Candidates face off during debate

Published 11:32 pm Friday, January 31, 2020

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader


Voters had an opportunity to meet with candidates at the Orange County Republican Town Hall/Forum held at Vidor Elementary School on Tuesday. 

While not all positions, such as Orange County Judge, participated in a debate, the candidates did give a short speech to allow the constituents a chance to know where the candidates stand on issues. 

Orange County Judge John Gothia, during his speech, said the county was negotiating the purchase of 650 acres for a retention pond in north Vidor.

“We have almost finalized it with the General Land Office,” Gothia said. He also added the county is part of two coalitions in an effort to improve drainage in the area.

“I am running to fill an unexpired term,” Gothia said. “I will do this again in two years.”

He also added that while he was wearing a suit to look professional for the event. He was often in jeans and rubber boots as he met with homeowners.

“I will meet with the homeowner in their yard with the commissioner for their area,” Gothia said. “I understand a pothole in your yard is the most important thing to you.”

Ernest Bayard, also running for Orange County Judge, asked people to take the time to speak to veterans when they see them.

“I am not a politician,” Bayard said. “I think I can run this county. I am a small blueberry farmer.”

Constable Precinct 3 candidates, Brad Fyre and Sambo Carpenter Jr did debate.

Fyre said his experience with a small police department allowed him the opportunity to gain experience in areas he would not have had in a larger department. 

Carpenter said his first priority if elected would be to assess how to improve the office while working side by side with the JP. 

Fyre said he did not plan to reinvent the wheel. 

“I want to make it more accessible to agencies,” Frye said. “Everyone is short-staffed these days. If a mental health warrant is served, it can tie up a patrolman. I would be back up to the patrol in the area.”

Orange County Sheriff candidates Rob Strause and Jimmy Mooney also debated.

When asked what they would do to get the drug problem in Orange County under control, they each had their own answers.

“It is not just an Orange County problem. It is also a Jefferson, Newton and Hardin County problem,” Mooney said. “We need to form an alliance to bridge the gap to eliminate the problem.”

“The first thing I would do is restart the Street Crime Unit,” Strause said. “It would put two officers in high crime areas such as theft and with the information they collect the night before and the surveillance footage we can identify the person.”

Both candidates, when asked about Red Flag Laws, said they believe in the constitution and have no intention of taking anyone’s guns.

Both were asked about experience with budgets.

“Part of my duties with White was with the budget,” Strause said. “As administration at the Sheriff’s office, we worked with budget line items.”

“I spent the last year working with the Sheriff to learn the operation of the Sheriff’s office,” Mooney said. 

If elected, in the first 30 days, each had plans on changes to be made.

“I will have the Street Crime Unit,” Strause said. “I will look in-depth with department Heads to find the pros and cons in each division. Once we ID the problems, we will solve them. There are ways to streamline some areas.”

“I have ID some problems. The Sheriff has done an excellent job,” Mooney said. “There is a staffing, shift shortage. I will address it. It affects everyone with longer hours.”