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Candidates address issues facing Liberty County

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    Liberty County Judge Jay Knight and former Plum Grove Mayor Lee Ann Penton-Walker have a pleasant visit after the Liberty County Candidates Forum. The pair are both running to serve residents as County Judge.
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    Miranda Litton Hulvey and Tommy Chambers greet residents after the Liberty County Candidates Forum. The Vindicator | Kim Marlow is the credit

Tuesday night, it was a packed house at the Dayton Community Center as candidates running for office across Liberty County made their case for election to residents.

In the race for Liberty County Judge between incumbent Jay Knight and former Plum Grove Mayor Lee Ann Penton-Walker, both candidates spoke on what makes them better for the job.

Knight touted significant changes during his time in that office, focusing on planning and economic development and overcoming issues he believes he inherited from his predecessors.

“Growth is coming. Change is coming. We can either plan for it or sit back and do nothing,” said Knight.

His opponent Penton-Walker addressed her time as Mayor in Plum Grove and her ability to oversee a governing body effectively. She also spoke of the problems she believes have come to her area and that they will come to other county areas in the form of illegal immigration.

“The issue is spreading as we speak. When someone tells you illegal immigrants don’t cost you money, they are lying,” exclaimed Penton-Walker.

An argument that the moderator suggested made her a one-issue candidate before making her case to the contrary.

In the contest for Liberty County Court at Law No. 1 between incumbent Judge Tommy Chambers and his opponent longtime local attorney Michelle Mangum-Merendino, the two candidates compared and contrasted what that court would look like under one another.

Chambers believes his record is more than strong enough to stand on and that he has proven his ability to continue from that bench.

“I’ve worked hard to follow the laws constitution. I think experience is a big part of it,” said Chambers.

Mangum-Merendino offered a different look if elected to the bench, as she argued for what she believes is a more compassionate approach.

“I hope to gain your trust and your vote. Every litigate should be met with dignity and respect,” said Mangum-Merendino.

Miranda Litton Hulvey was the only candidate present in the race for District Clerk, as incumbent Delia Sellers was unable to attend due to a prior engagement but did submit a letter to those in attendance apologizing and asking them to re-elect her to that office.

Hulvey made a strong case for upgrading the technology in that department and making it more accessible to the legal community and the public.

“I think as far as public records, anyone should be able to access them for free,” said Hulvey.

One of the more hotly contested races on the ballot this year is that between County Commissioner Pct. 4 Leon Wilson and his opponent, former County Judge Craig McNair.

Wilson spoke on the work that has gone into getting Pct. 4 back in shape after inheriting what he says was little to work with after taking office. He also praised his employees for going above and beyond every day for residents in the precinct and work being done to bring economic development to the area.

“We’re improving. We are making things better for Liberty County,” said Wilson.

His opponent argued that things could be better for the precinct and believes he can find other sources of funding to make up for the lack of money in the budget through grants and HGAC. He also was asked about his campaign promise to combat the border as commissioner and how close the border was to Liberty County.

“It’s in your backyard,” argued McNair, referring to what he believes was an influx of the problems facing the area.

State Representative Dist. 18 incumbent Ernest Bailes made the event, while his opponents Janis Holt, Stephen A. Missick, and Ronnie “Bubba” Tullos were not in attendance. Bailes spoke about his record serving the voters in the district and his hope to continue serving the community in another term, working to pass conservative legislation.

“We were able to pass the most conservative session we have ever passed this past legislative session,” said Bailes.

Texas State Board of

Education District 7 candidate Abolaji Ayobami appeared and spoke on improving education in the state, stressing how the American education system had become strained and continued to fall behind. He made believes that building schools back takes more than just facilities.

“Instead of building the infrastructure alone, we must build the people inside the infrastructure,” said Ayobami.

There were also candidates on hand in the Ninth Court of Appeals Place 2 race between Jay Wright and Stephanie Hall. Both candidates spoke on their records judicial philosophy.

Early Voting for the March 1 Primary begins Monday, Feb. 14, around the county.

The forum was sponsored by The Vindicator and Liberty County Bar Association. Bill Buchanan, Glenn Williams, and Gilberto Flores served as moderators for the evening. A very special thanks to the City of Dayton for the use of the Dayton Community Center.