Mooney wins Sheriff’s badge, Peveto gets bench
Last updated 3/3/2020 at Noon
For The Record
The Mooney Train rolled across Orange County Tuesday as Constable Lane Mooney defeated Sheriff’s deputy Rob Strause in a down-to-the wire race to become Sheriff.
The final total showed 6,991 votes for Mooney, 6,457 for Strause, a margin of 52% to 48% in the Republican Party Primary.
The going was a little easier for Rex Peveto, the son of former State Rep. Wayne Peveto.
He defeated Michael Catt 7,887-5,479 (59%-41%) in a contest to replace retiring Judge Dennis Powell on the 163rd District Court Bench.
As no Democrats registered to run for county-wide office, the winners in the Republican Primary Tuesday will face no opposition in November’s general election and will assume their new office Jan. 1, 2021.
In two of the other three contested county-wide races Tuesday, John Gothia retained his seat as County Judge by getting 73.5% of the vote over Ernest Bayard’s 26.5% and winning a two-year term; and Kirk Roccaforte won a four-year term as Precinct 3 Commissioner with 71% of the vote against Carl LeBlanc’s 29%.
The final contested race, like the Sheriff and 163rd District race, was between two non-incumbents seeking to replace a retiring jobholder, Mark Philpott.
Brad Frye won the Precinct 3 Constable job with 77.2% of the vote to 22.3% for Sambo Carpenter, Jr.
A total of 16,503 Orange County residents voted in the election, with a slight majority – 9,481 – taking advantage of early or absentee by mail voting.
Of those, just 2,659 of the votes cast were in the Democratic Party Primary, which included a Presidential Primary vote and other state and U.S. official officials.
Tuesday’s first vote totals released were for early voting and Mooney held a 394-vote lead (4,234-3,840). A later, partial vote count released by Orange County Elections Administrator Tina Barrow showed Strause ahead by 20 votes, 5,011-4,991.
“Oh man, it was a roller coaster ride,” Mooney, 55, said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
The new sheriff will replace Keith Merritt, who was first elected to the office in 2008 and will have served four three-year terms by the end of the year.
Mooney said he learned of his win in a telephone call from GOP County Chairman David Covey while at a watch party at the Oaks Event Center in Vidor.
The race for an empty district judge’s bench only comes around about once a decade and the media blitz for the 163rd District Court candidates, in Orange County’s most expensive race, featured non-stop ads on social media, electronic billboards and television.
Catt had raised $33,228 by Feb. 24 and Peveto spent $33,959 to win a job with a $158,000 annual salary.
“I was born and raised here. My dad was a state representative from here for 12 years and that surely helped,” Peveto said. “For the last 25 years I’ve been working here and I got a lot of support from [people in] the courthouse.
“My wife [Robin Peveto] is a highly respected teacher in Bridge City and that helped a lot in Bridge City.”
The Sheriff’s race in the GOP primary, another job with a retiring officeholder and no Democratic opponent, was also hotly contested between two longtime lawmen with experience fighting illegal narcotics.
Strause, the head of the Sheriff’s Office Special Services (Narcotics) Division, reported fund-raising of $30,186 through Feb. 24 and saved a big chunk of it for final week advertising.
Mooney’s campaign finance report showed just under $25,000 in contributions in his quest for the $106,080 per year job, and his stretch run also included TV ads.
County Judge John Gothia raised $28,100 in contributions through the Feb. 24 reporting date, but reported that much of it went unspent in the contest to keep his $107,140 a year job against Bayard, a newcomer to county politics.
ORANGE COUNTY RESULTS (Contested races only)
Republican Primary, Votes
1, Donald J. Trump, 13,153
2, Bill Weld, 75
3, Joe Walsh, 62
1, John Cornyn, 8,756
2, Dwayne Stovall, 2,476
3, Mark Yancey, 811
U.S. Rep. (District 36)
1, Brian Babin, 12,045
2, RJ Boatman, 1,326
163rd District Judge
1, Rex Peveto, 7,887
2, Michael Catt, 5,479
1, John Gothia, 9,362
2, Ernest Bayard, 3,373
1, Jimmy Lane Mooney, 6,991
2, Rob Strause, 6,457
Commissioner, Pct. 3
1, Kirk Roccaforte, 2,892
2, Carl LeBlanc, 1,183
Constable, Pct. 3
1, Brad Frye, 3,146
2, Sambo Carpenter Jr., 902
Democratic Primary Votes (Pct.)
1, Joe Biden, 1,148
2, Bernie Sanders, 573
3, Michael Bloomberg, 487
4, Elizabeth Warren, 184
1, Chris Bell, 391
2, Annie “Mama” Garcia, 377
3, MJ Hegar, 273
3, Amanda Edwards, 273