The public was invited to attend the Parker County Republican Candidate Forum Monday night where candidates shared the issues they’re concerned about and would like to change in local and state races.
Each candidate was allowed three minutes to introduce themselves and speak about the issues they would like to tackle if elected.
12th Congressional District
The forum started with the U.S. Congressional 12th District of Texas where incumbent Kay Granger took the spotlight, followed by challenger Chris Putnam.
“It’s a privilege to represent Parker County in U.S. Congress. You’ve been very important to me.
“I want to make sure that our nation is secure and our military is the best in the world. That’s very important to me. To me, it’s really making sure we have the best equipped and best-trained military in the world. When our border became a place where literally they’re coming by the thousands across our border illegally, then my duty, my responsibility, was to see what was happening, I was asked by the speaker of the house to go to the border and see what was happening and make recommendations for Congress — how we stop that, control that,” Granger said. “My work on the border, my work for President Trump, is making sure that we have everything we need and is one of the things that led the president to endorse me for congress. Our border is better, but it’s not there yet so it’s very important. I’m very pleased to be here and I hope you will continue to let me be your representative.”
Putnam spoke next, saying he got into politics by accident after being angry with his local government.
“I absolutely believe that Republican voters in District 12 are ready and desire an authentic, unapologetic conservative fighter in Washington, D.C. right now. Mrs. Granger has been very publicly pro-abortion on national television and she continues to fund planned parenthood. I have always been 100 percent pro-life, I always will be, and I’m going to support that,” Putnam said. “Nothing is going to change in Washington, D.C. until we stop electing career politicians who say one thing and do another thing — especially when it’s election time. We have a very real threat right now with these radical, progressive socialists and we need people that understand that threat and are willing to stand up and fight it. It is time for Congressional District 12 to have somebody in Washington, D.C. that’s going to fight for your values and the things that we believe in. I’m ready to do and I hope you guys will join me.”
Parker County Sheriff
The speaking order was based on the ballot spots and for the Parker County sheriff’s race, Fred Hammons took the stage first followed by Gregory Scott Gates, Darrell Hull and incumbent Larry Fowler.
“Thank you all for being here tonight, there are some changes we need. I feel that everybody needs to be upheld to the highest standards, you need to be held accountable for your actions,” Hammons said. “You can’t go out and do something and not have consequences with them. That badge means a lot and if something is wrong, don’t try to hide it, it just makes things worse.”
Gates said having owned businesses for more than 30 years allows him to have an understanding of meeting a budget.
“I’m running for sheriff for several reasons, among these are county taxes. Having been in business for over 30 years, I understand the need of meeting a budget. Public safety is the most important thing to me — everyone in Parker County should feel safe. I am for change at the top so that others can have a say and a hand in turning around the problems we find our county in today. I firmly believe the staff and officers know how to make these positive changes,” Gates said. “As of 2015, our jail is now run by a for-profit Louisiana based corporation, which gets paid over $8 million a year and has many unnecessary deaths due to untrained staff. One example is Andy DeBusk who lost his life due to untrained and unaccountable personnel. Unnecessary deaths have also occurred outside the jail, no comment was the sheriff’s response. There needs to be accountability and not just a no comment from the sheriff’s department. As we can all see, nothing at the for-profit LaSalle [Corrections] jail is running quite as smoothly as Mr. Fowler seems to think it is.”
Hull said he has 25 years in law enforcement and has done countless investigations, contracts dealing with jails and wants to bring his experience to Parker County.
“Our jail needs some improvements and we need to look at the LaSalle contract and see what we can do to improve it. If that means getting a new contract, then let’s get a new one — let’s make it right for everybody.
“We also have an issue with our patrol. Our response time is over 30 minutes for someone that needs help. That’s not good. We have five to seven deputies on a shift entering 900 square miles of Parker County. That’s not enough and we need to look at it, we need to have deputies. We need to be able to serve our citizens, we need to be there for you, that’s very important,” Hull said. “We’re not just the police, we’re public servants and are here to serve you. I want you to trust me as your sheriff. When you see me on the road, you see me eating, I want you to be able to come up to me to say hi. I want to be a part of that, a part of your community and come to your events, shake your hand and say, ‘Thank you, what can I do for you?’ I am here for you and I want to be your next sheriff.”
Fowler addressed the discussions about the jail and explained where things started and where things ended up when he took over as Parker County sheriff.
