Dave Rogers

For The News

Little more than a month ahead of the start of early voting for the Orange County GOP Primary, the county judge election got a little less crowded Tuesday.

Though not necessarily less confusing.

Kenneth Luce, former Orange County deputy emergency management coordinator, announced he is no longer running to unseat County Judge Stephen Brint Carlton.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party has announced a Feb. 6 Town Hall meeting in Vidor to give opponents in the County Judge and Precinct 4 County Commissioner races a chance to square off before the voters.

That Feb. 6 meeting will be at 6 p.m. at the Vidor Elementary School cafeteria.

Luce posted news of his campaign’s end on his Facebook page Tuesday.

“I’m sad to announce that I have withdrawn from the race for Orange County Judge,” Luce stated.

“I cannot afford to continue to fund this race out of my pocket. I have a belief that if you don’t have it, don’t spend it. I sincerely appreciate everyone’s support you have given me. Thank You very much.”

Luce’s withdrawal leaves Carlton with one opponent in the March 6 primary for the $105,400 a year job, former Beaumont police lieutenant Dean Crooks.

But David Covey, Orange County Republican Party chairman, said, Luce will still be on the ballots that begin being official Feb. 20, the start of early voting.

“The deadline for ordering ballots has already passed,” Covey said, “so we could still see the judge’s race go to a runoff.”

To avoid a runoff, a candidate must receive 50 percent plus one – a majority – of the votes cast. With three names on the ballot, the possibility is greater than none will achieve a majority.

Besides County Judge, three other races will be decided in the GOP Primary.

Two-term Commissioner Jody Crump, a former mayor of Pine Forest, is being challenged by Vidor Mayor Robert Viator in Precinct 4.

First-term Commissioner Barry Burton is being challenged by former Orange city council member Theresa Beauchamp in Precinct 2, and County Treasurer Christy Khoury seeks her third full term against challenger David Smith.

The winners of the March 6 primary will advance to the Nov. 6 general election.

All but three Republicans will run opposed.

The Carlton-Crooks winner will face Democrat Donald Brown for County Judge; the Burton-Beauchamp winner will face Democrat Deborah Mitchell for Precinct 2 Commissioner; and incumbent Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace will face Democrat Gail Barnett.

The Democratic Party of Orange County will have one election for the March 6 primary, to replace Acting County Chairman John Baker, who took over from Mitchell.

Louis Ackerman is running against Marcus Wilkerson for the Dem County Chairmanship.

Covey explained the format for the Feb. 6 town hall in Vidor:

“We’ll let people ask questions and if they [the candidates] attack each other, they’ll get a rebuttal,” the chairman said.

About 200 people are expected, Covey said.

“I think the town hall will provide the voters the answers they need to make an informed decision,” he said.

Covey said no face-to-face debate between Burton and Beauchamp or Khoury and Smith had been scheduled yet.

Tropical Storm Harvey has left some meeting halls unusable and others unavailable.

The VFW in Orange can’t be used, Covey said, because it has rented out its parking lot to a construction company. Other halls had water damage.

“We’ve checked in with eight venues and we haven’t been successful at getting them,” Covey said. “Post-hurricane, it’s challenging to get a venue.”