About 120 voters gathered to hear the 2020 Republican candidates for Wharton County discuss local political issues at Mikeska’s BBQ Thursday night.
Candidates for state representative, district attorney, sheriff’s office, tax assessor-collector and district 3 commissioners spoke at the event, first introducing themselves to the crowd, then answering pre-selected questions.
Don Al Middlebrook and Precinct 201 Chair Marilyn Sodolak ran the forum, asking the candidates about their stances on issues, their plans to manage budgets, how they would handle conflict and more. Each candidate was allotted two minutes to answer the questions.
The first to speak were the 2020 candidates for Texas state representative for District 85. The current incumbent, Phil Stephenson spoke after his two Republican opponents, Robert Boettcher and Abolaji Tijani Ayobami.
Stephenson is a Certified Public Accountant, former Republican County Chairman and was elected as a District 85 representative in 2012.
“I’ve got all the experience,” Stephenson told the Leader-News. “The only thing we need to do is make sure we inform and tell the truth … and it’s hard to do that.”
Boettcher currently works as a senior engineer at oil and gas company Schlumberger and has nine years of engineering experience at various companies.
“I’m prepared to bring a new, fresh voice to Austin,” Boettcher told the Leader-News. “I’ve been actively knocking on doors, getting to know the voters and see what’s important to them.”
A pastor in Richmond, Ayobami has experience working in the engineering, financial services and business professions.
“I’ve been preparing to be a representative of the people for so long,” Ayobami said. “That is reflected in my calling as a pastor … The government is made for the people.”
Next to address voters were the candidates for District Attorney, Incumbent Dawn Allison and her opponent John Maher.
Since 2016, Allison has served as the District Attorney. She practiced criminal law for over 20 years.
“It’s kind of like the doctor: if you have a broken leg, are you going to go to your OBGYN?” Allison told the Leader-News. “Probably not … Not that law is specialized, but all I’ve done is criminal, so I know all the in-and-outs.”
Maher currently owns a law firm in Wharton, which he has operated for 29 years.
Between running a law firm “and the courtroom experience I have and trial experience, it surpasses just about every lawyer in the county, much less the current DA’s office,” Maher said. “I have more experience than all of them combined in trials.”
The following pair to speak were the Wharton County Sheriff’s Office Candidates, incumbent Shannon Srubar and his opponent Robert Macek.
Srubar has served as the sheriff for Wharton County since 2017 and before that was a Precinct 3 constable.
“The last three years have proven that deputies and the organization, the sheriff’s office, is doing a lot better than it did before,” Srubar said. “Burglaries have gone down 44 percent in Wharton County alone.”
A former Wharton County Sheriff’s Deputy sworn in 1990, Macek is currently a reserve officer with the Wharton Police Department.
“I have a proven track record of getting things done, and I bring nearly 30 years of hands-on business and law enforcement experience,” Macek said. “So that’s doing the job of sheriff.”
The Republican candidates for Wharton County tax-assessor collector and for precinct 3 commissioners addressed voters Thursday night. Tax-assessor-collector candidates are Tax Office Chief Deputy Cindy Hernandez, Real Estate Agent Sarah Hudgins and Deputy Tax Office Clerk Jessica Schulze. The precinct 3 candidates are incumbent Steven Goetsch, self-employed business owner Matt Lutringer and Operations Manager Rudy Ochoa.
Positions up for voting this spring include county attorney, district attorney, county sheriff, tax assessor-collector, county commissioners precincts 1-3 and county constable precincts 1-4.
A second voters’ forum will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11 at Grace Community Fellowship, 1900 E. Boling Hwy, in Wharton. The event is free and open to the public.