Merritt wins re-election as Sheriff; Gothia wins Precinct 3 commissioner seat
By Tommy Mann Jr. – For The Record
The ballots are in and the voters of Orange County have spoken.
Super Tuesday sparked a lot of voter interest across the country on Tuesday, including Texas. Voters in Orange County were just as interested in the Presidential races this Primary period, but there were several local races of interest as well.
The Orange County Republican ballot was loaded with local races.
Orange County Sheriff Keith Merritt was successful in his bid for re-election as he defeated challenger David Smith by a vote of 11,173 to 3,067.
Merritt’s victory was never in jeopdardy as he held a commanding lead following the release of early voting totals, 5,633 to 1,249.
“We put together a heck of a campaign and had a lot of great workers to help us get voters out,” Merritt said after winning his third term as Orange County Sheriff. “I’m very pleased and it’s been a good race.”
Merritt said be believed the large support of voters, of which he received 78.46 percent, is because of his overall performance the past seven years.
“I’ve run this campaign on my experience and what I have done during my two terms as sheriff,” Merritt added. “The people have supported me all my years as constable and now for a third term as Orange County Sheriff. I’m very blessed.”
A runoff will be required for the Orange County Commissioner’s seat in Precinct 1 as five candidates were seeking to win the position currently held by Commissioner David Dubose, who opted not to seek re-election this year.
Johnny Trahan and Bobby Manshack had the most votes in the race and will face off against each other in the runoff election on May 24. Trahan had 1,046 votes, while Manshack received 828 votes. Shirley Zimmerman finished with 527 votes, Ryan Peabody had 305 votes and Gary Hinote received 266 votes in the race for Precinct 1 as well.
“My campaign got a late start, but I received a lot of support from friends and from people I haven’t seen in 30 to 40 years,” Manshack said. “Without the support of my wife and my son and my family, as well as the people at my work, I wouldn’t have been able to make it this far. I’m going to give it my all in the run-off and I am looking forward to getting started.”
In the highly contested race for the Orange County Commissioner’s chair in Precinct 3, challenger John Gothia was victorious in his race against incumbent John Banken. Gothia won with 2,069 votes to Banken’s 1,699 votes.
“It was a long campaign and a lot of work getting to know people and getting them out to vote,” Gothia said following the victory. “But our goal was run a clean race and my campaign was focused on me and what I thought I could do for the county.”
As with all Orange County Republican candidates, Gothia is unopposed by a Democratic nominee in November and will take office in January 2017.
“We’re excited,” he added. “Now, I can look to the future. I want to grow the county and to make it good for the employees and for the citizens. Commissioner Banken ran a good race and has done a good job representing the county.”
In the race for Orange County Constable in Precinct 2, incumbent David Cagle defeated challenger Jeremiah Gunter, 2,485 to 1,216.
In the race for Orange County Constable in Precinct 4, Jimmy Lane Mooney defeated incumbent Weldon Peveto in a tightly contested race, 2,008 votes to 1,938 votes.
Two new candidates, Debbie Meaux and Karen Fisher, were hoping to become the next Orange County Tax-Assessor Collector as current office-holder, Lynda Gunstream, will be retiring. Fisher won the race as she received 7,009 votes to Meaux’s 6,932 votes.
The Orange County Clerk’s position was included this election to fill the remainder of the two year term. The position is currently held by Brandy Robertson, who was seeking to retain the position against opponent Trish Williams. Robertson won with 6,845 votes to Williams’ 5,936.
All local winners in the Orange County Republican Primary will be unopposed in the November general election.
The Orange County Democratic Party only had one contested local race on the ballot this year as County Chairperson Deborah Mitchell was successful in her bid for re-election and defeated challenger Don Brown, 1,970 to 560.
In the Republican Primary for U.S. President, Ted Cruz claimed victory in Texas. He also secured the most votes in Orange County with 7,478. Donald Trump had 1,407 and Marco Rubio had 1,407.
The Democratic Primary for U.S. President saw Hillary Clinton secure a victory in Texas. In Orange County, Clinton received 68.06 percent of the vote which was 1,852 votes. Bernie Sanders received 816 votes.