By David Wilfong, NDG Contributing Writer
Work crews are busy sprucing up Dallas’ Fair Park for the upcoming State Fair season, but the Dallas Examiner is still hosting Monday Night Politics (MNP) as elections also draw near.
On Aug. 20, a new moderator took the microphone to host the event. Before introducing any candidates, Demetria McCain took the audience through a primer course in Texas’ voter ID laws. She went through a list of scenarios which might arise if a person encounters identity questions at the polling place. She also passed out Voter ID guidelines.
“In the end you have to rely on the poll worker,” McCain said, adding voters should keep their guidelines with them when they go to the polls in case a poll worker tried to turn someone away, and be ready to stand firm in their right to cast a ballot.
Beto is doing well, but another statewide candidate is doing better
Beto O’Rourke is gaining a lot of media spotlight running statewide as a Democrat and making a serious challenge for Republican Senator Ted Cruz. But Beto is not the only Democrat running statewide, and he is not the highest performing against opponents in recent polls. A June poll by UT/Texas Tribune poll shows Democratic candidate for Texas Attorney General Justin Nelson down by a single point against incumbent Ken Paxton.
Helping Nelson’s case is the fact that Paxton is currently under indictment for securities fraud, a point he is quick to highlight on Monday night.
“We are trying to teach our kids the values of justice, fairness and integrity,” Nelson said of his own family. “These values are not exclusive to any one political party. They are Texas values. They are American values, and I am running because these values are sorely lacking right now in my opponent, Mr. Paxton.”
Nelson said ideally people would not be able to tell whether their attorney general was a Republican or Democrat, and anyone in the office should be able to work with administrations of either side. He charged Paxton with bringing politics into the office, which he said should be guided solely by what the law is.
Seeking higher office on the bench
In the Texas 283rd District Court, Democrat Lela Mays is facing Republican Livia Francis for the judge’s seat. Mays has been serving as a magistrate, an appointed judgeship, for 18 years. She touted her time as the overnight judge at the county jail and is also proud of her drug court program, which she began in 2006 and says has since provided the opportunity for numerous offenders to get a new start.
She said she is seeking the elected seat to better position herself to effect positive outcomes with defendants.
“Because I’ve been a magistrate, where the elected officials are my supervisors, I’ve been able to see exactly what goes on from the jail all the way to the courthouse,” Mays said. “What I think is happening is, I think a lot of people are getting missed on the front end of the criminal justice system. I don’t get cases right now until after the 17 felony court judges send them to me. This particular position will allow me to be on the front end of the system where I can determine where people go.”
Mays was also quick to point out her programs do not apply to violent criminals, whom she said needed to be locked up. But she insisted that drug courts are the “most-researched area in criminal justice history.” First-time offenders who graduate from her drug court program can get their convictions expunged in many cases, leaving them more able to gain employment and move on to productive lives. With criminal justice reform being at the top of many voters’ minds, she sees her candidacy as a step in the right direction.
The evening had also set aside time for candidates from the governor’s and lt. governor’s races, however, there were no candidates for those offices in attendance. MNP is an open forum for discussion, and candidates from both sides of the aisle were invited. The Republicans in the races profiled did not attend.
The next Monday Night Politics is scheduled for Aug. 27.