— By CHRISTIN COYNE
Two Republican candidates for justice of the peace say they believe Parker County Republican Chair Zan Prince inappropriately used her position to attack their campaigns and give their opponents an advantage in the ongoing primary election.
In a mass email distributed Saturday by Prince, she discussed the participation of two candidates in Democratic primaries since 2003.
Both men said they have a history of voting for Republican candidates, they have an explanation for their primary voting records and they requested they be able to respond in the same email forum but were not given the opportunity to do so.
“Generally, I only have to share voting history during the ‘non-partisan’ municipal elections, but this year, primary candidate Bernard Suchocki’s voting history shows no Republican primary vote and a vote in the Democratic primary in 2008,” Prince wrote in a mass email distributed Saturday. “Primary candidate Jerry Hataway voted in the 2004/2008 Democratic primaries and the 2012 Republican primary. All other candidates are rated either “hard” or “weak” Republican. You have a right to know the candidate’s voting history, and you may want to follow up on the issue with them.”
“The candidates that have participated in Democratic primaries to the extent that the Republican database identifies them as Democrats have complained that they have a response for voters,” Prince wrote in a follow up email that provided website information for the two campaigns. “Please give them a call or check out their websites for the explanations.”
Suchocki, who has campaigned for Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 as a “life-long conservative Republican,” said the email was an attack on his credibility.
“It’s pretty obvious to me Zan Prince wants my opponent to win,” Suchocki said. “That’s been plain to me for a long period of time. What she did is very inappropriate. She is a lady who constantly talks about doing things above board, about being honest, about being straightforward. And what she did I think is highly inappropriate because she is making the assumption that because I voted in the 2008 Democratic campaign, that that makes me a Democrat. That is absolutely absurd.”
Suchocki said the only time he had not voted for the Republican candidate was when he voted in the 2008 Democrat primary, as thousands of other conservative Republican did, in an attempt to keep the presidential nomination from going to Barack Obama.
“I have been a conservative Republican all my life,” Suchocki said. “And to say I’m not, calling me a Democrat, is calling me a liar.”
Records show Suchocki, an attorney, has donated to Republican judicial candidates over the past decade, including Judge John Chupp and Judge Ken Curry.
Suchocki said he donated $500 to the campaign of Judge Susan Heygood-McCoy, a Republican candidate, most recently and has donated to other Republicans in the past, as well.
Both men also say they have been attending local Republican meetings for the past year.
“I am not disputing the basic facts she sent out, but the extremely prejudicial way she did it and now not allowing me to respond to those she apparently was wanting to get information to,” Hataway, a candidate in a four-way race for Justice of the Peace Precinct 3, said, questioning why the issue was not brought out earlier and every candidate’s voting record put on display.
Prince was aware of his voting record in November and he has been honest when potential voters have asked, according to Hataway, who said he is a conservative and Republican.
“I know I am not the preferred candidate of the political powers that be in Parker County,” Hataway said. “All I have wanted to do is run my race and be treated fairly.”
“A simple answer to my voting record is my attempts to support ‘close’ friends in their run for office and my attempts to support a more righteous candidate,” Hataway told Prince in an email.
Hataway said he voted in the Democratic primary in 2008 to support a close friend running for sheriff in Tarrant County and, in 2004, he voted against a state candidate that he had personal knowledge of poor judgment, morality and political views.
“I have to vote within my religious and ethical beliefs and cannot vote blindly for a person,” Hataway said. “I have always educated myself on all the candidates running for office and I could not ignore any personal knowledge I may have had about a candidate.”
“I had people repeatedly ask me to check the primary voting records of the candidates,” Prince told the Democrat Tuesday. “And, to be perfectly honest, I was appalled that we had two whose primary voting history aligned them with the Democratic party in our database.”
Had the men participated in more Republican primaries than Democratic primaries, the program she uses would have showed the candidates as Republican, according to Prince.
“[I] didn’t take sides,” Prince said. “I provided information and I encouraged voters to discuss the issue with them.”
“I provided the people who receive our emails the contact information to address the issue with the candidates if they so chose,” Prince said in response to the complaint that she had not provide the candidates an opportunity to explain their voting history in the same forum.
There are no rules that say whether or not a county party chair may support candidates during the primary, according to Prince.
“There are county chairs across that state that believe that they should have an endorsement in every race and there are county chairs across the state that are completely neutral,” Prince said. “I am somewhere in between. I generally do not publicly endorse in the primary but I have been known to.”
“The real purpose of the local party is to register, educate and turnout voters,” Prince said. “And part of my job as county chair is to educate voters with information that they may or may not have readily available on their own. This is one of those times. They could go to the elections office and get the voting history of each of these candidates but that’s kind of tedious for each voter to go and get the voting history of each of these candidates.”