The decades long rule of Montgomery County’s “good old boys” club came crashing down in the March 6 primary, with voters sending a clear message that they are fed up with the county’s crony politics.
State Rep. Mark Keough (R-The Woodlands) handily defeated embattled incumbent County Judge Craig Doyal 58 to 42 percent in the most hotly contested race of the cycle. Doyal was a top target for tea party activists, as the county judge’s office has become the epicenter of cronyism. However, after two grand jury investigations and an indictment, voters decided to give the incumbent the boot. Keough’s victory will shift the balance of commissioners court in favor of grassroots conservatives.
Taking Keough’s place in the Texas House will be Steve Toth, who held the seat in 2013-14. Despite left leaning PACs pouring tens of thousands of dollars into his opponent’s campaign in a last-ditch effort to defeat him, Toth won by the largest margin of any candidate in Montgomery County, pulling in a jaw-dropping 78% of the vote.
Conservatives scored another huge win when Texans for Fiscal Responsibility’s endorsed candidate Kristin Bays won 66% of the vote in the race for Montgomery County’s 284th District Court. Perseverance payed off in the end for Bays, who campaigned tirelessly and had strong backing from state and local conservative groups.
Reform candidate Melanie Bush defeated incumbent Stephanne Davenport in an unusually high-profile county treasurer race. The race centered around Davenport obstructing public records requests and the out-sized influenced of her husband, Marc, a shady political consultant who is now under investigation for sexually abusing a minor. After Bush’s 66 to 34 percent landslide, voters can expect transparency and professionalism from the treasurer’s office again.
Two other countywide candidates with backing from local tea parties, incumbent County Clerk Mark Turnbull, and district clerk candidate Melisa Miller, both won their elections by large margins. In the open Justice of the Peace Pct. 3 seat, Commissioner James Noack’s chief of staff, Matt Beasley, a conservative favorite, won the three-way race without a runoff.
The biggest upset of the night was how well former Comal County Commissioner Greg Parker performed against establishment incumbent Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley. Despite being massively outspent, Parker won 43% of the vote, forcing a runoff. The third candidate, Brian Dawson, pulled 13 percent. Many of Dawson’s supporters will be behind Parker in the runoff, including Noack, who has now endorsed Parker.
In the other commissioner race, Precinct 4 incumbent Jim Clark will face a runoff against Justice of the Peace James Metts, who has sexual harassment rulings against him and was recruited by the establishment to take out Clark.
Tea party activists also took control of the Republican Party’s county executive committee, winning nearly all the 14 contested precinct chair races in the county and defeating several of County Chairman Wally Wilkerson’s key lieutenants. One of those defeated was Jim Schulze, Wilkerson’s right-hand man on the executive committee, who had also been considered to be Wilkerson’s future successor before voters put a heavy damper on his political ambitions.
The victories were the result of years of hard work, perseverance, and sacrifice by dedicated grassroots activists, who kept working tirelessly to undermine the county’s establishment, pressing on despite persecution and numerous setbacks. The results from this primary herald a new era in Montgomery County, and will hopefully result in a more transparent and accountable local government.