Local races bring changes to county government

March 8, 2014


The face of county government will be changing after last Tuesday’s Republican primary election, but not all of its features will be defined until a runoff is held in May.

Four county races were on the ballot. One still is.

Darrell Grober and Kathy Gwinn are still battling for the Justice of the Peace office being vacated by Judy Watson, who is retiring.

Election returns Tuesday night revealed that neither had nabbed the required 50 percent of the vote, plus one, to win the title in the three-way race that had included former Granbury Mayor Rick Frye.

County Clerk Mary Burnett will not be returning for a second term. She was bested by political newcomer Katie Lang.

Lloyd “Butch” Barton claimed the Precinct 2 seat on the Commissioners Court. He won the seat being vacated by Dick Roan with 58 percent of the vote to Cynthia “Cindy” Gullett’s 42 percent.

Kathy Davis will keep the county treasurer title she has held for 10 years. She successfully fought off a challenge by schoolteacher Rhonda Naylor, who campaigned on her past experience in accounting and banking.

“I am truly humbled and excited,” Davis said Wednesday, the day after she won 55 percent of the vote. She said that she had been “on pins and needles” Election Day.

According to Elections Administrator Jenise “Crickett” Miller, about 25 percent of Hood County’s 34,512 registered voters participated in the election.

Between absentee ballots, early voting and Election Day, 8,890 ballots were cast, she said. The total was about 1,800 more than the 2012 primary, she said.

During the early voting period from Feb. 18-28, 4,032 citizens voted – about 1,000 more than early voting in the last primary, Miller said.

bigger races

Hood County voters gave U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway 66 percent of the vote while his challenger, Wade Brown, won 34 percent. Conaway handily won the district in a 74/26 percent vote split.

U.S. Senate

In the U.S. Senate race, voters in Hood County were in line with other voters in the state in re-electing John Cornyn. He won 63 percent of the vote in Hood County, and 59 percent statewide.

In the District 60 state representative race, incumbent Jim Keffer was victorious with 56 percent of the vote districtwide to Cullen Crisp’s 44 percent. In Hood County, his home base, Crisp won a solid 67 percent of the vote.

county clerk

Lang won 11 of the 15 voting boxes. Precincts 5 and 6 were combined. One box – 15 – was a tie.

Though Burnett has worked in the county clerk’s office for 20 years – six of which was as the chief deputy and four as county clerk – Lang managed to walk away with 57 percent of the vote to Burnett’s 43 percent.

Lang said she spent much of Election Day waving to voters as they arrived at the busy Precinct 16 polling location in Pecan Plantation. Her husband, Precinct 3 Constable Mike Lang, did the same at other voting sites.

“It was a good day,” Lang said Tuesday night at American Town Hall, when it became clear that she had won the race.

Lang said that she has no plans to make sweeping changes in that office.

“I want to get to know my employees,” she said. “We’ll take it one step at a time.”

county commissioner 2

In the Precinct 2 County Commissioner race, Barton, a Pecan Plantation resident, received the most votes in early voting – 729 to Gullett’s 543 – as well as in each of the three voting precincts for that seat, which are 2, 11 and 16.

He won a total of 1,371 votes to Gullett’s 998.

Gullett is an 11-year employee of the county’s Road Operations department.

“I’m elated,” Barton said Tuesday night at American Town Hall, where he and other candidates had gathered along with supporters to watch election returns.

“This is my first journey in the political world, so everything’s unknown. But I told voters, ‘I will get up every day and I will give you my very best.’”

Barton said that his service as a member of the Hood County Development Commission gave him the opportunity to get to know the “key players” in county government.

“Hopefully, this will be a seamless transition, and I won’t be the new kid on the block for very long,” he said.

precinct 3 jp race

Early voting numbers oftentimes predict the outcome of a race, but not always – particularly when there are three or more candidates.

Early voting numbers in the Precinct 3 justice of the peace race showed Gwinn with a strong lead, with Frye coming in at number two.

But as the boxes came in for voting precincts 10, 13 and 14, Grober overtook Frye. The result is a runoff between Grober and Gwinn.

The vote tallies and percentages in that race were: Gwinn – 43 percent (1,052 votes); Grober – 30 percent (739 votes); and Frye – 27 percent (656 votes).

Gwinn, who has been a justice of the peace clerk for seven years and works for Precinct 4 JP Danny Tuggle, said she hopes that voters will see that she is the best qualified candidate. She said that she already has a good relationship with the staff in that office.

“I’ll win it because I know the people of Precinct 3 want someone in there with the experience and qualifications that I have,” she said.

Grober, who has more than 25 years of service to Hood County and has been elected Granbury Fire Chief for eight consecutive terms, indicated that being a justice of the peace is not the same as being a JP clerk.

“I think I have the skills needed to make good common sense decisions,” he said. “I have a good history with the community and have shown my ability to make life and death decisions.”

may runoff, other elections

The runoff between Grober and Gwinn will be Tuesday, May 27. Early voting will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, May 19 through Friday, May 23.

All early voting will take place at Annex 1, 1410 W. Pearl St.

The runoff is not the only election that month.

On Saturday, May 10, voters will determine the makeup of the Lipan School Board and whether the city of Granbury should sell its electric utility system.

In Lipan, Todd Tuggle, who was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Place 2 seat, is unopposed on the ballot, as is Walter Baldree, who holds the Place 5 seat.

But there is competition in two other races.

In Place 3, incumbent Rhonda Millington faces Ellyn Grove.

In Place 4, incumbent Ned Tipton has three opponents – Shane Shockley, Tim Ross and Phillip Tarpley.

Early voting for the May 10 election will be 8 to 5 weekdays from Monday, April 28, to Tuesday, May 6.

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