“Many years ago, the commissioners court was in a bad situation with the sheriff and ended up going to Austin every two weeks to appear before the jail commission and attorney general because the jail wouldn’t pass inspection, and there was an argument on the ratio of prisoners. Those days are gone. When I took office, I had prisoners in six jails scattered all over Texas. We got the new jail built and then I got a contract with the United States Marshals Service out of Fort Worth and to date, renting out our bed space, we have made $2.4 million,” Fowler said. “To start off with, I had 130 beds that I could rent, so it’s better to be the landlord than the tenant and I caught some criticism over that and I don’t know why. I went to war with the parole commission in Austin because they were using our jail as a holding facility, they had 20 people in there and we get nothing for that, we just house them for nothing and I don’t believe in that. I went to [State Rep.] Phil King and we worked on some legislation and we got it straightened out with the parole commission, so it’s a lot better now.”
Because the forum was for Republican candidates, Libertarian Russell Hess, who is also running for Parker County sheriff, did not attend.
Precinct 3 Commissioner
In the race for Precinct 3 Commissioner, incumbent Larry Walden is facing a challenge from Matt Drikas. Both spoke at the forum.
“What’s a commissioner do? A lot of people don’t know. We handle the business of Parker County. Together with the other three commissioners and county judge we form the commissioners court, the commissioners court takes care of all the bills — we set your budget, we set your tax rate — and any contract or appointments come through commissioners court. The main job is the $55 million Parker County budget, it’s a big deal and it’s growing bigger all the time,” Walden said. “As for infrastructure, first of all when I took office we had debt in my precinct, we are now debt-free and everything is paid for. We have gone through and lowered the county budget, the budget is lower than it was last year by $200,000. We’re very proud of the work that we’ve done. I’ll work every day of my term for the taxpayers of Parker County, that’s who I represent and that’s who I’m here for.”
Drikas said with the growth the county is experiencing, there needs to be more done with maintenance and construction of roadways and water conservation.
“With this population increase, our county’s infrastructure has to keep up. All you have to do is drive down the roads in southwest Parker County and take a look for yourself. Our roads are deteriorating, our drainage has reached the point of flooding and making road impassible. Our fire departments are having to respond to high-water rescues when it rains, our buses are having to take alternative routes to drop off our children. As commissioner, I will identify our maintenance and construction needs, all of our safety needs and concerns, and I will ensure that the staff of Precinct 3 has all the support to complete these projects. I will build a culture of accountability, accessibility and transparency in our local government — we can do better, we will do better,” Drikas said. “As commissioner, I will ensure our emergency management office, our law enforcement and our emergency services have the support from the county to keep our children, our churches and our community safe.”
Constable Precincts 2 and 3
Constable Precinct 2 incumbent Joe Harris, Jr. is facing a challenge from Ray Riley.
“When I was elected to the constable’s office, I made a promise to always be available to build strong working relationships with all the county offices, while maintaining a conservative budget,” Harris said. “I’m proud of that progress we’ve made and I do appreciate everyone helping out and look forward to the election.”
Riley said he’s been in law enforcement since 1977 and has served as a police officer, working his way up to a police chief.
“I have been a police officer and worked my way up to police chief for a city. I’m here to serve Parker County in Precinct 2 and it’s good to see all these people,” Riley said. “I hear about all the changes people want to make and all I want to say is I’m here to represent y’all and I’d appreciate your vote — I’m here to serve the Lord, I’m here to serve Parker County and I’ve been in law enforcement for over 31 years.”
In the race for Constable Precinct 3, incumbent Glen Praytor is facing a challenge from Brad Chane.
“I have 38 years in law enforcement, I’ve been your constable for 19 years, I hold a master peace officers license and I’m a former deputy U.S. Marshal, and it’s important to have the experience for this job because of the liability involved,” Praytor said. “When you seize anyone’s property, if it’s not done and done right, the county can be sued and it’s very important that you know your business. I have that training and we do a lot of seizures.”
Chane said he was born and raised in Parker County and said if people don’t know him now, they will once he becomes constable. Chane is currently a deputy for the Parker County Sheriff’s Office and has been in law enforcement since 1993.
“Nobody will ask, ‘Who is Constable Brad Chane?’ Because if anyone in Parker County doesn’t know me, they will within six months,” Chane said. “I have people in the county now that call me to take care of business so I don’t have to bother the sheriff. I have a clean record in my law enforcement career and I think that’s pretty honorable.”
Early voting for the March 3 Primary runs Feb. 18-28 and one more candidate forum is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Feb. 18 at the Aledo High School auditorium. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the event will be hosted by the Aledo High School Young Republicans and Bush Legacy Republican Women.