Smith County Judge Candidates Get Ready For Primaries - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

2/9/06-Smith County

Smith County Judge Candidates Get Ready For Primaries

When Becky Dempsey decided not to run for Smith County Judge again, two Republicans quickly decided they wanted the job. Its less than a month now until the primary and things are beginning to heat up between Joel Baker and Gene Shull.

In a tight race for County Judge, both candidates can agree on one thing, there is a need for change in county government.

"I wasn't happy with the direction we were heading," said Joel Baker, Republican Candidate for County Judge. "I saw in August, the County Auditor issued a report saying we would be bankrupt in eight years if something didn't change."

"I think it's time for a business leader to step in," said Gene Shull, Republican Candidate for County Judge. "We've got some real needs in this community that need to be solved." What makes them stand apart is their backgrounds. For the past 32 years,Shull has run his own construction business. He says his business background has equipped him with the skills needed to get things done. Joel Baker runs his own law practice and says Smith County will benefit from his legal experience.

"The County Judge has to make some decisions based on legal issues that come before the commissioners court," said Baker. "As an attorney I will be better able to understand those issues." When it comes to the most important issue facing Smith County in 2006, a new jail, both agree it needs to stay downtown.

"I've talked to experts in the field, people that are experts in design of jails, experts in construction and experts in operation of the jail and it can be cost effective downtown," said Baker.

"I've voiced that opinion, but I don't think that the taxpayers should be burdened with a huge cost if in fact that's what it is to build it downtown," said Shull. State Senators Kevin Eltife and Todd Staples endorsed Shull for County Judge today. 

"We have raised a substantial amount ourselves and of course these races are expensive," said Baker. "We are going to keep doing what we are doing and we feel comfortable with the level of involvement that we have." With no Democratic candidate, the upcoming Primary Election will decide who will be the next Smith County Judge.

Molly Reuter, reporting.

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