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By Margaret Toal
For the Record 

Smith beats three to win sheriff without runoff


Last updated 3/5/2024 at 11:44pm

Bobby Smith

Retired Texas Ranger Bobby Smith pulled an unusual political win by beating incumbent Sheriff Jimmy Lane Mooney and two others in the Republican primary with a margin wide enough that no runoff will be needed.

Also, in a race drawing national attention, David Covey of Mauriceville had a large margin over Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelen for the District 21 state representative. However, the fraction of votes for Alicia Davis of Jasper County appear to have thrown the race into a runoff. The district includes all of Orange and Jasper counties, plus part of Jefferson County.

Covey had the endorsements of former President Donald Trump, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. The endorsements came after Phelan last year led a successful Texas House impeachment of Paxton on a number of counts, though the Texas Senate voted against the impeachment.

In Orange County, Covey got 8,203 votes, or 54.2 percent. Phelan had 5,917, or 39.33 percent, and Davis had 92, or 6.15 percent. Davis's strongest showing has been in her home county. As of the Record newspapers deadline, the final results for the three-county area had not been called.

Because Orange County has no Democrats running for local offices, the winners of the Republican primary will run unopposed in the November general election.

The Precinct 2 constable's race had incumbent Jeremiah Gunter drawing enough votes to win outright against two challengers. Also, Joey Jacobs beat incumbent Matt Ortego for the Precinct 4 constable position.

The Orange County Elections Administration Office reports the Republican primary had a total of 15,407 votes cast with 9,621 votes made early or by mail. Election Day Tuesday brought another 5,498 to the polls.

The Democrats had 1,091 total votes giving the county a total of 16,498 people voting in the two primaries. Orange County has 54,871 registered voters.

Smith's win for sheriff is unusual not only because of its large margin, but because Mooney is serving his first four-year term in office. Incumbent sheriffs in Orange County have lost before, but not in their first terms. The exception was 36 years ago when the incumbent sheriff was under FBI investigation for criminal acts for which he was later indicted and convicted.

Smith lives in the Vidor area and said he retired from being a major in the Rangers so he could run for local sheriff. He had the endorsement of a number of law enforcement officers, including former sheriffs Keith Merritt and Mike White, plus retired Orange Police Chief Sam Kittrell.

Also running for sheriff this year were Beaumont Police Lieutenant Ron Dischler and Vidor ISD Police Chief Mike Sanchez.

Smith had a total of 8,340 votes, or 56.1 percent, with Sheriff Mooney coming in second with 4,302 votes at 29.93 percent. Sanchez got 1,531 votes, or 10.3 percent, and Dischler had 695, 4.67 percent.

Incumbent Precinct 2 Constable Jeremiah Gunter drew two challengers, but handily won without a runoff. He got 2,167 votes, 59.3 percent. David C. Bailey had 796, or 21.78 percent, with Harold Hass coming in third with 691, or 18.91 percent.

Precinct 4 Constable Matt Ortego lost his reelection bid to Joey Jacobs, a captain in the Orange County Sheriff's Office. Jacobs had 2,776 votes, or 68.17 percent, with Ortego at 1,296, or 31.83 percent.

This year, the race for Orange County Republican Party Chair drew a lot of attention with challenger Cheryl Warren beating incumbent Leo LaBauve. The local party voted to censure Phelan after the Paxton impeachment, but LaBauve opposed the censure.

Warren, who has started the Orange County Freedom Caucus and a group investigating books in schools, was endorsed by Paxton, who posed for photographs with her when he visited Orange campaigning.

Warren got 6,888 votes, or 56.12 percent, with LaBauve getting 5,379 or 43.88 percent.

The Republican ballot also included a number of incumbents running unopposed, along with three newcomers running unopposed. The three will be replacing incumbents who chose to retire after their current terms and not run for reelection.

The newcomers are Krispen Walker for district attorney, Rodney Townsend for county court-at-law No. 2, and Octavia Guzman, tax assessor-collector.


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