Denton County voters will head to the polls one more time this month to put a final stamp on the primary election season.
Two contentious justice of the peace races are on the May 27 runoff ballot for Republicans, joining the local district attorney’s race and several statewide GOP races. No local Democrats were forced into a runoff, but two statewide races are on the ballot for county Democrats.
Runoffs were set in several races after no candidate garnered more than 50 percent of the vote in the March 4 primary elections.
In the Precinct 4 justice of the peace race, incumbent J.W. Hand is trying to fend off a challenge from attorney Harris Hughey. And in the Precinct 5 justice of the peace race, Cynthia Mitchell is squaring off against Mike Oglesby. No Democrats filed to run in either race.
Also on the local ballot is the district attorney’s race, in which incumbent Paul Johnson is fighting back a challenge from Lantana attorney Karen Alexander.
Justices of the peace in Denton County receive a salary of about $74,800 annually and serve four-year terms.
Early voting starts Monday for the runoffs and continues through Friday. Voters may not cross party lines to cast ballots in the runoffs — voters who cast ballots in the Republican primary may vote in the GOP runoff but not the Democratic runoff, and vice versa. Voters who did not cast a ballot in the March 4 primary may vote in either runoff.
JP Precinct 4
Three challengers tried to unseat incumbent Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Hand in the March 4 GOP primary.
Hand, 77, led the pack with nearly 39 percent of the vote, but could not draw the more than 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Hughey, 54, an attorney and city prosecutor from Northlake, was second with 26 percent.
Hand said he stands on the record he has built during his seven years in the office.
“There’s a lot of mud that can be slung around, but I have a record and I am very proud of it,” he said. “We will see if the voters are sophisticated enough to see through some of the smoke. That’s what elections are for.”
He cited as evidence that he is a conservative by noting his support for GOP leaders such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and state Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound.
“I have been doing a good job of the justice of the peace in the seven years-plus — I have not had one complaint to the state judicial commission and despite all the words to the contrary,” Hand said.
Hughey wants to improve efficiency in the court.
“We’ve been working hard since we got the results from the primary and we continue to make sure we’re taking our message to the voters so they know exactly what a JP does, which has been our biggest obstacle,” Hughey said.
Another obstacle is getting voters back to the polls, he said.
“We just finished the city election [May 10] and we’re asking them to come back in 17 days to do it again,” Hughey said. “Historically those numbers [show] we lose about 60 percent [of voters].”
Having the election the day after Memorial Day is another obstacle to voter turnout, he said.
“I have enough confidence in voters that they will show up and we will get enough of them out there to have a good representation,” Hughey said.
Hughey said he decided to get involved because he believed the justice of the peace operation needs improvement.
“It is an inefficient court,” he said. “The taxpayers deserve better.”
JP Precinct 5
What started as a six-candidate race in Precinct 5 was whittled down to two for the GOP runoff.
Mitchell, 41, of Aubrey, is the current Denton County clerk but she decided to run this year instead for justice of the peace.
A teen court program is among her first plans if she is elected, and she said she is the only candidate with the skill set to run the court system. Mitchell said she is also working to get voters back to the polls.
“I still believe the way to reach most people who actually vote is by mail message,” Mitchell said. “I’ve been out talking to people and I’ve gotten a lot of support. ... They want someone qualified to hold the position.”
Mitchell garnered 23 percent of the vote in the packed field in the March primary, and Oglesby drew 19 percent.
Oglesby, 54, a district attorney’s investigator, said he has picked up some key supporters since the primary election.
“It means the world,” he said. “They are supporting the right candidate.”
He said he is continuing to get the word out about his campaign.
“I’ll be knocking on doors,” he said.
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE PRECINCT 4
J.W. HAND (I)
Hometown: Flower Mound
Occupation: Precinct 4 justice of the peace for seven years
Prior political history: Attended six Republican state conventions, and attended the senatorial and precinct conventions before those; introduced resolutions for consideration for the party’s platform.
Background: Justice of the peace for the past seven years, handling cases ranging from complicated evictions to intense juvenile hearings; previously owned a security and investigation company; former regional sales manager for a law enforcement/intelligence equipment manufacturer; twice appointed to Texas Crime and Narcotics Advisory Commission; former intelligence unit supervisor for Drug Enforcement Administration and former criminal investigator for the U.S. Department of Justice; was a Flower Mound police reservist; member, Board of Consultants, Baptist General Convention of Texas; volunteer for Southwest Transplant Alliance.
Top priorities for this office: Continue to pursue excellence; to positively impact southwest Denton County; work to get better facilities so that residents do not have to go through the court clerk’s office to get into the courtroom.
HARRIS RAY HUGHEY
Occupation: Attorney and city prosecutor for 17 years with the Law Offices of Harris R. Hughey
Prior political history: none
Background: Attorney in private practice; city prosecutor; served on the Corral City Economic Development Committee for the past two years; teaches in a children’s ministry with his wife at Argyle United Methodist Church; member of Flower Mound Area Republican Club, Tarrant County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Municipal Justice Bar Association.
Top priorities for this office: Treat every person who comes into the courtroom with courtesy and respect; set tone in the courtroom with proper judicial temperament and demeanor; reduce the number of appeals; manage staff, docket and budget efficiently.
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE PRECINCT 5
Occupation: Denton County clerk
Prior political history: Elected as Denton County clerk in 1998; ran unsuccessfully in 1994 at the age of 20 for Precinct 2 justice of the peace.
Background: Four terms as the county clerk of Denton County; volunteers with clerks association promoting better education and serving with legislative efforts; implemented a mentor program for new clerks coming into office and served as a speaker for nearly every education conference; serves on Born 2 Be Therapeutic Equestrian Center board of directors; recently elected to serve on the board of the Aubrey Area Chamber of Commerce; volunteers in the Dallas Hunter Jumper Scholarship Association.
Top priorities for this office: Ensure that all customers of the court are served with the most efficient service possible; increase the use of innovations available to improve services; create a teen court program that can be an example to other courts; provide training and staff development training; use the county’s collections department as a proven method of collecting current court fines and fees.
Online: www.cynthiamitchell.net, @CynthiaMitchell on Twitter, www.facebook.com/cynthiamitchellcampaign
Hometown: Oak Point
Occupation: investigator, Denton County District Attorney’s Office
Prior political history: none
Background: Investigator with the district attorney’s office; retired from Texas Department of Public Safety after 13 years in highway patrol and 15 years in the criminal investigations division; also worked for the Canyon Police Department and Randall County sheriff’s office; member, Denton Breakfast Kiwanis Club; member, Redemption Anglican Church in Frisco; member of Texas Association of Auto Theft Investigators, International Association of Auto Theft Investigators and Texas DPS Officers Association.
Top priorities for this office: Provide a cost-effective system for the average citizen to resolve grievances; provide efficient customer service and treat others as I would like to be treated; balance justice and mercy without sacrificing dignity, respect and the rule of law.