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Gregg County commissioner challenged by member of own staff

By Glenn Evans
July 24, 2013 at 11 p.m.

A candidate seeking his boss' job said this week that Gregg County Pct. 4 Commissioner John Mathis promised to back his bid after serving two terms.

Mathis, who wraps up his second term in 2014, had one word for that on Wednesday.

"No," he said. "My people want me to run. Ninety percent of them want me to run, so I told them I would."

Billy Hatten has been Mathis' administrative assistant for all seven years the commissioner has held office in Pct. 4. The precinct stretches roughly from South Longview to the county's southern line, taking in part of Kilgore.

Hatten said this week that Mathis, who is a Democrat, told him before taking office in January 2007 he wanted just two terms and would endorse Hatten for the job after that.

"It was agreed upon," Hatten said. "He wanted to try to make two terms. He would endorse me after the second term when I run."

Hatten, 58, said he would run as a Democrat in the March 2014 primary election.

He filed a campaign treasurer's designation with the Gregg County Elections Administrator's Office, which allows candidates to begin raising money. Hatten designated his wife of 39 years, Katie, as his campaign treasurer.

The form includes an optional space for the office sought, which Hatten filled in as "Commissioner 4."

Mathis' treasurer's designation remains on file with Election Administrator Kathryn Nealy and is good for succeeding elections to the same post.

"He's OK," Mathis said of Hatten. "I made him my right-hand man, and he wants to be supervisor over everybody and is disappointed with me when I wouldn't do what he wanted me to do."

Hatten expressed surprise learning Mathis denied making the two-term endorsement promise.

"Oh, really?" he said. "A number of people heard the conversation."

Father of three grown children, Hatten said this will be his first political campaign.

"I had always wanted to serve the city of Longview and Gregg County in this type of fashion," Hatten said. "I feel like I can do them a good job. The hardest part about it is maintaining the budget."

A retired, 31-year sheriff's deputy, Mathis ran against incumbent and fellow Democrat Danny Craig in 2006 and defeated one challenger in 2010.



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