Crooks leads challengers to OC primary wins
For The Record
The winds of change blew through Orange County Tuesday, as former Beaumont policeman Dean Crooks led a sweep of challengers who won the Republican Primary for seats on Commissioners’ Court.
Crooks defeated County Judge Stephen Brint Carlton with 57.3 percent of the vote to 36.6 percent.
Vidor Mayor Robert Viator crushed two-term Commissioner Precinct 4 Jody Crump by a margin of 70.4 percent to 29.6 and former Orange council member Theresa Adams Beauchamp finished with 50.1 percent to 49.9 edge over incumbent Precinct 2 Commissioner Barry Burton.
A total of 9,113 ballots were cast in Orange County, with 5,305 cast in early voting Feb. 19 through March 2.
Of the 9,113 ballots, 86.7 percent of them, 7,895, were cast in the Republican Primary.
Crooks, a Mauriceville resident making his first try for elective office, garnered 4,315 votes compared to 2,755 for Carlton and 459 (6.1 percent) for Ken Luce of Vidor, who dropped out of the race after ballots were printed.
“Four thousand, 315 people believed in me so strongly they went and voted for me, and I can’t let them down,” Crooks said.
“And the 2,755 that voted for Judge Carlton, I want to represent them, too.”
Budget cuts by commissioners’ court begun after Carlton’s election in 2014 trimmed employees’ vacation, retirement and insurance benefits and caused hard feelings that were evident among the challengers’ supporters.
Carlton, Crump and Burton, who each put off a 2017 pay raise commissioners passed by a 4-1 vote (Crump opposing) for all elected county officials, pointed to their thrift in building a $12 million fund balance in three years.
But the voters spoke loudly Tuesday.
Crooks said plain-speaking was the key to his campaign.
“I think talking to people instead of at people helped a whole lot,” he said. “I think taking the money we collect in taxes and discussing what we use it for and translating it into how it affects people, that’s what helps.”
Crooks said he was too much of a political novice to know if he should have been surprised by his victory margin.
“I didn’t have a goal. I ran the best race I knew how to run and it ended up the way it ended up and I’m very happy about it.”
Asked his immediate plans, he said he first was going to pick up his yard signs.
“Then I guess I’ll get ready for a run in November if that’s what’s necessary. I understand there’s still some discussion about that, so we’ll see how that goes.
“In the meantime, I’m going to learn as much as I can about how we fix some of our basic problems in Orange County, getting water off of people, fixing roads, having a good relationship with the sheriff’s department, stronger law enforcement and a stronger county.”
Viator didn’t draw a Democratic opponent in the Nov. 6 general election, while Beauchamp faces former Democratic Chair Deborah Mitchell.
Don Brown registered to run for county judge as a Democrat, then was disqualified when his filing fee check bounced. But that decision is under appeal.
Viator won 1,434 of the 2,037 votes cast in the Precinct 4 commissioner’s race over Crump, a former mayor of Pine Forest.
Of the 2,072 votes in the Precinct 2 commissioner’s race, Beauchamp garnered 1,038 to 1,034 for Burton, who was elected to office with Carlton in 2014.
Because the margin of victory – four votes – was so close between Beauchamp and Burton, the race was up in the air Tuesday night.
Any mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be opened and counted Wednesday. “Then, potentially, a recount,” Burton said Tuesday night.
In the only other two contested local races on the Orange County ballot Tuesday, County Treasurer Christy Khoury earned a third full term with a 76.7 percent to 23.3 percent win over challenger David W. Smith and Louis Ackerman defeated Marcus Wilkerson for County Democratic Party Chair 52.1 percent to 47.9 percent.
Uncontested races in the Republican primary saw the advancement of:
260th District Court Judge Steven Parkhurst; County Court at-Law Judge Mandy White-Rogers; District Clerk Vickie Edgerly; County Clerk Brandy Robertson; Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 Hershel Stagner, Jr.; Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 Chad Jenkins; Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Joy Dubose-Simonton; Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 Rodney Price; and Republican County Chairman David Covey.
Parkhurst and Jenkins are the only newcomers in the bunch, replacing retiring Judges Buddy Hahn and Derry Dunn. Stagner and Covey have stepped into fill unexpired terms, so this was their first election.
Stagner will be opposed in November by attorney Gail Barnett. The other unopposed Republicans Tuesday will also be unopposed in November.