The Kingwood Area Republican Women (KARW) held a forum, Thursday, Feb. 17 at Tin Roof BBQ in Atascocita for candidates on the Harris County judge Republican primary ballot.

Topics included crime rates and bail reform, vaccine mandates, fund allocation, spending on social programs and more. Four of the nine Republican candidates were present to discuss the issues in front of a large and lively crowd. The candidates were Martina Lemond Dixon, Robert Dorris, Randy Kubosh and Vidal Martinez.

Candidate and longtime Kingwood resident Martina Lemond Dixon is currently the president of the Humble ISD board of trustees, having served on the board in different capacities since June 2017. Dixon also serves on the Harris County Appraisal District board of directors. A native Houstonian, Dixon is a self-described “very strong” Christian, a wife and a mother of four, who has always led “with a servant heart.” Dixon stated that her school board background, her involvement on the building and planning committee and also the finance committee, has prepared her well for the role of Harris County judge. Dixon said she is running for three basic reasons — to address “deplorable” crime issues, drainage issues related to flooding, and infrastructure. When asked if Dixon would return the process of running elections back to the county clerk, Dixon replied, “Yes, absolutely. The elections administrator and that entire office needs to go,” further commenting on its inefficiency and disorganization from personal experience. Dixon said she would like an audit performed before the office is eliminated. Dixon was asked, if elected, what issues of concern she would prioritize at the Harris County Commissioners Court.

“The very first thing would be to take a hard stance on crime and focus on safety,” Dixon replied. Dixon emphasized that the number one goal and priority of the Humble ISD school board is safety. Dixon also said that she would “trim the fat” off the budget and eliminate the social programs, because, while she wants to help communities, “that is not the role of the county judge” and the current county judge has “stepped out of her lane many times for our district and that type of thing has to end.” When asked about the responsibility of the county judge at Harris County events such as funeral services for fallen first responders and public officials as well as press conferences and how she would characterize Judge Hidalgo’s behavior at the recent funeral service for Constable Corporal Galloway, Dixon said, “It’s about respect, it’s definitely not for politics and Lina Hidalgo should be ashamed of herself.” When asked how she would ensure public funds, such as flood bonds, go to the communities most affected, Dixon cited her experience with flooding challenges as a member of the Humble ISD school board and spoke of meeting and partnering with Congressman Crenshaw and Congressman Brady to access and expedite the FEMA funds that were needed to make repairs to Kingwood High School and other district facilities, noting their success in that effort.

Candidate Robert Dorris “just wants to leave you alone” and get “government out of our lives.” The oldest of seven, Dorris was born and raised in the Spring/Tomball area where he worked on construction sites with his father from the age of 8. Dorris graduated from Texas Tech University with degrees in both architecture and business and is currently a marketing manager within the construction industry, managing multimillion dollar construction projects and budgets. Dorris said he is running to protect his young son, who he would “do anything for,” and will address crime issues, “get rid of” bail reform, and hold judges accountable. Dorris said he will also focus on infrastructure and growth. In a question regarding public frustration with catch and release tactics, repeat offenders and bail reform issues, Dorris was asked how he would combat the rising crime and bring safety to the communities. Dorris said he wants to have a website dedicated to “those judges who have been letting everybody out,” detailing “who the judge is, who the criminal is that they let out, what they let them out for.” Dorris would also like a map indicating what kind of crimes are happening and when and where they are happening, information he said is currently difficult to obtain. Dorris was asked about Judge Hidalgo’s practice of placing Section 8 housing under the guise of multiuse government run communities in the middle of suburban communities and whether or not he would reverse it. “The quick answer is yes,” Dorris said. Dorris added that people “naturally self-segregate” and should be allowed to “move where they want to move, where they feel comfortable and where they’re economically viable to go.” When asked if he’s been a lifelong Republican, Dorris said “Yes, lifelong Republican … I’m much more a conservative Libertarian. I don’t want to get involved in anybody’s lives. You guys know how to live your lives better, I know how to live my life better.” When asked if he would defund and eliminate the new county departments Judge Hidalgo created and staffed with non-Texans or if he would let the department heads go at the end of their contracts and hire Texans to replace them, Dorris responded that although it “sounds good” to hire Texans, it’s “wasteful spending” so the departments would be eliminated. Dorris said he wants to return to zero-based budgeting.

Candidate Randy Kubosh said he and his brother, Houston City Council member Michael Kubosh, are known for a number of ballot initiatives, most notably the removal of the red-light cameras. After getting the votes needed, a federal judge invalidated the City of Houston election. Randy Kubosh intervened as a plaintiff to restore the vote and took it to the U.S. Supreme Court where they won the case. Kubosh is a self-described “true Republican,” a lifelong Texan and Houstonian, and said he is one to “keep his promises.” When asked how he, as county judge, would balance the budget needs of Harris County while maintaining a reasonable tax rate for the residents and business owners, Kubosh said he is against raising taxes and especially “against the appraisal district raising the valuations on our properties.” Kubosh said he believes in only doing the “core services of Harris County” and is against the social programs instituted by the current administration and the county courts. Kubosh was asked his thoughts on the current redistricting. Kubosh said he is “totally against that map.” When asked about waste in the current budget, Kubosh said there is an “enormous” amount of waste by funding “feel good” projects while cutting the budget for law enforcement. Kubosh was also asked how he would ensure that public funds, such as flood bonds, would go to the communities most affected and not be diverted to other projects. Kubosh said he would implement a full review and audit of flood mitigation bonds and seek dollars from the state’s rainy day fund. “That’s our money,” he said.

Candidate Vidal Martinez started his career as a federal prosecutor in Harris County. Martinez served as chairman of the State Bar of Texas for one year, has served 30 years on the Houston Methodist Hospital System board of directors, and served as chairman of the transportation committee of the Greater Houston Partnership where he also served on the board for several years. All of this, Martinez said, is relevant experience for the three responsibilities of the County: the criminal justice system, public health and transportation/emergency management. Martinez said all the candidates agree that crime is the “number one issue” and that “we need to get rid of Lina Hidalgo.” When asked about his stance on vaccine mandates in regards to employment and businesses, Martinez said, “I’m against mandates, whether they be vaccines or masks.” Martinez said he would not push mandates at the Harris Health System, except for when they have to due to federal requirements. Martinez was asked, if elected, how his faith would impact his decision making. Martinez said he and his wife are “God-fearing people” and that religion and faith has always been part of his family and he believes it’s Christian beliefs that will get “you working in the right direction and maintaining that.” Martinez was asked what changes or additions to the current job description of director of emergency management (a county judge role) he would bring to this duty, if elected, and how effectively he thinks this has been managed the past two years, especially in regards to the pandemic and the severe storms and their effect on Harris County. “She (Hidalgo) didn’t check with the CEOs of any of the hospitals, didn’t even check with the city. She just called a Red Alert. That’s what you don’t do. You don’t scare people. You don’t take them into Red Alert,” said Martinez. When asked if he would reverse Judge Hidalgo’s practice of placing Section 8 housing in the middle of suburban communities, Martinez cited his tenure on the Houston Housing Authority and clarified that Section 8 housing is “not a county issue” but a city issue. He said the Houston Housing Authority, a city department, receives and disperses Section 8 funds and that the county’s involvement is minimal. However, if the city government begins to impair communities, he sees the position of county judge as a “bully pulpit” and would “step in.”

The Kingwood Area Democrats hosted a candidate forum for the Democratic primary election via Zoom Monday, Feb. 21. Early voting for the 2022 Texas primary election began Feb.14 and will continue through Feb.25. Election Day is Tuesday, March 1.

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