Candidates talk growth at Lake Conroe Area Republican Women forum

From left: Candidates for Precinct 1 commissioner Billy Graff and Robert Walker speak at the Lake Conroe Area Republican Women forum. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
From left: Candidates for Precinct 1 commissioner Billy Graff and Robert Walker speak at the Lake Conroe Area Republican Women forum. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)

From left: Candidates for Precinct 1 commissioner Billy Graff and Robert Walker speak at the Lake Conroe Area Republican Women forum. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)

Concerns over growth in Montgomery County loomed large over the Lake Conroe Area Republican Women forum Feb. 6, where candidates for several local primary races discussed their background and their platforms.



The group had each candidate answer prewritten questions that were given to them before the forum in four minutes but had the opportunity to speak on whatever topic they wanted. As the forum was hosted by a Republican group, no Democratic candidates were present.



Precinct 1 commissioner



Candidates for Montgomery County Precinct 1 commissioner Billy Graff and Robert Walker spoke at length on the growth the county has seen in the last several years. Commissioner Mike Meador is not seeking re-election. Democrat Mike Midler is also running for this election.



Walker said Precinct 1 needs updated technology to inform people on projects and areas of concern as the county’s population continues to grow. He said he would give tax abatements to companies who had met certain criteria.



“You have to give an incentive to these companies,” Walker said. “You have to give them a reason to move in here.”



Graff said he is not in favor of tax abatements for companies moving to the area. He said he would rather create a commercial environment and a tax appraisal system that is attractive to companies.



“If we spend lots of time and lots of taxpayer dollars paying corporations to come here, then all we’re doing is we’re putting some of that burden on the taxpayer’s back,” Graff said.



Precinct 2 constable



For the constable of Precinct 2 race, Clyde Vogel, Daniel Pena, David Easton and incumbent Gene DeForest spoke about the need to grow the constable’s office as the county grows as well.



Vogel pointed to his experience in dealing with narcotics at the Conroe Police Department and managing staff. Vogel said as the county grows, the constable must be active in serving warrants to bring back money to the county.



“You and I both know that our taxes aren’t going down, but if we can do anything to keep them from going up, that’s a plus for everyone in this room,” Vogel said.



Pena said he is currently working with the sheriff’s office, teaching local officials how to deal with active shooters and working as a paramedic. He also pointed to the array of endorsements he had received, including the Texas Patriots political action committee.



“That goes to show you I have been supported by the whole spectrum of the Republican Party,” Pena said.



After speaking of his leadership background, Easton said the Precinct 2 constable needs to grow to provide 24-hour service as Montgomery County continues to attract more residents.



“With the influx of population growth, you’re also gonna have an influx of crime,” Easton said. “So you don’t have a choice but to grow.”



DeForest said he has been in law enforcement for 45 years and pointed to the 19 years he has served as constable as proof of his qualifications.



“I have over the last 19-plus years have been here to serve you, the people,” DeForest said.



Judge of 457th District Court of Texas



Competing for the Republican nomination for the judge of the new 475th District Court, candidates Eric Yollick, Bobby Kasprzak, Vince Santini, Bruce Coulson Tough and Chris Buck spoke about the court’s need to address the case backlog in Montgomery County. Democrat Marc Midler is also running for the position.



Yollick said he has tried over 200 jury trials and said he would clear the backlog of cases in the first 13 months in office if elected.



“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Yollick said. “But when you delay justice, you the taxpayers are the people who are really paying the price.”



As a civil attorney for 15 years, Kasprzak said he has a strong grasp of the law to be able to deal with the cases the court will see. He said his temperament and his work ethic make him qualified for the position.



“I take this job very seriously, even though I don’t take myself very seriously,” Kasprzak said.



Santini brought out a poster board to show his expertise and emphasized the county’s needs for docket management.



“I’m the only candidate that has docket management experience with not one, but two Montgomery County district courts,” Santini said. “I was in charge of 1,200 cases on the docket.”



Tough said the newly formed 457th court was “made” for him, as he knows how to handle courts and trials.



“I hope everyone who knows me knows that I serve with honor and distinction,” Tough said. “And I plan to do that as the judge of the 457th court.”



As an attorney, Buck said the personal experience of helping clients through the legal system is what motivated him to run for office.



“There’s got to be a balance there where you’re moving things along and you’re respectful of the taxpayers’ dollars,” Buck said. “But at the same time, there’s an individual citizen who’s life is on the line.”



The primary election is March 3. Early voting begins Feb. 13. Voting locations and times can be found at www.elections.mctx.org.

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By Andy Li

Originally from Boone, North Carolina, Andy Li is a graduate of East Carolina University with degrees in Communication with a concentration in journalism and Political Science. While in school, he worked as a performing arts reporter, news, arts and copy editor and a columnist at the campus newspaper, The East Carolinian. He also had the privilege to work with NPR’s Next Generation Radio, a project for student journalists exploring radio news. Moving to Houston in May 2019, he now covers the Conroe Independent School District, Montgomery City Council and transportation.


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