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McLennan County voters eye tight races

Oct. 27, 2000

Campaigns for sheriff, judge

lead local election agenda

By B.J. GOERGEN

Reporter

Students wishing to make a difference in the Waco community will have an opportunity to do so by voting on election day.

In addition to selecting America's next commander-in-chief, voters in McLennan County will be selecting the next sheriff, county tax assessor-collector and judge for the 19th District Court.

Each person only has one vote, but in a community such as Waco, participating on election day is important. Political science professor Dr. Richard Riley said the Baylor student population has been steadily increasing over the past few years.

'Due to the sizable student population here, students who vote do make a difference,' he said.

This year the position of sheriff is an open seat and two men have come forward claiming that they have the qualifications to be the chief law enforcement official of McLennan County. Republican Larry Lynch and Democrat Robert Harold both have experience in law enforcement.

Lynch graduated from the FBI National Academy and has 25 years of law enforcement experience. He currently serves as a lieutenant with the McLennan County Sheriff's Department.

'The sheriff's department needs constant updating,' Lynch said. 'The safety of good people on our streets, in our homes and in our schools is the most important task I have to fulfill.'

Harold has served as the chief-of-police in Bellmead for nine years and has 17 years of law enforcement experience. He also served in the U.S. Army for 26 years. Harold supports drug enforcement and education programs, as well as community policing for seniors.

Another race on the horizon for McLennan County voters is the race for tax assessor-collector between Republican James DeZell and Democrat incumbent Buddy Skeen.

DeZell said he was running because he was approached and asked to run by people in the community last October. The main difference he cited between himself and his opponent was 'a management-principle difference.'

'I am people-oriented and can change the attitude [in the tax assessor-collector's office],' DeZell said.

DeZell also stressed the importance of acquiring the student vote at Baylor.

'I hope students realize how important their vote is here in McLennan County,' he said. During the election cycle of 1998, only 40,611 people in McLennan County voted.

Skeen, who has been in the tax assessor-collector's office for 12 years, also felt the student vote mattered in this election.

'Over the past 12 years, my team and I have transformed this office into a customer-friendly experience. We have made dealing with county government easier and more convenient for the taxpayer,' Skeen said. Skeen also said that beginning with this tax cycle, McLennan County will be one of the first counties in Texas to offer credit card payments over the Internet.

The position of district judge for the 19th District Court is another contested election in McLennan County. The court handles cases involving domestic relations and is known as McLennan County's family law court. Candidates running for judge include Republican Ralph Strother and Democrat Matt Johnson.

Gov. George W. Bush appointed Strother judge of the 19th District in 1999. Before his appointment, Strother was the first assistant district attorney for McLennan County.

His opponent, Johnson, currently serves as a felony prosecutor in the district attorney's office.

'I am the only candidate who has practiced extensively in the field of family law,' Johnson said.

These races may pale in comparison to the heated presidential race, but they affect every Baylor student and person in the McLennan County community.