By David Wilfong, NDG Contributing Writer
The Monday Night Politics (MNP) forum presented on Feb. 12 by the Dallas Examiner at the African American Museum in Fair Park offered some spirited debate, a few gaffes, and a look at some often-ignored races which are pivotal in guiding the direction of the future.
The fiercest debate of the evening came in the race for the unpaid position of Democratic County Chair, which pitted incumbent Carol Donovan against Chris Hamilton. The “elephant in the room” was the recent move by Republicans to try and strike 128 Democrats from the ballot because Donovan did not personally sign their applications.
Donovan defended her time as county chair by pointing to the most recent presidential elections.
“We won Dallas by 62 percent,” Donovan said. “That’s the largest Democratic vote in history.”
Donovan also pointed to the Democrats have fielded candidates in all county-wide races, a record level of donations, and having turned the county Blue back in 2006. All of which she says points to excellent leadership in the party. As for the Republican lawsuit to remove Democrats from the ballot, Donovan said she had not personally signed the applications because “I am not legally required to sign them.”
Hamilton, who agreed the Republican lawsuit is without merit, nonetheless saw it as a failure on the part of the party.
“It may not be required that you tie your shoes for last leg of the relay, but it’s a good idea,” Hamilton quipped.
Hamilton, a lawyer who has been active in union organizing, protests of the Muslim ban and environmental action, represents the growing “progressive wave” of the Democratic Party and said the progress of the party in Dallas is in spite of local leadership, not a result of it. He pointed to swing seats which were claimed by Republicans in recent elections, saying the party should be able to sweep elections at the county level convincingly.
County Court 4
The race which was expected to generate the most fireworks, the judge’s seat in County Court-at-Law 4 between incumbent Ken Tapscott and Paula Rosales, was spirited but civil. This is one of four races where local media reports have suggested white male incumbents were recruiting female opponents to dilute the vote for women of color who were challenging them in the primaries. Unlike earlier forums, the issue was never brought up during the presentation.
Tapscott has worked in civil law for 20 years and made the case Rosales was unqualified for the office she is seeking. He told the audience that no judge has taken more cases to jury verdict in the past 11 years than him and that as a Democrat he had donated more than $100,000 to the party during that time. Rosales, who has worked in various areas of law, and has lived in three countries and speaks three languages, delivered a sharp rebuke to that assertion.
“When you practice in one area of the law you develop what’s called ‘a tunnel vision’,” Rosales said. “You can only see one specific area. When I’ve practiced in family law, in immigration law, in civil law, in criminal and international law – I worked on all kind of cases – I realized that the vision expands when you are able to see that the exercise, or the mechanics of analyzing a case, of researching a case, of proving your case, are the same.”
Tapscott referred to Obama in his closing remarks, stating that no one would have voted for him just because he is Black, but because he was “a serious man.” He again tried to remind the audience of his loyalty to the party and the level of his donations, but the audience had begun to drown him out.
Following the forum, reports appeared on Facebook claiming Tapscott had addressed the primarily African-American audience as “you people.” However, these reports are false.
Board of Education – District 12
Suzanne Smith was the only candidate appearing before he MNP crowd to address the race for the Texas State Board of Education. She is vying for District 12 which encompasses the Northeast part of Dallas County as well as neighboring counties.
“We’re talking about a lot of races and a lot of candidates here,” Smith said. “But I actually believe that the state Board of Education is the most important thing on the ballot this time.”
Smith reminded the audience that the board of education makes decisions on textbooks, which have come under fire in recent years for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is how some have portrayed the historic experience of African Americans. Smith also pointed out that due to the buying power of Texas, school textbooks edited for the demands of this state are also used in other, smaller states.
She is also concerned about the performance of charter schools. Criticized by many, Smith conceded charter schools are a part of the law, but she intends to make sure charter schools meet the same standard required of public schools.
County Criminal Court 3
In the race for Dallas County Criminal Court-of-Law, Symone Redwine and Audrey Moorehead appeared at MNP to address the audience.
Redwine has the payday loan industry in her crosshairs, and is particularly disturbed at what she calls, “using the DA’s office as a personal debt collector,” recalling a client she had who encountered difficulties up to and including getting a job because a payday loan agency had filed theft charges on her due to an outstanding debt.
Moorehead told the audience that payday loan cases represent less than 1 percent of the docket in the court, and that bail reform is the most significant issue in the judicial races today. She said defendants need to be evaluated regarding their likelihood to re-offend or as a matter of public safety, and that unnecessarily high bail amounts also lead to difficulty in finding employment.
When asked about their experience in trying cases in court, Moorehead stated, “My very first jury trial was for aggravated sexual assault of a child, and that was a very difficult trial.”
She said she had worked many trials as a second chair and had extensive experience in other court proceedings like motions. She has served as the lead counsel in at least five jury trials.
Redwine countered saying, “I feel like if you can count the number of cases you have done, you haven’t done enough,” later adding, “I have practiced criminal law in two states.”
U.S. House – District 30
Two of the three candidates vying for the U.S. House of Representatives in District 30 were present on Monday, as the forum for that office was rescheduled from an earlier date. Eric Williams and Barbara Caraway are challenging incumbent Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson for the seat. Johnson was not present at the forum.
Wilson, a journalist by training, says he considers himself a “geo-political candidate” and points to his far-stretching experience as a strength for his candidacy.
“I’ve seen the community, I’ve lived in this community, Dallas is suffering from colonialism, oppression, I’ve seen it first-hand so no one can deny that fact in my mind,” Williams said. “And now I want to apply some of the things that I’ve seen as a journalist around the world to try and help heal our community and bridge our community – both Blacks, whites and Hispanics. But we have to do that together.”
Caraway says stagnation in District 30 is among the most challenging of any district in the country and that poverty leads to other ancillary issues. She identified herself with the progressive movement in the party and said she expects to be one of many “new faces” in Congress after the midterm elections.
“Most people have given up but I will not,” Caraway said. “Because the issues that we face are very, very real. Mass incarceration, poverty, no infrastructure, no jobs, no transportations system, I’m asking you to send me to Washington to not only make a difference, to make a change.”
The primary election is March 6. Early voting begins on Feb. 20.
Editor’s Note: Eric Williams was previously misidentified as Eric Wilson. Our apologies for the error.