Voters sort through crowded field with candidates forums

CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER

LLANO — Candidates are vying for spots in several Republican nomination races in the Highland Lakes, so various political entities have organized a string of events to help voters determine who might be the best nominees for local and statewide elections.

The state primary is March 1.

FIND A LIST OF LOCAL AND STATEWIDE RACES HERE

In Llano County, a potential contentious battle is brewing in the sheriff’s race.

Incumbent Bill Blackburn is vying for the Republican party nomination for a third term with four challengers. Blackburn is joined by (in order of ballot listing) Aimee Overstreet Shannon, a Llano Police Department officer; Jack Derington, a private business owner; James Schilling, a San Saba County deputy; and Jared S. Latta, a Llano Police Department officer.

“It’s a little bit diversified from age to gender. It’s a really good slate,” said Debbie Alexander, president of the Highland Lakes Republican Women.

HLRW will host a Llano County sheriff’s race forum Jan. 12, while Alexander is also hosting a general Llano County candidates forum Jan. 16.

“We’ve had a lot of changes in Llano County with the budget,” Alexander said. “There’s some talk about cutting the size of the sheriff’s department, and to me, that’s a very important question.

“The public has a chance to ask some good questions. … What do they see happening in the future if they are selected as sheriff?” she added.

In the Texas Senate District 24 race, longtime incumbent State Sen. Troy Fraser, first elected in 1996, has decided not to run again, which prompted six GOP candidates and one Democrat to vie for the position.

Texas Senate District 24 is comprised of 17 primarily rural counties: Bandera, Bell, Blanco, Brown, Burnet, Callahan, Comanche, Coryell, Gillespie, Hamilton, Kerr, Lampasas, Llano, Mills and San Saba counties as well as parts of Taylor and Travis counties.

Llano Tea Party President Bill Hussey will host an event for the District 24 candidates Jan. 7 featuring GOP candidates Dawn Buckingham of Lakeway, Don Cobb of Bee Cave, Ryan Downton of Temple, Susan King of Abilene, Brent Mayes of Fredericksburg and Reed Williams of Burnet.

“All six (of the GOP) candidates have accepted. It’s the first time all six of them have gotten together in this area,” Hussey said. “It’s an opportunity to find the candidate that most closely matches the values and principles of the senate district.”

The only Democrat who has filed for the District 24 nomination is Virginia (Jennie Lou) Leeder of Llano.

Central Texas Water Coalition officials will host a water-focused forum this election season featuring State District 24 candidates while highlighting water issues related to the use and management of the Colorado River.

“This is a critically important election to Central Texas and the Highland Lakes region,” said CTWC President Jo Karr Tedder. “In addition to our focus on water policy and management, the topics of the debate will cover a range of issues important to our area, including transportation, the economy, education, crime, public health and the environment.”

The following is a list of upcoming candidates forums:

• State Senate District 24 and Judicial Candidates Forum — 7-9 p.m. Jan. 7 at the American Legion Hall, 200 Legion Drive in Llano; candidates’ introduction, question-and-answer session with some written questions from the audience

  Candidates Forum for Llano County Sheriff’s race — 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Llano County Library, 102 E. Haynie St. in Llano; potluck lunch with candidates’ biographies followed by question-and-answer session

  Meet-and-Greet the Countywide Candidates — 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Jan. 16 at the Tow Community Center, 135 CR 221 in Tow

• STAR Republican Women’s candidates event with Texas Third Court of Appeals Justice Melissa Goodwin and Llano County sheriff’s candidates — 1 p.m. Jan. 19 at Quail Point Lodge, 107 Twilight in Horseshoe Bay. The event also includes a group meeting at 12:30 p.m.

• Water Issues Forum with State District 24 Candidates — 6-8 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Lakeway Activity Center, 105 Cross Creek in Lakeway

• Texas Senate District 24 and Texas State Representative District 20 Candidates Forum — 6:30 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Burnet Community Center, 401 E. Jackson St.

• Burnet County Commissioners, Constables, Justice of the Peace and Sheriff’s Candidates Forum — 6:30 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Burnet Community Center, 401 E. Jackson St.

“Some people — especially the elderly because they don’t travel a lot — they can meet the candidates and ask questions about what’s important in their community,” Alexander said.

The deadline to register to vote is Feb. 1. Applications are available at the county election’s offices and some county clerk’s offices. Applications are also available at votetexas.gov as well as burnetcountytexas.org under “Elections Administrator.”

Early voting is Feb. 16-26 for the March 1 primary. The first day to apply for ballot by mail was Jan. 1.

Editor Daniel Clifton contributed to this report.

connie@thepicayune.com

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