Runnels yields to newcomer in judge race


Last updated 12/1/2017 at Noon

Dave Rogers

For The Record

Pete Runnels is not running for Orange County judge after all, but Dean Crooks is, and the retired Beaumont police lieutenant has come out firing.

Oh, and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jody Crump has still not filed to run for re-election to his third term. Tuesday, he said, “That decision is yet to be determined.”

A Port Arthur Thomas Jefferson grad who has lived in Orange County since 1994, Crooks says if he’s elected from a field that so far includes three Republican candidates, he will:

  • Roll back September pay raises for the county judge and commissioners;
  • Make subsequent pay raises for those five elected officials subject to an election by all Orange County voters;
  • Reinstate vacation and retirement insurance benefits cut in September, 2016;
  • Not consider any tax increases, nor any new taxing entities.

County Judge Stephen Brint Carlton, who voted in favor of the benefits cuts in 2016 and earlier this year for pay raises for all elected county officials in an all-or-none vote as prescribed by law, is seeking re-election to his second term.

Ken Luce, a former Deputy Emergency Management Director, filed a week ago to oppose Carlton.

Carlton, Luce and Crooks will compete in a March 6 Republican primary election with the winner going on to the Nov. 6 general election next year.

So far, no Democrat has filed to run for the office.

Vidor Mayor Robert Viator has filed with GOP County Chairman David Covey to run for the Precinct 4 seat held by Crump since 2011.

Crump had announced back in the summer that he intended to run for a third term.

But that was before Tropical Storm Harvey’s floodwaters swallowed his home north of Vidor, not to mention a nearly completed second “flip” home he had redone and was about to list.

“I’ve been busy,” he said Tuesday.

Runnels, a former Orange County judge and current mayor of Pinehurst, was the first to announce his intention to run against Carlton. But he’s backed off and signed on as treasurer for Crooks’ campaign.

“I just don’t think that I want to do it,” said Runnels, who lost his house to Harvey flooding. “The day I decided I wasn’t going to do it, it felt like a ton of bricks lifted off my shoulders.”


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