The candidate filing deadline has come and gone, and several incumbent elected officials will face opponents in the March primary elections in Amarillo.

According to filings reported by the Potter County Republican Party, County Judge Nancy Tanner will face a primary challenger in her bid for a third term in office, following a tumultuous second term at the helm of the county’s operations.

Retired Pantex cybersecurity and information technology specialist Edward Heath has filed to challenge Tanner, taking aim at issues such as COVID compliance directives for small businesses and fiscal irresponsibility at the county. Both of these issues could be hot topics in the primary race, as Tanner has come under fire for her support of restrictions on local businesses during COVID, as well as alleged fiscal irresponsibility based on multiple tax increases and debt issuances without voter approval.

Firefighter Blair Schaffer will be the lone Republican on the ballot in the race for county commissioner in Potter County’s Precinct 2 to challenge the Tanner-appointed Democrat incumbent, Robert Ruiz. Ruiz will also be unopposed for the Democratic nomination for the position in his primary, according to candidate filings.

Republican Justice of the Peace Robert Taylor will also face an opponent in Potter County’s Precinct 2 general election next year, with Democrat David Deleon seeking his party’s nomination unopposed. According to his filing, Deleon is a sheriff deputy who is hoping to unseat Taylor following his first term in office.

In Randall County, the appointed Precinct 1 commissioner, Rusty Carnes, will face a primary challenger in his bid to secure the final two years of an unexpired term left by the resignation of former commissioner and now-County Judge Christy Dyer. Carnes will be opposed by rancher Kelly Giles for the Republican nomination.

For the Precinct 2 commissioner seat in Randall, four candidates will be on the Republican primary ballot to replace retiring Commissioner Mark C. Benton, who did not file to seek re-election. Former Amarillo City Commissioner Daniel Martinez, insurance director and musician Eric Barry, financial planner Ed Schroeter, and trust officer Terry Wright will all be on the ballot to replace Benton.

Meanwhile, in Randall County’s Precinct 4, hotly contested races have developed for both the county commissioner and justice of the peace positions.

For county commissioner, three candidates will vie for the Republican nomination to replace retiring Commissioner Buddy DeFord: retired Amarillo Police Department Captain Tam Boatler; project manager Michael D. Grady; and Melissa Kalka, the former constituent services director for former U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry.

In the race for justice of the peace, two challengers have emerged for appointed Justice of the Peace Kyle Balke, who is seeking a full term in office. Balke will face legal analyst Joanne Garcia Flores and building maintenance sergeant Michael B. Grady in the race for the Republican nomination.

Finally, three contested district court races have formed for the Amarillo area, with two Republican incumbents facing challengers and another race featuring a field of GOP contenders vying for an open seat.

For the 47th District Court bench, attorneys Dee Johnson, Joe Marr Wilson, and Alex Yarbrough will face each other for the Republican nomination to replace Judge Dan L. Schaap, who is not seeking re-election.

In the race for the 181st District Court bench, incumbent Judge Titiana D. Frausto will face a challenge from attorney Quenton Todd Hatter. This will be Frausto’s first time on the ballot since being appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to fill the position earlier this year.

Finally, in the race for the 320th District Court bench, Judge Pam Sirmon will face a rematch of her 2018 election to the position, with attorney Steven Michael Denny once again filing to oppose Sirmon. Denny, a criminal defense attorney from Amarillo, lost the Republican nomination for the position to Sirmon in a 2018 runoff, winning 42 percent of the vote to Sirmon’s 58 percent.

In addition to the Republican primary races in both counties, Democrats have also fielded several candidates for positions in Potter County.

Hilltop Senior Center director Warren Coble Sr., real estate professional Timothy Gassaway, and Amarillo College advising assistant director Melodie Graves will vie for their party’s nomination to replace Commissioner Alphonso Vaughn in Potter’s Precinct 4. The winner of this race will not face a Republican opponent in November and will win the seat unopposed.

The primary elections for these positions are currently scheduled for March 1, 2022.

Thomas Warren

Thomas Warren, III is the editor-in-chief of the Amarillo Pioneer newspaper in Amarillo, Texas.


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