Four men are vying for the Gregg County Pct. 4 seat — including incumbent Shannon Brown — in the March Democratic primary.
Brown, who is facing a list of criminal charges related to suspected election fraud in the March 2018 primary in the county, is being challenged by Danny E. Craig Sr., Gary “G” Floyd and Daryl Williams. Two of his challengers previously served as Pct. 4 commissioner.
The precinct runs from central Longview south to Easton and takes in some of Kilgore.
The primary is set for March 1 with early voting scheduled to begin on Feb. 14. No Republican has filed to run for the Pct. 4 commissioner’s seat.
Here’s more about the candidates:
Brown is in his first term as Pct. 4 commissioner, and he said as he runs for a second term, he wants to assure the precinct gets its fair share of tax revenues to continue with roadwork in its boundaries.
Talking about his reelection campaign and hopes for a second term, Brown also said he hopes to work more closely with the East Texas Regional Airport and that he would like to see more than two flights per day depart from the airport.
“I would like to work with them and see what we can do to make it more feasible for people who want to travel from Gregg County,” the former Easton mayor said.
In 2018, Envoy Air — a subsidiary of American Airlines — added a third daily flight between Gregg County and the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. In October 2019, airport Director Roy Miller said the airline was cutting its daily trips.
Brown touted purchases for the precinct, including a backhoe, maintainer and a “sheepsfoot” roller, as accomplishments during his time on the commissioners court.
Brown said he would like to be known for his work ethic and how he has changed the precinct.
“I feel confident about serving; there’s no doubt in my mind I can continue to serve Gregg county and the precinct,” Brown said. “May the best man win.”
Brown and three others charged with election fraud in the 2018 primary could go to trial as early as this month. Brown was charged with 23 felonies that include engaging in organized election fraud, fraudulent use of mail ballot application, election fraud and tampering with a governmental record with intent to harm or defraud.
Craig, who previously served as Pct. 4 commissioner, said he wants to be a voice and strong advocate for the residents of the precinct.
He is a lifelong resident of the precinct and said he is willing to stand up for what he believes is right and that he would work to benefit all of the precinct’s residents.
Craig served as Pct. 4 commissioner for two terms from 1999 to 2006.
He said he is seeking the seat again because he has grown in ways that could benefit precinct residents, “in the sense of having gained more wisdom and knowledge in life and circumstance and just the desire to help the growth of Gregg County.”
Craig said he believes he offers strong leadership that will stand for what is good for the county, in particular Pct. 4.
If elected, he said he wants to work to maintain the county’s low tax rate and to have funds available for residents’ needs. Craig said he wants to work with the leaders of the county and “make sure that Precinct 4, a minority precinct, is not left behind.”
This is Floyd’s second time running for Pct. 4 commissioner. His first run was in 2018 when he ran as a Republican and was defeated by Brown.
Floyd said he has an Associate’s of Applied Science degree in mechanical engineering technology from Texas State Technical College, a bachelor’s degree in political science from Prairie View A&M University and a master’s degree in business administration with a graduate certificate in financial analysis from DeVry University.
Floyd said he is qualified for the position based on his knowledge and familiarity with locals in the community. He has been actively attending Longview City Council meetings since 2011 and local school board meetings since 2012.
“I’ll say this, I’ve attended more meetings than any other person that has run for office” Floyd said.
Floyd said he understands what is needed to be Pct. 4 commissioner and that he is prepared to take on the role to serve its residents. He said he wants to remain involved in the community and to visit the Lakeport and Easton areas to address the needs of residents.
“One of the things is, you’re a member of a team — you have to be able to look at the projects that are happening in other areas of the county,” Floyd said.
Floyd would like to see the county extend more services to the community and spend a little more money on those services. Specifically, he said he would like to see an increase in programs to help with children’s education, especially for minority children, he said. He mentioned local tutoring and after-school programs.
“I’m part of the community, and I think that makes a difference,” Floyd said. “(As commissioner) you won’t just have a discussion and a yes/no from me, you’re going to see see me around.”
Williams has experience in city and county government.
He was a Longview City Council member from 2002 to 2012, during which time he also served as mayor pro tem after Murray Moore announced his resignation in early 2005. Williams held the pro tem position until the summer of 2005, when Jay Dean was elected mayor.
In early 2018, Williams was appointed Pct. 4 commissioner after Commissioner John Mathis resigned effective at the end of 2017. Williams remained in the position until late 2018, after which time Brown was elected as the new Pct. 4 commissioner.
Williams believes it is this experience that qualifies him to be Pct. 4 commissioner.
