Dem chair seeks seat as county commish
By Dave Rogers
For The Record
For the first time in four years, Orange County will host a contested November county government election in 2018.
Former Orange city councilwoman Deborah Mitchell is running in the November 6, 2018 election as a Democrat for Orange County Commissioner Precinct 2, she announced Tuesday.
She recently retired as a schools administrator.
“I’m retired, so my focus will be on doing my job and making sure I’m there during the time I’m getting paid for doing the job,” Mitchell said.
“People feel that if you’re getting paid for a job, you need to do that job.”
Having Mitchell on the ballot will force Orange County’s first election between a Republican and a Democrat since Democrat Gail Barnett unsuccessfully took on Republican David Peck for the Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 race in 2014.
Barry Burton, finishing up the third year of his first four-year term, is the incumbent Precinct 2 commissioner, representing an area that includes Pinehurst, Mauriceville and the east side of Vidor.
Teresa Beauchamp, another former Orange city councilwoman, has announced she intends to oppose Burton in the March 6, 2018 Republican primary.
In 2016, when local Republicans led the county to a landslide vote – 79-18 percent – in favor of Donald Trump for president, no Democrat signed up to run for county office.
Those Republicans who survived March 2016 primaries won the November 8, 2016 election in a walk-over.
Mitchell is currently the chairperson for the Orange County Democratic Party and will have to surrender that office in the fall, when she officially registers to run.
The official filing date to seek office is from Nov. 11 to Dec. 11, 2017. Politicians wishing to run for office in Orange County must fill out paperwork designating a campaign treasurer before announcing their intent to run.
Mitchell said she was filing her paperwork Tuesday.
So far, two challengers have signed up to oppose both Burton and Jody Crump, County Commissioner Precinct 4.
Vidor Mayor Robert Viator and former Orange County Assistant Emergency Coordinator Kenneth Luce have signaled their intent to run against Crump, who is seeking his third term as a commissioner. Precinct 4 includes Rose City, Pine Forest and most of Vidor on the county’s west side.
County Judge Stephen Brint Carlton, completing his first term on the five-man commissioners’ court, has drawn a challenge from former county judge and current Pinehurst Mayor R.A. “Pete” Runnels.
“For the last couple of years we haven’t had any Democrats to run, because our Democrats jumped to the Republican Party,” Mitchell said. “I intend to remain a Democrat.”
A mother of five grown children whose husband, Eric, is a retired Orange Police Department officer, Mitchell was in the audience at commissioners’ court Tuesday as commissioners accepted thank-yous from county employees for proposed raises.
“I know we found some money so we’re financially better,” Mitchell said of the county. “I wish we’d have found it earlier.
“But we still need a hospital. We need to make our community more attractive so people will want to come live in Orange County.
“People say ‘What about business? We’ve lost opportunities to bring in new businesses.’ ‘What are our young people going to do?’ ‘How are we using our natural resources?’
“My main focus as a commissioner would be to be accessible to the people and, in collaboration with the other commissioners, be sure our county is No. 1.”