Burnet County candidate forum for court-at-law judge, state reps
Candidates for Burnet County Court-at-Law and state representative for District 19 traded barbs at a forum hosted by the Burnet County Republican Women and attended by Texas first lady Cecilia Abbott on Thursday, Feb. 10. The luncheon was held at the Reed Building in Burnet.
Challengers for the open county court-at-law seat continued an argument that started at a forum several weeks ago. Current Judge Linda Bayless is retiring after seven years. Seeking to replace her are Angela Dowdle and Cody Henson, both attorneys.
In her five-minute introduction, Dowdle said she would be a full-time judge and stated that Henson planned to continue practicing real estate law. Henson also owns a title company.
Henson did not respond to that charge during his five minutes but told DailyTrib.com after the meeting that, if elected, he planned to be a full-time judge.
“In fact, it is illegal to continuing practicing (as an attorney) once elected,” he said.
Dowdle pointed to her 30 years’ experience in family law, which she said makes up the majority of the cases in that court, as her biggest asset for the job.
“A decision made about a child affects all of us,” she said. “Those decisions should be made by someone with family law experience. It is not negative to say I have 17 more years of experience than him in family law. He is a real estate lawyer, and this is not real estate court.”
She also brought up a charge that Henson had leveled at the last forum, saying she accepted contributions from lawyers.
“I am a member of the county bar association, I have been president of the bar association — I’m at mentor status now — and they know me and know what I’m made of,” she said. “That’s why they are supporting me.”
She also pointed out that attorneys are only allowed to donate $1,000 each, and a firm can only donate a total of $5,000.
“That’s a drop in the bucket of what’s needed to run a campaign,” she said.
When Henson took the microphone, he said that, as judge, he would plan for growth by instituting scheduling orders and setting plea bargain deadlines in criminal cases. He said most of the cases coming before a judge would be criminal, not family law.
“Plea bargain deadlines move cases,” he said. “Both the victims and defendants deserve justice.”
Scheduling orders are given to attorneys stating trial dates and giving expectations.
“I will hand over scheduling orders that say ‘thank you for filing your case, here’s your trial date,’” he said. “‘You can do whatever you need to do in here, but be prepared to try your case on this date.”
He continued that he would not accept donations from other attorneys because “it could lead to bias if they come before me with a case.”
STATE REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT 19
Three of the four candidates for the newly created District 19 showed up for the forum. Championing their candidacies were Ellen Troxclair, Justin Barry, and Perla Hopkins. Nubia Devine did not attend.
Barry and Troxclair challenged each other’s conservative credentials, while Hopkins focused on her own positions, which mostly concerned education.
While the county court-at-law candidates were granted five minutes each to introduce themselves, they were not asked any questions. The three state representative candidates made two-minute introductions, then took questions previously turned in by attendees.
Candidates mostly agreed with each other when asked what they would replace property tax with to fund schools and cities.
Troxclair said she would work to eliminate the maintenance and operating portion of school property tax and use upcoming state surplus money to cut property taxes in half in 10 years. She explained that the Legislature recently passed a spending cap on itself that guarantees more money will be coming into state coffers than going out in the future. She wants to use that surplus to pay down property taxes.
“This will insure public schools are still fully funded by the state,” she said.
Troxclair called herself “the only conservative voice on the Austin City Council in the most liberal city in the state.” She represented District 8 on the council from 2015-19, which she called “being in the belly of the beast.”
Hopkins, a military veteran married to a veteran, explained that when she and her family moved from South Carolina to Texas, she was shocked by the difference in property taxes.
“We paid in a year in South Carolina what it costs us for one month here,” she said. “I am passionate about lowering property taxes.”
A former teacher, Hopkins said she quit the profession because school districts “are harming children” by what they are teaching. She vowed to work against unions and Planned Parenthood if elected.
Berry, who has been a police officer for 13 years, pointed to continually increasing appraisal values as the biggest problem with the property tax system.
“I propose we untie our property tax system from appraisal values,” Berry said. “I bought my property at a certain rate. Why should I be taxed and penalized because my investment did so well? No offense, the government didn’t help me with my investment. Let’s keep it at sales value.”
The candidates were also asked about the major winter storm last February, and all three responded that Gov. Greg Abbott had done an excellent job of making sure Texas did not face the same problem again.