Smith County judge faces challenger in debate - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

Smith County judge faces challenger in debate

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TYLER, TX (KLTV) -

The two candidates battling for the position of Smith County judge faced each other Friday afternoon in the first debate sponsored by Grassroots America.

County Judge Joel Baker has held the position since 2006 and says Friday's debate against his challenger, Retired Major General John Furlow, was handled in the civil manner he expected.

One of the many topics discussed was how tax money is spent in the county. Baker and Furlow disagreed on the county jail and how the $33.5 million debt will be paid off.

One of Furlow's platforms, cutting the county judge's base salary, was brought up several times during their debate.

"You had the ability to walk in there and put on the agenda and roll that salary back, and that's what I intend to do on day one; roll the salary back," Furlow said. "You have that ability and authority to say I did wrong, I regret it, and I'm going to roll the salary back as an example to other county employees and what leadership looks like. You didn't do that. Right now, you're wrong."

Judge Baker went on to say he agrees it was a mistake to vote for a pay raise, but since then he has waived any other salary raises.

"I should have handled it in a different way. I've done it, and what's done is done," Baker said. "I told you earlier that I agree with the salary plan setting the salary and what it is, and if you win the election, you have the right ultimately to roll the salary back."

Furlow says if elected, he would cut his salary to $72,000 to use the money for other resources.

Early voting begins February 18.

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