With a little more than a week left for candidates to file for state and county offices, the field for the 2014 elections is taking shape. It appears it will be a crowded Republican field for many offices, but among the Democrats, members of the county’s once-dominate political party, there is a dearth of candidates.
Nine of the offices up for election next year will be contested in the Republican primary.
In two races — County Commissioner Precinct 2 and 212th District Court — there are at least five candidates seeking the GOP nomination.
County commissioner’s race full
Kevin O’Brien, who was elected during the 2010 Republican sweep, faces five challengers in the primary. Among them is his primary opponent from three years ago, Joe Giusti.
In what was then a surprise, Giusti, the Precinct 4 Chief Deputy Constable, lost to O’Brien by just 30 votes in the 2010 primary. This go around, Giusti is joined by Santa Fe businessman Andy McDonald, Galveston engineering company owner Janet Hoffman and Galveston construction company owner John Listowski in challenging O’Brien.
Galveston school board member Beau Rawlins announced his candidacy via Facebook and filed with the county party, but as of Tuesday had yet to file a treasurer’s report with the District Clerk’s office, which is required to spend or raise funds for a campaign.
No Democrats have announced for the office.
The other commissioner’s office up for election is Precinct 4, where incumbent Ken Clark has not drawn a challenger.
Criss out, GOP dominates
Another crowded race will be the GOP primary for the 212th District Clerk. Judge Susan Criss, a Democrat, who holds that office now, announced she doesn’t plan to run for re-election. She confirmed that she plans to resign from the bench next week and is expected to run for state representative.
That leaves the judgeship wide open and already five candidates — all Republicans — are racing for the nomination.
Patricia Grady, wife of County Court No. 1 Judge John Grady, is running, as is attorney Bret Griffin. Keith Gross, Rob Swofford and George Young join them in the race.
Griffin is rumored to have a slight advantage in the race once Criss resigns. That’s because once Criss steps down, Gov. Rick Perry will appoint someone to fill the remainder of the term. Griffin is thought to be the person Perry is looking to appoint.
Another crowded GOP field will be the race for the 306th District Court, where Democrat Janice Yarbrough doesn’t plan to run for re-election.
Jennifer Burnett, Anne Darring and Wilfried Schmitz are each seeking to be the next judge.
Field full for troubled court
The other open judicial race is for County Court No. 3. The office was once held by Christopher Dupuy, who in September resigned from office — after he was forced off the bench due to suspension — and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of perjury and abuse of official capacity.
Dupuy was one of two candidates who took advantage of the 2010 Republican sweep to get elected but were later forced from office. Former District Clerk Jason Murray, who was charged in a domestic abuse case and spent time in jail, also left office in disgrace.
Seeking to replace Dupuy are Kerri Foley, who was appointed to that post after Dupuy was ousted. She’ll be challenged by attorneys Jack Ewing, Donnie Quintanilla and Byron Fulk.
No Democrats have filed.
In County Court No. 2, Republican Judge Barbara Roberts drew a primary challenge from Jonathan Kieschnick.
County judge, DA opposed
There are also primary challenges coming for first-term County Judge Mark Henry. It appears Henry has the backing of the bulk of the county’s Republican establishment, but that didn’t stop business owner, real estate broker and sometimes actress and reality TV personality Michelle Hatmaker from mounting a challenge.
Hatmaker has the backing of County Tax Assessor Cheryl Johnson and Precinct 4 Constable Jimmy Fullen. She hired former Channel 13 investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino to work on her campaign.
This race has already, via social media mostly, turned nasty. A Hatmaker fundraiser in Hitchcock was canceled with both candiates going to Facebook to blame the other for why the event was put off.
District Attorney Jack Roady is facing a primary challenge. Philip Morris, who initially filed to run against Henry for county judge, switched to run for district attorney.
Morris lost a race for district court judge two years ago.
New JP lines
The redrawing of the county’s justices of the peace precincts, from nine to four precincts, set up some interesting primary races.
In the new Precinct 1, current Precinct 7 Judge Toni Randall faces Alison Cox and Stephanie Barnett in the primary. Cox is the wife of District Court Judge Lonnie Cox.
In the race for Justice of the Peace Precinct 2, two candidates are running for the GOP nomination and one is running as a Democrat.
Jim Schweitzer, the Precinct 1 justice, has switched parties to run as a Republican. Santa Fe school board member Jason O’Brien will challenge him in the primary.
O’Brien is the son of County Commissioner Kevin O’Brien.
The winner of that primary will face current Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Mike Nelson in November. While a Democrat, Nelson has support among Republicans.
Nelson isn’t the only Democrat to file for office. Current Precinct 5 Justice of The Peace Darrell Apffell has filed to run for the newly formed Precinct 3.
Battle for state rep
With Craig Eiland’s announcement that he won’t seek re-election for the District 23 state representative seat, there’s another open seat up for grabs.
This one, however, promises to feature a contested race in November. Eiland successfully beat back strong Republican challengers the past two elections.
For the Republicans, 2012 GOP nominee Wayne Faircloth is running again after surviving a primary runoff two years ago before losing to Eiland. But the insurance agency owner won’t have easy sailing in this primary either.
Bob Senter, a senior manager for a Texas City-based insurance firm, seeks to challenge Faircloth.
The winner of that race likely will face Criss in the November general election.
Where are the Dems?
In a show of changing times, few Democrats are expected to run in what was once a Democratic county.
Galveston County Democratic Party Chairman Lloyd Criss said to expect that to continue. While he said he’s talked to some potential candidates for judicial races, no one has committed.
He also hinted that the Democrats may not mount a challenge for county judge. He did say his primary focus was to find a Democrat to run for U.S. Congress.
The District 14 congressional seat is held by Randy Weber who thus far is unchallenged in his primary after beating a field of nine two years ago.
The deadline for candidates to file for office for the Republican and Democratic primaries is Dec. 9.
Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.