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Longview NAACP forum draws city, county hopefuls

By Glenn Evans
May 10, 2012 at 10 p.m.


Candidates for Saturday's city election and May 29 party primaries pitched their qualifications Thursday to the Longview NAACP.

"When you serve people, you get a joy," Precinct 4 constable candidate Bernard Brooks told a crowd that would grow to 60. "And people can see that in your work and your day-to-day life."

Brooks and Ulysses Johnson are challenging incumbent Robby Cox for the Democratic nomination in the roughly south Gregg County precinct. Cox did not attend Thursday's National Association for the Advancement of Colored People forum at Broughton Recreation Center.

Johnson, noting that constables may do more than deliver court summons and other papers, said he would ensure children who are in jail attend family funerals.

"I want to be able to go get that kid, bring that boy or girl that's locked up, to that funeral," he said.

City council elections took some spotlight Thursday as John Sims and challengers Samantha Clark and David Sparks pitched their points.

"I see a lot of potential for things that kind of went by the wayside," Clark said, noting empty buildings in District 1 and across town. Clark said she would work for residents, " ...who feel that they have nothing or that there's no hope for them, because everything's pointed to the other side of town."

Sparks pitched his fourth-generation Longview heritage along with stints on the Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Construction Advisory Appeals Board. He said his priority on the council would be public safety, supporting the police and fire departments.

Sims, running for his third and final term, praised the makeup of the city council.

"We have disagreements," Sims said. "We vote our hearts and with the citizens in mind."

Mayor Jay Dean, who is being challenged by Tammy Barnes, who did not attend, said he had been invited to a meeting of ministers when he took office six years ago.

"Their concern was the fact that I'd been the District 5, or Spring Hill, or North Longview city councilman, that I wasn't going to do anything for the rest of the city," Dean recalled.

Dean said the Unity in the Community prayer marches, the return of neighborhood policing, fee waivers for reclaiming abandoned businesses and other development showed he was not merely northern Longview's mayor.

"This district, this area, is sort of the epicenter of Longview," Dean said, referring to the south-central part of the city before noting the 2011 referendum on $52.6 million in road and other infrastructure repair. "Guess where two-thirds of that money is going? It's going to be spent right here in this district."

Shirley McKellar of Tyler, a Democrat hoping to unseat Republican Northeast Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, told the group their representative should not serve only one party.

"I'm very concerned about what's going on in my country - the loss of jobs," McKellar said. "There's too much division in our country. When we went to serve (in the U.S. Army in Iraq), we went to serve all the people and not a party."

Tommy Merritt and David Simpson, the respective challenger and incumbent representing District 7 in Austin, highlighted their different approaches to government.

Tea party loyalist Simpson railed against the state's $21 million pledge to Apple for bringing 3,600 jobs to the Austin area.

"These so-called economic development programs favor the elite," Simpson said. "We need to attract employers and businesses to Texas through a qualified work force."

That would involve meeting a growing need to support community colleges, he added.

Merritt noted Texas' favorable climate for business - low taxes, low production costs, transportation options by air, rail and port.

"We are competing internationally for jobs and opportunity," said Merritt, a seven-term House member before Simpson took the seat in 2010. "I enjoyed serving in the Legislature, to help create a great environment for people to work in the state of Texas. ... We need to incentivize our businesses, large or small, to offer health care to their work force, to their employees. We do not need a national bureaucrat mandating it to companies."

Simpson noted that everyone can find medical care in an emergency room.

"We should not confuse the lack of insurance and accessibility to health care," Simpson said, noting newly emerging cash options for some pregnancies. "If insurance is involved, it's a minimum of two to three times higher. Government-mandated health care is going to destroy our economy and our health care system."

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