Image: Pollworkers Tasha Parker (left) and Margie Tayler (right) seemed to have a great time at Bear Branch Elementary School in Magnolia during the Republican Runoff Election on May 22, 2018.
Conroe, Magnolia, and New Caney, May 22 – The political establishment enjoyed a pair of victories on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, in the Republican Runoff Election. With a much easier base of voters to identify and get to the polls, incumbent Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley won the Republican nomination over challenger Greg Parker, while Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts beat incumbent Precinct 4 County County Commissioner Jim Clark. Since there is no democrat running for the Precinct 4 spot, Metts will have no further campaigning in order to win the position for the term beginning January 1, 2019.
Riley received 4,960 votes to Parker’s 3,905 votes, or a 55.95 % to 44.05 % outcome. Metts received 2,449 votes to Clark’s 2,277 votes, or a 51.28 % to 48.72 % outcome. The low turnout permitted the political establishment to have an enormous impact by turning out core establishment supporters who have close relationships with Riley and Metts.
Riley will face a democrat in the November General Election. Perhaps more significantly, Riley still must defend a criminal indictment for allegedly violating the Texas Open Meetings Act. If Riley were convicted of the offense, which is a Class B misdemeanor, he would likely be removed from office automatically for official misconduct.
The Montgomery County Commissioners Court will have some interesting new faces on January 1, 2019. The County Judge will be conservative reformer Mark Keough. Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, the scion of the political establishment, will continue to serve until his likely retirement at the end of 2020. Riley will be the Precinct 2 Commissioner.
Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack has done a superb job as the operations manager for road and bridge work inside of his Commissioners Precinct and does take a conservative position on some issues. Nevertheless, Noack’s positions on spending and taxation issues have shifted leftward since mid-July, 2017. The politically ambitious Noack will have to decide whether he can make a greater mark as a conservative voice on an establishment-controlled Commissioners Court or whether he wants to go along with the establishment majority and leave Keough as the isolated conservative County Judge.
Precinct 4 Commissioner-Elect James Metts is also something of a wild card. Metts’ public statements suggest that he would support increased spending initiatives and higher taxation. Some individuals close to Metts, however, insist that he will be a fiscal conservative and consider reduced spending initiatives of the Citizens Budget Committee and others.
Clearly, Republican voters repudiated the unethical practices of current County Judge Craig Doyal and sought substantial change in the County government, as the results of the March 6 Republican Primary Election showed. Runoff elections are quirky, because they don’t turn on broad issues, such as reform or spending reductions, but rather depend on which candidate can get his supporters out to vote.
The real issue in runoffs is identifying supporters and getting them to turn out in Early Voting or on Election Day. Since Riley and Metts were both long-term members of the political establishment, their election on May 22 indicates that they prevailed in voter identification and turnout more than it indicates any policy referendum by voters. Both Riley and Metts tended to avoid discussion of issues during their campaigns. That strategy obviously paid off for them.
Both Riley and Metts have claimed they’re conservatives. They’ll now have the opportunity to prove those statements to Montgomery County citizens who will watch whether they act to reduce the County government’s spending or keep the County government on the unpopular growth course which voters rejected when they turned Doyal out of office on March 6.