Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton, left, filed at the deadline Monday to face incumbent Hays County Judge Liz Sumter, right, in the March Democratic primary for the county judge’s office. File photos.
By ANDY SEVILLA
Local political junkies will be occupied by a number of contests in the March 2 primaries after the filing deadline passed Monday to determine who will run.
Democrats will consider four countywide races, including the much anticipated face-off for Hays County Judge between incumbent Liz Sumter (D-Wimberley) and Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle), who filed Monday. If Barton had filed before the turn of the year, he would have been required to give up his seat on the court to run for the higher position.
With their elections to county office in 2006, Sumter, Barton and Precinct 4 Commissioner Karen Ford (D-Dripping Springs) swung the court to a 4-1 Democratic majority in a clean party sweep of the available seats. However, party unity has not characterized the relationship between Barton and Sumter, who were almost immediately adversaries in key debates.
Since last summer, when Sumter kicked off her re-election bid, she and Barton have unofficially campaigned against each other with subtle tit-for-tats during county court proceedings and in speaking about public policy.
As she questioned Barton’s ability to “follow through” Monday night, Sumter also tried to downplay the friction between herself and Barton, which now is destined for the campaign trail.
“There were over 2,000 votes taken on this court, and I think Commissioner Barton and I have maybe voted differently on maybe 34 of them,” Sumter said. “So, I know people like to think there is this great tension and disagreement, but quite frankly, there isn’t, especially when you go back and look at the number of votes. In light of that, I really don’t know why he’s running. But there are some very big differences between the two of us.”
Said Barton, “There’s so much more to be done. It’s been a successful three years as county commissioner. But with the right judge, with the right commissioners’ court, we will lay foundations that will make this a great place to live long after we are gone.”
On the Republican side, San Marcos surgeon Bert Cobb and Kyle-area business owner Peggy Jones announced they were running for Hays County judge late last year. The winner of their March contest will take on the survivor between Sumter and Barton in November.
Hays County Democratic Party chair Katie Bell Moore said a couple county Democrats are guaranteed victory in November because no other candidates filed on the Republican or Democratic sides. Highest among them is District Attorney Sherri Tibbe of Buda, the incumbent who won the position by fewer than 100 votes in a 2006 run against Republican Wesley Mau.
Also guaranteed victory due to no opposition is long-time Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Beth Smith (D-Kyle).
State Representative Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs), seeking his fifth term in the legislature, faces a busy path to re-election. He has drawn Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District board member Andrew Backus of Driftwood in the Democratic primary. For the Republicans, Jason Isaac, a business owner in Dripping Springs, has filed for the legislative seat.
Two Democratic appointments to the county legal system also will face challenges in the Democratic primary.
For Hays County Court at Law No. 1 Judge, former Hays County Democratic Party chair Anna Martinez Boling faces a challenge from Hays County Assistant Attorney David Mendoza. The commissioners voted, 4-1, along straight party lines to appoint Boling as the interim judge after Judge Howard Warner passed away in July.
Sheriff Tommy Ratliff, appointed to the position in early 2009 after the December 2008 death of Sheriff Allen Bridges, now faces a primary fight on the Democratic side from Bill Huddleston of Dripping Springs. Ratliff took the appointment with the same 4-1 Democratic majority. Huddleston lost the 2008 election for sheriff to Bridges, a Republican.
Another contested race promised in the Republican Party was to take place for Barton’s seat at Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner. Kyle Mayor Mike Gonzalez and Hays CISD Trustee Mark Jones both announced they would run for the seat. The winner would face Kyle City Councilmember Ray Bryant, who did not draw an opponent in the Democratic primary.
On the national front, Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), did not draw a primary opponent. However, two candidates filed for the Republicans – George Morovich of La Grange and Donna Campbell of Columbus.