For nearly 60 years now I’ve known every county commissioner and judge. Some more personally than others. I recall the days of long meetings and constant squabbling; usually it was a divided court. Not Republican and Democrats but rather the liberal and conservative wings of the Democratic Party. Fortunately, over the last 30 odd years, our county has been one of the smoothest run courts anywhere.

Over the last 18 years, under Judge Carl Thibodeaux, a Louisiana transplant, the court has been overwhelmingly conservative and year after year, its operation has been envied by other counties in the state. I mention the above maybe because I feel a cloud coming. I hope not, but last week we witnessed a real injustice. Where 12-year county commissioner was victimized by a long outdated practice called straight ticket voting.

I recall many years ago, in Democratic elections, when uneducated voters were schooled to just check one box. Also minority votes were controlled by herding them to the polls and making straight ticket voters out of them. I hadn’t seen that practice raise its ugly head until four years ago, when it was an easier sell and the cry became vote against the black guy. Race in these parts and in the south since the 1964 Civil Rights Act has turned the southern states red. LBJ predicted as much when he signed the Civil Rights Bill. Straight ticket voting among Republicans escalated, even over four years ago, when local leaders pushed hard this cycle for a vote against Obama. Believe me, it wasn’t a positive vote for Romney.

A week before the election we got wind of a Romney phone bank and wondered why. We found out voters were being encouraged to vote straight party. The danger is that it renders people to conform to a party philosophy rather than educating themselves on individual candidates. It allows bad candidates to ride the wave rather than on their own merits. Also, it’s an unfair practice to a local candidate who is not judged on his quality of service but becomes a victim of a scheme that doesn’t judge the candidate.  In the majority of votes cast in Orange County, it was a vote against Obama and his policies. The defeat of County Commissioner John Dubose is not a reflection on him; it was an absolute reflection on the Obama Administration.

What’s shameful about that is that local government has no connection to national politics. If we would have voted two separate ballots, nation/state and local ballot, Dubose would have won handily. A few years ago, Dubose defeated his opponent, John Banken, carrying over 70 percent of the vote. In this race however, Banken received 4,389 votes, of that 3,297 were straight party votes, allowing him to win by 880 votes. Dubose received more cross over votes than anyone. He tried educating voters, explaining that a person could vote straight party and still cross over. That’s been the law but voters didn’t understand, or down ballot candidates didn’t figure in their voting either for John Banken or Dubose. All candidates in the Democratic Party, who would have drawn Republican opposition, would have likely lost. That will possibly never happen again in our lifetime because there will not be another black at the top of the ticket. In fact, two years from now, in midterm election, it will be different. Some Democrats will scare off but voting local will return. If you believe any Democrats could have gotten elected in this straight party sweep look at these figures. Uncontested Republican races got 7,000 more votes in local races than uncontested Democratic candidates. County wide, straight party Republican votes amounted to 72.60 percent of total vote, exactly the same percentage Banken got.

Having said all of the above, we got lucky; we could have elected an unqualified candidate. I’ve known John Banken for many years. He’s befriended me in the past. I’ve known him as a good Christian family man. He was a good city councilman and mayor of Bridge City. As a former plant manager, he knows budgets and working with people. Banken is a level headed guy and unless he’s influenced by the extremist, he will be a good county commissioner. Waste and fat in the county operations is non-existent. He doesn’t have to look for boogie men, there aren’t any.

Now let me say a few words about John Dubose. I’ve known him for over 35 years. I’m aware of his childhood. John was raised an orphan, he rode a bicycle while holding two jobs to send himself to school and college. He became a CPA and climbed the ladder with Cox Enterprise and was comptroller of the Port Arthur News when I met him. He later became publisher of the Orange Leader. He served as city councilman and twice mayor of Bridge City before being elected county commissioner. He and his wife, Joyce, adopted two children. When unjust attempts were made to take their son away from them, John worked two jobs to pay for several appeals that took the case all the way to the Supreme Court. When the case was won in John and Joyce’s favor it became case law. As a commissioner he’s worked untiringly toward accomplishments for his county. He’s often called a workaholic but in truth he’s a doer. He’s a true conservative, a numbers guy. His experience has served the court well. Of all the commissioners I’ve known, none have been more dedicated. John accomplished a lot for his precinct, usually through grants. He repaired several roads by working with other entities. Judge Carl Thibodaux will tell you John is one of the most knowledgeable commissioners he’s ever served with.

Former Judge James Stringer says his service and know how will be missed on the court. “John was a natural to someday serve as county judge. He’s prepared himself well.”

John is a caring person who always will be dedicated to service and someday I look for him to return to public service. As for John, he’ll be alright; he’s a strong person who knows that you serve at the will of the people regardless of how it comes about.

About Dr. Roy Stanford

Dr. Roy Stanford Jr. is the Orange County Extension agent for agriculture.