As voters head to the polls today, there are several key races to watch as results from the Texas primary unfold.
Louie Gohmert is out of Congress, who will replace him?
Of particular interest is the Texas Congressional 1st District seat, currently held by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler). The congressman made headlines late last year when he entered the Texas Attorney General race.
On Nov. 9, Gohmert announced he was exploring the possibility of leaving his congressional seat in order to serve the state as AG. If he could raise $1 million in 10 days, he’d run. After those 10 days, Gohmert said he would enter the race as he had met the goal by his deadline, but campaign finance reports showed that wasn’t exactly true. Gohmert’s campaign finance report shows he got roughly only $27,000 by Nov. 19. Plus, a $100,000 donation that pushed him over $1 million — from a political action committee called Save Texas Now — did not come in until Dec. 31, according to the Texas Tribune.
The attorney general race itself is being called the most heated statewide primary, as current AG Ken Paxton looks to keep his post amid an FBI investigation over corruption allegations. You can read all about that race here.
With Gohmert’s seat open, four Republican candidates and four Democrats are vying for the seat.
On the GOP side, Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran Aditya “A.D.” Atholi, Joe McDaniel and John Porro are on the Republican ballot while Jrmar Jefferson, Gavin Dass, Stephen Kocen and Victor D. Dunn are on the Democratic ballot.
Moran said for him, serving East Texas at the federal level would mean representation based on local values, listening to constituents and problem-solving in Smith County that has happened during his five years as county judge. Top values of Moran’s include sanctity of life; public safety & border security; pro-2nd Amendment; fiscal responsibility; pro-liberty; and stopping government overreach.
Atholi, a former staff member of Gohmert, wants to focus on economy and job creation, border security, gun rights, taxes, spending, term limits in Congress and regulations. The Center native also worked briefly in several blue collar jobs and in the oilfield as a roughneck for seven years.
Kilgore native McDaniel is all about East Texas, he said, and called himself a “Gohmert 2.0.” He said issues he looks to address in Congress include immigration, a strong military, stopping inflation, term limits, taking back school classrooms and more.
Porro, a Dallas resident, said major issues he looks to stand for in Congress include the first and second amendments, school choice, law enforcement, secure elections, balanced budget, being against abortion and more.
As far as Democrats hopeful to replace Gohmert, Texarkana native Jefferson said he wants to improve five major areas with the Health Care Investment Literacy Act and improving education, economic development, public safety and quality of life.
Dass wants to create a better America for future generations, he said. He’d look to empower and bail out local governments, address issues in the school system, improve infrastructure and more.
Austin resident Kocen wants to “stand up and change things,” he said, by focusing on climate change, voting rights and women’s rights. Kocen said his resume of experiences has prepared him to serve in Congress.
Dunn, of Kilgore, said he would represent the whole district and not just a portion of it. Dunn said he would work toward making district staff more available, would hold monthly town hall meetings and would appoint pastors in each 1st District county.
The winners will face each other in the November general election.
Biggest Smith County races
Locally, there are six contested races in Smith County on the Republican ballot and two on the Democratic ballot.
Smith County commissioners
Of note, two Republicans will assume the Smith County commissioner Pct. 1 and Pct. 2 seats, respectively, as neither drew a Democratic challenger. The Pct. 1 commission seat opened up when Neal Franklin announced he would run for Smith County judge. Now, Bullard Mayor Pam Frederick and former Tyler ISD board President Fritz Hager are vying for Franklin’s unexpired term.
Frederick has served the city of Bullard as its mayor for 12 years, was on the Bullard City Council for eight years and taught in East Texas schools for 29 years. She believes her governmental experience and relationships built through her service would be instrumental to the court. If elected, some issues Frederick would address include public safety, mental health and roads and bridges.
Hager is the executive pastor of Bethel Bible Church and is former Tyler ISD school board president. He also is a Desert Storm combat veteran. His website states he could efficiently manage the county budget and large bond projects; support law enforcement; lead in emergency situations; and provide strategic support and guidance. He told the Tyler Morning Telegraph he believes he can be a good teammate for the county.
After the former constable was convicted of a crime, who will serve Precinct 2?
Voters will also choose who should be the next county constable for Precinct 2.
Residents are looking for someone who can restore integrity within the precinct after former constable Joshua Black was found guilty in September of using his position to request sexual favors from a woman who was asking for supervised visitation with her child. He sentenced to six months in the Smith County Jail, fined $4,000 and removed from office.
Republicans Wayne Allen, Deal Folmar and Chris Roberts, each with law enforcement backgrounds, are seeking the position.
Allen worked for the Tyler Police Department for 28 years and felt called to return to the field after Black’s arrest, he said. If elected, Allen said he would “be there for the public, doing the job that the constable is supposed to do and restoring integrity, transparency and professionalism to the office.”
Folmar retired in the fall of 2019 after 37 years as a chief deputy for the Smith County Sheriff’s Office. He is also a Master Peace Officer. He began working at the sheriff’s office in 1983 and has lived in Pct. 2 for more than 28 years. He said he looks to make the Pct. 2 constable’s office more active in the community and maintain a positive image.
Roberts is a Master Peace Officer and has been licensed for 25 years. He also has served as reserve deputy constable in Pct. 2 for the past seven years. Roberts said he would operate with an open-door policy and make sure to always be a call away for the people, serving as a resource to the public.
Texas House District 6
In the state house, Schaefer seeks another term but faces challenger
Texas House District 6 Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) is being challenged by Charles Turner.
Schaefer has worked on numerous state legislation, including HB 1129 which allows electronic voting for military members in combat zones, making it easier for them to vote in Texas elections. Among several other pieces of legislation, Schaefer co-authored HB2 to ban late-term abortions after 20 weeks and require stronger safety and health standards for abortion clinics.
According to his campaign website, Schaefer has been part of several impactful moves for Smith County, including advancing a bill to create a pharmacy bill for the University of Texas at Tyler and supporting legislation to require board members of emergency service districts to be elected rather than appointed by county commissioners. For more details on Schaefer’s conservative record, visit his campaign website.
“My basic philosophy when considering a new Texas law is this: will this law give people more freedom, or less freedom? If you want more freedom, let’s find a way,” Schaefer’s website states. “If the answer is less freedom, then the highest burden of proof is necessary to justify my vote. The new law must not only be constitutional, it must be so critical to our Texas way of life that it outweighs any loss of liberty. And when in doubt, err on the side of freedom.”
Some key issues of Schaefer’s focus include jobs and economic freedom; education including vocational and career training in public schools; health care choice, quality and affordability; providing resources to those who need them during the COVID-19 pandemic without hurting businesses and “denying individual freedoms;” public safety; wise spending; protecting the unborn; and several more. See where Schaefer stands on individual issues here.
Turner’s values including securing the border and tightening immigration; protecting the right to bear arms; protecting the unborn; and abolishing the property tax. He also supports allowing Texans to have the chance to decide if the state should reclaim its independence. More details on Turner’s values can be read on his website.
Turner was born and grew up in the small farming town of Wylie in Northeast Texas. In 1964, he graduated from Wylie High School and enrolled in Texas Technological College in Lubbock. He graduated from Texas Tech in 1968, got married and started his career as a classroom teacher. He retired from classroom teaching in 2001 with 33 years of service but continues to work for Tyler ISD in the Transportation Department. He has also served in the military.