Editorial: where is The Golden Hammer on Montgomery County Judge electoral race?

Editorial: where is The Golden Hammer on Montgomery County Judge electoral race?

Image: Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough.

The Golden Hammer Editorial Board

In the past two weeks, The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, has fielded an enormous number of inquiries seeking this newspaper’s opinion on the race for Montgomery County Judge in the March 1, 2022, Republican Primary Election. This newspaper’s Editorial Board has not yet decided whom to endorse. None of our endorsements for the March 1 Primary Election will come out until mid-February. Nevertheless, there are some major issues in the County Judge race.

What is abundantly clear is that Mark Keough is not doing a good job as county judge. Fundamentally, there are two major issues with Keough’s candidacy for re-election: his coronavirus response and the aftermath of the motor vehicle collisions he caused on September 10, 2020, which ultimately led to his Driving-While-Intoxicated conviction in 2021.

Keough’s Coronavirus Response

Keough’s response to the coronavirus was among the worst of any local official in Texas. Despite clear opinions that county judges, under Texas law, have the authority to order shutdowns, mandate “stay-at-home” orders, or choose which businesses are “essential” or “non-essential,” and despite Keough’s repeated promises both verbally and in writing that he would “never order shutdowns or stay-at-home orders,” on March 27, 2020, Keough shut down businesses, entered a written order choosing “essential” and “non-essential” businesses, ordered the closure of local churches (in violation of the First Amendment), and issued an illegal curfew order for all County residents.

Keough panicked on March 27, 2020, and made terrible mistakes, which spiked suicides, caused many families to lose their homes and their abilities to meet their financial obligations, and caused the loss of many County residents even to have the ability to pay for food and other basic necessities.  Keough only backed off from his March 27 orders, after (1) Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson refused to enforce those orders, and (2) Texas Governor Greg Abbott ultimately issued statewide orders.

Keough has never come clean to explain why voters should give him another term, when he fared so poorly when County residents needed him the most to act in a sound and rational way rather than in a panic.

Keough’s September 10, 2020, Accident, DWI Conviction, and Aftermath

Paragraph 2(b) of Keough’s 2018 “Contract with Montgomery County” upon which he won election as County Judge and defeated incumbent Craig Doyal reads: “I will end the practice of granting preferential treatment to elected officials and their employees that does not apply to the citizens of this county.”

On September 10, 2020, Keough was doped up both on Ambien downers and methamphetamine uppers. He got in his Lexus SUV and drove himself to a meeting in The Woodlands. Along the way, he drove into a curb, called County Attorney B.D. Griffin to confess his cognition problems, and then kept driving. A few minutes later, Keough plowed into a private vehicle and then quickly drove his SUV from the scene of that accident and ultimately plowed his SUV into a law enforcement vehicle parked on the side of the road. The officer suffered severe injuries.

Keough ultimately pled guilty to DWI but he never spent one moment in the Montgomery County Jail. Keough temporarily lost his driver’s license and convinced the Commissioners Court to allow him to use a County vehicle to get to and from work and to allow him to use a Deputy Constable as a full-time driver,

Any private individual who had caused such severe accidents and then had “run” from the scene would have spent substantial jail time and probably lost their driver’s license altogether. A private citizen, who had caused so much harm, would never have received a County vehicle and a personal law enforcement officer to chauffeur him around the community.

Keough directly engaged in “the practice of granting preferential treatment to elected officials…that does not apply to the citizens of this county.”

Keough has never come clean with the citizens of Montgomery County about his preferential treatment for himself.

Keough’s electoral opponents

Before voters give Keough another term as County Judge, he, at a minimum, needs to come clean and be completely truthful about both of the foregoing issues.

Keough has two electoral opponents: Montgomery Mayor Sara Countryman and conservative leader and nonprofit foundation president Dr. Billy Graff.

Either Countryman or Graff appear that they would be a better county judge for our community than Keough. Countryman may have some some drawbacks. Nevertheless, voters should remain open to her campaign and give her every opportunity to express her views and show the community that she is qualified to be a county judge.

Graff has no government experience and is more of an known than Countryman or Keough. Nevertheless, he has a strong record with leading nonprofit organizations, and voters should likewise give him the opportunity to make his case.

Who will this newspaper support and endorse? We don’t yet know. At this point, we’re open to any of the three candidates, as long as they make their case. None of them have yet done so.

Let’s listen, watch, probe, challenge, question, and give Countryman, Graff, and Keough a fair chance.

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