UPDATED December 18.
On the final day to file for a place on the March 2020 primary ballot, a couple of last-minute challenges and a legal fight over a candidate’s eligibility shook up Collin County’s mostly uncontested Republican races. Republicans currently hold all Collin’s county, district court, and state legislative positions.
Darrell Hale, County Commissioner for Precinct 3, drew a GOP primary challenge Monday from Allen Mayor Steve Terrell, who will be term-limited out of office in May after serving 23 years. Hale was endorsed by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and several local conservative grassroots organizations when he ran in 2018 to fill the unexpired term of now-County Judge Chris Hill.
Judge Ben Smith of the 380th District Court also drew a late-entry Republican challenger, trial attorney and visiting justice of the peace Melvin Thathiah. Thathiah’s filing was welcomed by Plano residents upset with Smith’s handling of a case involving a referendum on the controversial Plano Tomorrow development plan. When Smith unexpectedly transferred the 4-year-old case to another court in September, a visiting judge ruled against Plano citizens, allowing city officials to continue ignoring a referendum petition signed by over 4,000 residents.
The only other contested judicial primary is for the open 401st District Court. Attorneys George Flint, Sarah Fox, Brook Fulks, and Suzanne Wooten all filed, but Wooten’s eligibility is in question. The Texas Secretary of State’s office currently shows Wooten’s candidate status as “rejected,” but she is challenging the disqualification in court.
Texas law requires judicial candidates to have been practicing law for the four years prior to the election. Due to what was later found to be a wrongful conviction, Wooten’s law license was suspended in 2012 but reinstated in 2017 when she was exonerated. Wooten argues the suspension was voided, so it’s as if she was licensed the entire time. But Collin County’s Republican Party Chairman Mark Reid—who is responsible for certifying primary candidates’ eligibility before placing their names on the ballot—says Wooten could not have been a “practicing lawyer” while her license was suspended, so she is ineligible.
Wooten is taking her claim to the Texas Supreme Court after the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas denied her petition Monday.
Seven other Collin County district court benches are on the ballot in 2020, all currently held by Republicans. None of those incumbent judges have primary challengers, but most will face Democrat opponents in the general election.
Two other county races also have contested Republican primaries. Auditor Scott Grigg is challenging 34-year incumbent Tax Assessor-Collector Ken Maun, and retired sheriff’s deputy Mike Vance is running against Precinct 1 Constable Shane Williams. The county tax assessor race will have a Democrat running in November. Democrats also fielded candidates to run for both County Commissioner seats on the ballot. Uncontested Republican incumbents will be re-elected to office.
State lawmakers in Collin County’s all-Republican delegation are running unchallenged for re-election in the March primary, despite conservative grassroots activists’ disappointment with this year’s “purple session” in the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature. But all will face an opponent in the November general election; Democrats are fielding at least one primary candidate for each of the legislative seats.
Below is a list of candidates who have filed to run in the March 3, 2020, Republican and Democrat primaries for Collin’s state House, district court, and county positions, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s website.