“I just like helping people, being a voice for the people,” Williams said. “I love the city of Longview; I like serving and helping people.”
If elected, Williams said he would want to be a commissioner who is accessible for the people and to let the public know that if they call him, he will respond.
“You work for the people; you need to be available for the people,” Williams said.
Additionally, he wants to make sure that Pct. 4 gets its fair share of funds, along with looking at roads and helping the communities of Lakeport, Easton and the southeast part of Kilgore.
Bittersweet. Overwhelming. Relief. These are some of the words used by Lita Walker and Frances Rodriguez when describing how they felt when they learned this past week that their missing mother’s vehicle had been found near Kilgore.
Rosemary Rodriguez was reported missing Oct. 8, 2019, a day after she was last seen leaving her boyfriend’s home on Mount Pisgah Road in the Kilgore area. She was 54.
On Thursday, her bright green 2014 Chevrolet Sonic was found in a wooded area off Mount Pisgah Road. The car, which had human remains inside, was not far from where she was last seen, Frances Rodriguez said.
The two women were contacted shortly after law enforcement found the vehicle.
“We were both at work, and we started getting blown up on Facebook Messenger,” Walker said.
Later in the day, the sheriff’s department confirmed to family that the vehicle was found. On Friday, they met with a lieutenant who told them about the human remains.
“He said, ‘We can’t identify them at this moment, but we wanted to let you guys know before the media took ahold of it,’” Frances Rodriguez said.
Officials have not confirmed the remains are those of Rosemary Rodriguez and were working Friday to extract the vehicle from the woods.
Walker said she and her sister started crying when they heard the news.
“We held each other and just cried,” Frances Rodriguez said. “It was more bittersweet tears. We’ve mourned our mother for two years and I mean, I’m at a loss of tears. I can’t make myself cry about it anymore.”
She said the news was a relief.
“As soon as they came back with the car, it was like a huge weight that had been sitting there for forever faded,” Frances Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez’s daughters in October 2019 helped organize a vigil for their mother to pray for her return and to continue to raise awareness about her disappearance.
“We just knew that it would take us having our story out there and continuing it or somebody stumbled upon something to know what they needed to look for,” Walker said. “And that’s basically what happened.”
Later, they created the Finding Rosemary Rodriguez Facebook group where information could be shared.
“We’ve been using that to share all of the news articles and any information to let people know what they needed to look for to help us,” Walker said. “We ask for their patience with us and understanding that we’re having to wait, so it may be a while before we are able to share anything.”
Rosemary Rodriguez chose a bright green vehicle due to her love of frogs, the two said. That vehicle detail was included on every post on social media and on missing-person flyers.
“It’s because of the community and everyone sharing her story that she was found, and we so greatly appreciate everyone who’s been a part of that or has reached out to us in any way,” Walker said.
The pair turned off comments on the Facebook page after the announcement the car was found.
“We were already so overwhelmed, and we just needed a break,” Walker said.
Frances Rodriguez said it was hard to then see theories about what had happened to her mother.
“That’s what I wanted the most was just the peace of knowing where she is and not having to wonder because your mind goes everywhere,” Walker said. “The outcome is sort of what we expected. We knew she wouldn’t go for this long without contacting anyone in the family if she was anywhere where she was physically able to contact someone.”
“I know that sounds terrible to say but it was almost joyous in a way too because now it’s like, OK, we have her and that’s the most important thing with all of this,” Frances Rodriguez said. “Yes, we want justice. Yes, we want the person that did it to be responsible. But at the end of the day, we get to say a proper goodbye to our mother.”
Frances Rodriguez said her mother had no means to get money as her debit card was lost and canceled shortly before she was missing.
“I mean, everything pointed to something had happened to her,” Frances Rodriguez said.
Gregg County sheriff’s officials previously said law enforcement believe criminal activity could be involved in Rosemary Rodriguez’s disappearance. The daughters said law enforcement reaffirmed that with the recent discovery of the car.
“They called it a crime scene after they found the vehicle,” Walker said. “It was too far back in the woods for it to have been an accident. It was placed in the woods, in the middle of the woods.”
Frances Rodriguez said there were searches along that road after Rodriguez went missing but none fully reached that area where the vehicle was found.
She said the home where her mother was living with her boyfriend is south of where the vehicle was found.
The two women said the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office is keeping them informed about the investigation.
Frances Rodriguez said waiting during the investigation process over the past two years has been frustrating. Between waiting for more information and a global pandemic, there have been roadblocks when it comes to leads.
