, thanking the voters for her 15 years serving as the county attorney. She said although she is a democrat, she appreciated the invitation to the Republican event, saying, “Party doesn’t matter to me as far as my job is concerned. I represent everybody in Houston County.”
There were other elected officials in attendance – current and former – from Houston County Judge Jim Lovell and his wife, Justice of the Peace Precinct One Mike McCreight, several members of the hospital district board, former Justice of the Peace Clyde Black, Crockett City Councilman Mike Marsh, among others.
Primary elections are set for Tuesday, March 5.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]