A newly-created Williamson County Appraisal District seat is vacant following questions over the winning candidate’s eligibility for office. 

WCAD Board Chairman Jon Lux ran for one of the seats created by Texas’ new law allowing voters in counties with over 75,000 residents to elect three new members to the governing board of their appraisal districts, which set the property appraisals used to calculate property taxes.

The three elected board members will serve alongside the five directors chosen by the county’s taxing entities and the county tax assessor-collector, who will become an ex-officio board member. 

Lux faced Mike Sanders in the May 4 election for Position 2.

Sanders, who recruited Jim Buell and Collin Klein to run for the other two positions, stated, “I decided to run since nobody else would do it, just so the voters would have a choice.”

His decision came after Marcia Watson, the Citizens Defending Freedom Williamson County executive director, asked him to recommend three candidates for the positions.

Briefed on the new legislation, Sanders, Klein, and Buell applied the next day.

Despite an application process that Sanders and Klein described as “chaos,” they successfully filed, and things went smoothly.

Until April 12. 

Sanders’ friends informed him that failure to settle his delinquent property taxes could lead to disqualification. He covered everything later that day, thinking he’d avoided a roadblock.

Of the three recruited candidates, only Sanders won. He defeated the Board Chairman by 1,597 votes. 

“Name recognition helped,” Sanders said. “I didn’t campaign that hard. But it was nice to win.”

His victory was short-lived.

Days later, at the WCAD board meeting, Lux declared Sanders ineligible. 

“It was without any motion or a second to the motion,” Sanders recalled.

Citing his authority under the election code, Lux explained that because Sanders had been over 60 days delinquent on property taxes, under the tax code, he was ineligible.

Watson and Buell attended in support of Sanders and due process.

Although she knew about his 2023 delinquency, his 2011, 2013, 2017, and 2020 delinquencies were news to Watson.

She asked him why he hadn’t paid his taxes. 

He explained he usually paid using his income tax refund, albeit sometimes past the due date; however, he had no formal payment plan or legal action against him. 

“I remember thinking, back in January, ‘I need to pay the taxes,’ but I didn’t get to it because you get busy with life.”

Lux explained that under the tax code, the board could determine Sanders’ eligibility only after an election. Only County Judge Gravell could have determined Sanders’ eligibility before the election.

Sanders argued, “The loser in this election is trying to prevent the winner from taking office so that the loser can take the office that he lost.”

“They waited until the very end to disenfranchise the voters,” Klein agreed. “They had an ace up their sleeve.”

The board’s follow-up letter to Sanders explained Lux’s rationale: “Who currently has, or at one time had, delinquent taxes for 61 days or more.”

Sanders believes that Lux inaccurately interpreted the statute. “He is saying that if it ever happened in life, then one is forever ineligible.”

The tax code states that an individual is ineligible to serve on an appraisal district board of directors if the individual “owns property on which delinquent taxes have been owed to a taxing unit for more than 60 days after the date the individual knew or should have known of the delinquency.”

With the final canvass done and the new position starting July 1, Sanders will request that Attorney General Ken Paxton expedite an opinion.

If Paxton fails to reply before July, however, Sanders must either accept the board’s decision or file a lawsuit against WCAD.

“To make a decision like this against your political opponent, without even consulting an attorney, shows either an incredible amount of incompetence or malicious intent,” Sanders stated.

However, Lux defended the board’s actions, stating they did consult with legal counsel before the meeting.

Lux also told Hill Country News that “he would not accept any nomination to the Sanders seat out of respect for the voters’ will. He also noted that it wouldn’t make sense for him to be appointed to a new seat since it would leave his current seat vacant, creating further work for the board.”

“Not only does it disenfranchise voters,” Watson commented. “But either way, we’ll have to pay for this as taxpayers when it goes to a lawsuit.”

Ian Camacho

Ian Camacho graduated from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and is a Precinct Chair-Elect for the McLennan County Republican Party. @RealIanCamacho.