We don’t want to release too much information, but it’s a waiting game from here,” Frances Rodriguez said.
“We’ve been digging through a lot of old family photo albums and beginning to scan in a bunch of pictures to create a slideshow,” Walker said.
The photos are in preparation for an eventual memorial service.
Several photos from the early 80s hang on the wall of their mother’s home in West Longview. Portraits of 16- or 17-year-old Rosemary Rodriguez wearing large-framed glasses with curled hair sat in old detailed bronze picture frames. Another portrait shows Rodriguez with longer hair holding Walker as a baby.
“Once I found those, we couldn’t put them back in the box,” Walker said.
Walker motioned over to a TV tray table and sideboard with pictures of her mother and items, including frog figurines.
“I have this little shrine kind of over here that’s got a bunch of little knickknacks that people have given me over the last two years,” Walker said. “There will usually be a candle burning for her.”
“She never knew a stranger,” Frances Rodriguez said, remembering her mother. “She was always kind to so many people. Like, I mean, she worked at Walmart, in the pharmacy.”
Frances Rodriguez said her mother always had a smile on her face.
“I want to remember her like that,” she said.
On Monday, the two women sat in the home in which their mother lived.
Walker, 32, now lives there with her dogs and a new kitten. Her husband, 34-year-old Mark Walker, died in October due to a blood clot causing cardiac arrest. His death was on the two-year anniversary of her mother’s disappearance.
Frances Rodriguez, 28, was living in Washington state when her mother went missing. She has since married and relocated back to the area. She and her husband are staying with Walker to help out.
It’s not lost on the sisters that this chapter in their lives closed at the very end of 2021 when the car was found.
“It’s been a hard year, but we brought in the New Year together,” Frances Rodriguez said. “We both, you know, just looked at each other and said, you know, it’s a year of healing. It’s a year of closure. Closure and healing. It’s time to end this chapter and start new.”
In Texas, a person must be missing for seven years before they can be declared dead. The two had been looking at the timeline for their mother in the future.
“Maybe our plans going forward won’t have to be quite as long as we initially thought,” Walker said.
The sisters said they’ve grown closer over the past two years and are grateful for the change. They previously had been in different parts of their lives separated by distance and age. Now, they consider themselves to be best friends.
“We were watching a show the other day and the siblings were fighting and (Walker’s) like, ‘Stop, you’re going to cherish each other one day,’” Frances Rodriguez said.
“That’s our mom, right there,” Walker said of her own words. “We do cherish each other. I think she sees us. I think she’s happy.”
Anyone with information about Rodriguez is asked to contact investigators at (903) 236-8408 or Gregg County Crime Stoppers at (903) 236-7867 or greggcountycrimestoppers.com.
As a nationwide shortage of antibodies used to treat COVID-19 affects the nation, facilities in East Texas are awaiting arrival of the treatments.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently reported shipments of sotrovimab, the monoclonal antibody treatment effective against the omicron variant of COVID-19, are set to resume this week. The shipments will see the delivery of 55,000 doses, and an additional 300,000 doses of sotrovimab is expected to be available for distribution later in the month.
This past week, the HHS and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) announced the pause of further allocations of select monoclonal antibody treatments in areas of the country where the omicron variant has an 80% prevalence. Officials stated sotrovimab was the only treatment to be administered, but the decision was retracted just before the New Year’s weekend. On Friday, the group said other treatments could be administered but that they are not effective against omicron.
Dr. Tom Cummins, Division Chief Medical Officer for UT Health East Texas, said the pause was due to the therapies not being effective against the omicron variant. He added though, that he believes East Texas has already reached that 80% of omicron prevalence.
Cummins explained there may have been backlash because of Health and Human Services’ pause of the distribution in areas where the delta variant, still classified as a variant of concern, is still prevalent, Cummins said. The alternate therapies remain effective against delta, but not omicron.
At UT Health East Texas’ Regional Infusion Center, at the UT Health East Texas North Campus in Tyler, there are no sotrovimab monoclonal antibody treatments available, Cummins said, but they have been requested.
“We don’t have any of the sotrovimab. Most of our facilities that were infusing are now out of the others (treatments) as well. We may have a few doses at the North Campus facility, but we really sort of stopped distributing it because of the efficacy against the omicron variant,” Cummins said.
As of Monday, most of the facilities that offered monoclonal antibody treatments in East Texas do not have any available to give, including Red River Vital Care of Tyler, Hospitality Health ER in Tyler, Exceptional Emergency Center and Genoa Healthcare.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services map of monoclonal antibody treatments, on Dec. 31, there were 35 patient courses of the sotrovimab monoclonal antibody treatment available at Christus Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler. Since then, the count has not been updated.
