San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

June 14th, 2009
Tension escalates between Barton and Sumter

Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle), left, and Hays County Judge Liz Sumter (D-Wimberley), right, are likely to face off in the Democratic primary for judge next March.

Managing Editor

A recent meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) has led to a war of words between Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle) and County Judge Liz Sumter (D-Wimberley).

A rocky relationship between Sumter and Barton has characterized the commissioners court for more than two years, almost from the very start of their present terms, which began in January 2007 after each won election in November 2006. Now, it appears the voters will decide between them as they face off in the Democratic primary for county judge next March.

Sumter will officially kick off her re-election campaign at an event on June 21 in Wimberley. As Sumter’s presumed challenger, Barton faces a tricker road, for he would have to step down from his seat to run for judge. Though political observers take Barton’s candidacy for judge as a near given, he has not announced that intention. He could announce it no later than the filing deadline in early January.

Barton issued a press release on June 9 to outline several projects that received funding through CAMPO, including an overpass in Buda, safety lanes in San Marcos and street striping in Kyle.

In the same release, Barton insinuated that Sumter, who sits on the CAMPO board, was remiss in her responsibilities by being late to what he deemed a “crucial workshop.” Barton, a CAMPO vice president in the 1990s, now serves as an alternate to the CAMPO board.

Said Barton’s press release, in regard to a workshop concerning funding for State Highway (SH) 45 Southwest:

“(Barton) noted that the county was well served by its mayors on the CAMPO board, Kyle Mayor Mike Gonzalez and San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz, both of whom attended the crucial workshop session of CAMPO before the regular meeting. It was at the workshop where CAMPO members hammered out priorities for funding and narrowed the field. County Judge Liz Sumter, who sits on the board, did not attend the workshop session and was an hour late to the follow-up meeting at 5 p.m. before leaving town for a conference on South Padre.”

Sumter, along with Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe (D-San Marcos), Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley (R-San Marcos) and Precinct 4 Commissioner Karen Ford (D-Dripping Springs), attended the annual South Texas Judges and Commissioners Association Conference. Ingalsbe is the outgoing president of the association. Their attendance at the conference caused the cancellation of last week’s commissioners court meeting.

Barton was asked by CAMPO Chairman State Senator Kirk Watson (D-14) to serve on a special committee dealing with SH45, and presented a report at a June 8 workshop.

Sumter took issue with Barton’s statement.

“Barton’s assertion that I missed the ‘crucial workshop’ is a blatantly false statement and his motives for these false statements and others makes me wonder about his true reason for his press release and his credibility,” Sumter said in an email to Newstreamz.

Continued Sumter, “On Monday, June 8th I attended the CAMPO board meeting. I was there to hear all of the citizens comments and participate in discussion and vote on every agenda item, including the 29 million dollar stimulus money projects. I was not there to hear the 45SW presentation, which took place before the 6:00pm CAMPO business meeting. Because of my full schedule on Monday, I made sure I received briefings and the written recommendation beforehand, so that I would be fully informed. No vote was taken on the SH45 issue and it is anticipated that it will make the business meeting agenda sometime in September after a workshop.”

The agenda for CAMPO’s June 8 meeting, which is posted on its website, lists a work session beginning at 4 p.m. and public comments starting at 6 p.m.

Sumter said she did attend a work session with San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz on June 3 to discuss the roads eligible for  funding through federal stimulus monies to be distributed by CAMPO. She also said that neither Barton or Gonzalez were present to answer questions.

Barton’s press release credits a wide variety of people, citing “…Buda staff and the economic development corporation, and the city council, especially, council member Sandra Tenorio and Mayor Bobby Lane, who helped advocate for the project with CAMPO board members.”

Said Barton, “This doesn’t happen by accident. A lot of people deserve credit.”

Sumter agreed, up to a point.

“Barton is right about one thing, it does take an entire team of folks to get any number of projects funded by CAMPO,” Sumter said. “Barton concentrated solely on getting the Buda bridge project ready to go, while Commissioner Conley worked hard on getting the RR12 safety project ready to go and Commissioner Ingalsbe worked equally hard on the SH21 safety project. It was my job to make sure all three roads made the short list for funding, which they did. It was also my job as the CAMPO representative to get them all funded and I almost did.”

Sumter also asserted that Barton influenced Gonzalez to vote in favor of a Travis County project, the Highway Emergency Response Operator (HERO) program, over funding for SH 21.

“Unfortunately Mayor Gonzales(sic) did not rank SH21 in his top 5 priorities and that resulted in SH21 falling 2 points short of being funded,” Sumter wrote in her email. “Maybe it was because Commissioner Barton was actively supporting the Travis County HERO program and that influenced Mayor Gonzales(sic) to rank the HERO program in his top five priorities and not SH21. I don’t know, I can only guess. ”

Barton, who also served as the Precinct 2 commissioner in the 1990s before losing to challenger Susie Carter (R-Uhland) in 1998, considered running for judge in 2006 before deciding to take on Carter for his old seat and winning that bid. Sumter defeated two-term incumbent Jim Powers (R-Dripping Springs) for judge that same year.

