(Orange, Texas)

Local News

May 7, 2014

Candidates address issues at debate ahead of runoff election

ORANGE — Voters interested in determining the next Orange County Judge got one more chance to hear directly from the candidates on Tuesday night.

The Orange County Republican Party’s “Runoff Roundup” was held Tuesday night at the Orange County Convention and Expo Center off FM 1442 in Orange in front of a large crowd of potential voters. The main purpose of the event was to allow candidates John Dubose and Brint Carlton, both of whom are seeking to become the next Orange County Judge, the opportunity to answer questions and present information to those gathered.

The event also allowed voters the opportunity to hear from candidates Barry Burton and Ron Cowling, both of which are in a runoff for Orange County Commissioner of Precinct 2, and from candidates Dr. Brian Babin and Ben Streusand, who are in a runoff for the U.S. Representative District 36 seat.

Dubose was presented questions which asked how much the budget deficit amount really is and what he plans to do to eliminate deficit spending, as well as what the biggest challenge Orange County will face over the next four years.

“I think we will have a larger deficit at the end of this term than we thought,” Dubose explained. “I think it will be in the area of $3.5 million, and we are going to have to find ways to curtail spending. Our biggest challenge is finding a way to cut expenses and balance the budget. We must get expenditures under control. It’s not going to be easy, but we have to find a way.”

Carlton countered and wasted little time in going on the offensive in the debate and said the county’s current financial situation began many years ago.

“Mr. Dubose has said many times that experience counts,” Carlton said. “He had 12 years on commissioner’s court already, and I fail to see how things will be any different this time around. In 2001, when Mr. Dubose started serving on commissioner’s court, Orange County had more than $9 million in budget revenue. When he left office, it was down to just $1 million. That’s a 90 percent decrease. These problems with the budget didn’t just start.”

Carlton, who is a reservist in the United States military, had to address the question of how his involvement with the military would impact his position as Orange County Judge, if elected.

“I have been asked this question a lot. I will have some time away as a reservist, but it will not take me away for long periods,” Carlton said. “I will find a way to be involved, whether it is through e-mail or phone calls. I will use technology to stay informed.”

Dubose was asked if his past experience as Orange County Commissioner of Precinct 3 might help him, if elected, as the next Orange County Judge.

“It will help a great deal, if I’m elected as Orange County Judge,” Dubose said. “I will be able to use and re-establish many of the connections I made, while in office. They will be of great benefit in helping generate interest in Orange County.”

Carlton was asked if raising taxes or cutting jobs could be used as a “potential solution” with the looming budget deficit.

“Our financial situation is so bad that every possible option on the table needs to be considered,” Carlton stated. “And we are needing to consider this now because it wasn’t taken care of 10 years ago.”

Another question, all of which were submitted by the audience and selected by a committee, was posed by moderator Gary Stelly to the candidates was to allow each candidate to ask one of the other.

Dubose asked Carlton why he felt his short time working in the Orange County District Attorney’s office qualified him to become Orange County Judge.

“If working in the D.A.’s office is all I had did, then I could understand,” Carlton responded. “Bu the U.S. government has put a lot of faith in me and hold me to a very high standard in my work. I have a lot of responsibility in what I do, and I take great pride in it. I’m accountable for my actions and my work, and I will be accountable for everything I do as the next Orange County Judge.”

Carlton then turned to Dubose and asked him if he was, at any time, a part-owner of the County Record newspaper. He added a second part of the question by asking why has he only been charged for approximately one-third of his advertising with the paper.

“Yes, I was a part owner of the paper at one time,” Dubose said. “However, I’m not in charge of billing at that operation and I have no idea why. When I receive a bill, I will pay the bill.”

Another question asked of both candidates asked if either man had ever been sued and had a judgment rendered against him or a lien placed upon his property.

“I have not had a lien placed on anything that I recall, but I have been sued before,” Dubose answered. “But I won the lawsuit.”

Carlton replied he had never been sued, nor has he had any liens placed against any property that he owns. However, he also stated he knew from court records that Dubose “did have a judgment rendered against him” and it “took him two years” to pay the amount of $890.

“There was another lawsuit that I forgot about,” Dubose added. “And I contested the ruling. I did pay the judgment too.”

Each candidate was allowed a closing statement and a chance to persuade voters one last time before the debate ended.

“I think experience counts,” Dubose said. “I think my years coming up through City Council in Bridge City and commissioners court give me the experience it will take to be your next Orange County Judge.”

Carlton responded bluntly.

“You don’t make excuses in this position, you take responsibility,” Carlton said. “I agree. I think experience matters. Your (the citizens) experience matters. I will chart a new course and take responsibility for my actions as Orange County Judge.”

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