In Longview, there is a very limited supply of the sotrovimab treatment at Hospitality ER, and it is only available for critical and high-risk patients, a representative from the clinic said Monday. There are no other facilities in the area that have the treatment, according to the state website.
According to the Public Health Emergency division of the HHS, between Jan. 3 to Jan. 9, Texas is expected to receive 11,376 total allocations of monoclonal antibody treatments, 2,406 of those will be sotrovimab.
There are other treatments available that remain effective against the omicron variant for those in need, including the oral COVID-19 antiviral medication, which is now available locally in limited quantities with a prescription while supplies last. Cummins said this is only recommended for use in people who are at high risk of severe illness.
Monoclonal antibody treatments have historically had an impact in hospitalization rates and local emergency room visits, but the lack of treatment now may not be as much of a problem just yet.
“If the virus does here what it has done in other countries, which is, have a really high, rapid rate and escalation in number of people infected, but the mass majority of them having a very mild infection and a very rapid decrease in the number of cases again, if that happens, then no, the lack of sotrovimab is not a big issue,” Cummins said, and added that if it persists, it may become a problem.
While some facilities across the state are seeing high hospitalization rates, Cummins said several people are testing positive in the UT Health system, but although hospital numbers have risen, they have yet to reach hospitalization levels historically seen with other variants, including delta.
“With the level of positivity we’re seeing, I would’ve expected a lot more people being hospitalized and critically ill, whereas we have a very small number on the ventilator, and while our numbers are rising, they aren’t rising at the same rate as the positive rate,” Cummins said.
At UT Health East Texas’ Tyler facilities, on Monday there were 18 COVID-19 patients hospitalized and seven on ventilators. There were 56 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across the division with 10 on ventilators.
At Longview Regional Medical Center, there were 13 COVID-19 patients hospitalized Monday, according to hospital officials.
“This is kind of what I expected to see, based on what we were hearing about omicron from other countries, other places. The original reports was that it caused a milder symptom complex, so if that were the whole truth, you would expect lower numbers in the hospital, lower numbers on the ventilator, and so far, that’s what we’re seeing,” Cummins said.
He added a different variant could take hold and get into a much more vulnerable population, but so far, it’s what he expected to see.
Cummins said 90% of those hospitalized are not vaccinated against COVID-19. There have been breakthrough cases in some fully vaccinated and boosted, he said. Those hospitalized range in age from the mid-30s to upper 80s.
Eligible COVID-19 patients will need a form filled out by their doctor, which will act as a prescription, for the infusion. To ensure the facility is utilized for patients who meet the treatment qualification standards for this type of treatment, a referral is required and walk-in patients cannot be seen. If you do not have a general practitioner, call the UT Health infusion center at (903) 877-7119 for more information.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz predicted Republicans will impeach President Joe Biden as political payback if they win back the U.S. House this year in the midterm elections.
“Yeah, I do think there’s a chance of that, whether it’s justified or not,” he said on the latest episode of his podcast “Verdict with Ted Cruz.”
“Democrats weaponized impeachment,” he said, referring to House Democrats twice voting to impeach former President Donald Trump. “They used it for partisan purposes to go after Trump because they disagreed with him. And one of the real disadvantages of doing that … is the more you weaponize it and turn it into a partisan cudgel, you know, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
Trump is the only president to have been impeached twice, but the Senate lacked the votes needed to convict him in both cases. In 2019, the House impeached Trump over his phone call with the leader of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. A record of the call released by the White House detailed how Trump implored Zelensky to investigate Biden, who beat Trump in 2020, and his son, Hunter Biden.
Last year, the House impeached Trump during his final days in office, charging him with incitement of insurrection for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
On Tuesday, Cruz said that impeachment shouldn’t be used as a political tool.
“That’s not how impeachment is meant to work,” he said.
But the junior Texas senator also said there were “multiple grounds to consider for impeachment” against Biden.
“Probably the most compelling is the utter lawlessness of President Biden’s refusal to enforce the border. His decision to just defy federal immigration laws and allow 2 million people to come here unimpeded in direct contravention of his obligation under Article 2 of the Constitution to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” he said. “That is probably the strongest grounds right now for impeachment, but there may be others.”
Cruz did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Texas Republicans have blamed Biden’s less stringent immigration stance for a sharp increase in migrants coming to the border seeking entry into the U.S.