Though 2006 the elections of Barton, Sumter and Ford swung the court from a 4-1 Republican majority to a 4-1 Democratic majority, their legislative priorities have been much less influenced by their shared label as Democrats than by their differences.

Most famously, Sumter and Barton clashed over a May 2007 road bond supported by a pass-through financing agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), with Barton in support of the debt issue. Sumter had campaigned for judge against the pass-through agreement. After a bond election failed in May 2007, a modified version passed in November 2008.

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0 thoughts on “Tension escalates between Barton and Sumter

  1. See, this is what I get so sick of in San Marcos/Hays County politics. All of this bickering and fighting over who went to what meeting, who was late, what time they came, etc…I have one thing to say to Commissioner Barton and Judge Sumter: Don’t you both have a county to run?!

    Commissioner Barton, if you want to unseat Liz in the upcoming primary, then honestly, you have my vote, but this immature bickering needs to stop. It has plagued our county for too long and is only detrimental to the ultimate goal of a better Hays County for our children.

    Right now, Hays County deserves better than either of you, and I never thought I would say this, but I hope the Republicans can muster up a middle-of-the road, drama free (or at least as close to drama free as a politician can be) candidate to run against whom ever wins this Democratic primary.

    This is ridiculous.

  2. How sad is it that Judge Sumter can’t spell the name of a mayor in her county?
    Judges shouldn’t be partisan in the first place, but unfortunately, that is the system we have. Judge Sumter should keep her maybes, wonderings, and guesses to herself. Silence is golden, and Judge Sumter’s comments aren’t even recyclable. Her “right on one thing” comment is condescending and tells more about her than Commissioner Barton.
    Judge Sumter’s publicly questioning Mayor Gonzalez’ ranking of his top five priorities is overreaching at best and points to the judge’s personal agenda and prejudices. Since when does a judge make her case in a tit for tat e-mail about commissioners?
    By her omission of Commissioner Ford in her account of the commissioner’s activities, was she indicating that while the other hard-working commissioners concentrated on getting projects funded, Commissioner Ford did nothing? Or was she saying that Commissioner Barton concentrated on only one project, while Conley, Ingalsbe, and she had to concentrate on all three projects, while Ford did nothing?
    I would like to know who gave Judge Sumter the job as she described it? Who is writing the judge’s job description? Was this a job she volunteered for? Is she assigning jobs to the commissioners? Next year we can give them their grades!
    Notice that Sumter didn’t deny any of Commissioner Barton’s specific allegations. I can only guess that Commissioner Barton hopes Judge Sumter will keep defending herself, Conley, and Ingalsbe.
    You are right Tyler, this is ridiculous. It’s also embarrassing.
    Sean, another excellent article; but, either or or neither nor, not neither or.

  3. Commissioners Ford and Ingalsbe are not on the CAMPO Board, nor is Conley…and neither is Barton, if I remember correctly, but he is on some committee related to transportation/transit that is part of CAMPO.

  4. The lady doth protest too much. If Barton can swing such influence over a member of the Board and get votes for his pet projects – then I guess he really does have more influence than Sumter on CAMPO. Why is she shooting herself in the foot? Not a good strategy. Or a well-reasoned argument.

    I can only imagine what the “Dark Forces of Evil” or the Good Old Boy network did to influence the vote of Mayor Narvaiz. Surely Conley worked his evil ways over Mayor Narvaiz. Where are the conspiracy nuts ? Is it just too hot outside?

    Django – you apparently don’t read the articles associated with these posts. It clearly states that Barton is an “alternate” on the CAMPO Board. Educate thyself!

    Sounds like Tyler is a Republican….

  5. I would like for Mayor Gonzalez to tell us all why he chose not to support SH 21. That is a good question, don’t you think?

  6. I apologize, again, django, but the policy here since the first instants of Newstreamz time is that off-site links aren’t allowed in the comments.

  7. North, YOU know Bill is right about the policy… so why try to stir up trouble with conspiracy crap? “i bookmarked the page before ‘they’ remove…”
    You keep holding yourself out as a wanta be leader in San Marcos—like running for office— yet instead of focusing on positive solutions, you just find little useless negative things to fluff up. You sound like just another politician more concerned about their name in print than creating a better life.

  8. Yeah, that’s me, (insert ‘Chris’ last name here)… All about the spotlight…
    Sorry, that comment wasn’t meant to be sinister or cutting or a slam, although I had just gotten off the phone with one of my relatives and was in a pretty bad mood- another lesson learned.
    Anyway, I just appreciate the link, as i am too lazy/busy to do the clicking/research to discern if what all these wackos are saying is true. People should not get to post anonymously under many different names. Nothing wrong with links or pics or moderation or registration of one user name. Or a change in policy. Love.

  9. The link I had posted simply directed one to the CAMPO website, directly to the Transit Working Group section.

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