Democratic County Judge Clay Jenkins was reelected with 63 percent of the vote, defeating Republican challenger Lauren Davis, a businesswoman who focused her criticism on Jenkins’ restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Davis received 37 percent of the ballots.
This was the first general election for Jenkins since the pandemic. He was the first county judge to institute a shelter-in-place order and primarily followed the advice of Dr. Philip Huang, the director of Dallas County’s public health department.
Jenkins and Dallas County commissioners also instituted a mask mandate that originally included a possible fine for each violation. In June 2020, the county judge urged Gov. Greg Abbott to create a statewide shelter-in-place order. He was one of the few county judges who kept bars closed as late as October 2020.
In a statement on social media, Davis thanked her supporters but seemed flustered by the relatively low turnout.
“While I am proud of myself, our supporters, our 2000+ individual donors, my family, and all that voted for me, I am disappointed in this election not reflecting the voice of the MAJORITY of Dallas County,” Davis wrote on Wednesday morning.
“With nearly 100,000 more registered voters this year, we have 100,000 fewer ballots cast than in 2018. The voices of only 43.81% of registered voters have been heard in this election. People in Dallas County are disenfranchised, apathetic, and disappointed in the direction we are headed, and the rapidly declining turnout is matching the dangerous trend of our declining population.”
In an interview with The Texan at the Republican Party of Texas convention in June, Davis contended that Republicans must run to win if the party expects to have a chance of retaking Dallas County, which has mostly been in Democratic hands since the 2006 general election.
Jenkins extended his gratitude to his supporters in a video conference shortly after the polls closed on Election Day.
“From an election perspective, I want to say thank you, Dallas County. I want to start by thanking those who helped me and voted for me. Your support and encouragement to me and my family not just in this election but over the last three years has been tremendous and it’s been well appreciated by all of us,” Jenkins said.
He added, “I want to thank anyone who voted at all, whether you voted for me or not. Our democracy is precious and when you participate, it makes our democracy stronger, so thank you for participating.”
Jenkins also previewed some of his future policy objectives, including providing broadband to an additional 200,000 households in the county and continuing to address homelessness.
Meanwhile, Commissioner J.J. Koch (R-District 2) lost to Democratic nominee Andrew Sommerman. The only Republican on the commissioners court, Koch received 47 percent of the ballots while Sommerman won with 53 percent.
Koch pointed to redistricting as the reason for his ouster, ascribing it to the court’s decision to “place the entirety of Dallas County in the hands of a single-party government.”
“While I am incredibly saddened by the results, I also sit here this morning overwhelmed with gratitude for this incredible experience and the amazing people and communities that have been a part of it,” Koch wrote.
“Aside from my family, my tenure as Dallas County Commissioner has been my greatest privilege and joy. I am beyond proud of the work and accomplishments of my team in putting this County on the path to a better future for all of its residents. I pray that those efforts will be continued with the new court.”
Celebrating his victory, Sommerman wrote on social media the day after the election, “I campaigned on the promise of common-sense leadership, standing up for people, and getting things done to make Dallas County a better place. I will enter office with these pledges as my focus.”
Koch was one of the strongest voices against Jenkins’ measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. He opposed Jenkins’ motion to spend taxpayer funds on a lawsuit against Gov. Greg Abbott over his order preventing local mask mandates. In August 2021, Koch sued Jenkins for ejecting him from a commissioners court meeting after he declined to wear a mask.
When Jenkins proposed a resolution about reforming the administration of elections, Koch accused Jenkins of implying that Texans are racist.
Jenkins and Koch also sparred over the county’s vaccination strategy, with Koch suggesting the county judge was jockeying for a gubernatorial run.
The county’s top prosecutor’s office will also continue to be occupied by a Democrat.
Faith Johnson, a former state district judge and nominee for Dallas County criminal district attorney, lost to incumbent Democrat John Creuzot, who won 59 percent of the vote compared to Johnson’s 41 percent. Abbott previously appointed Johnson to the office to succeed former District Attorney Susan Hawk. Creuzot first won the office when he defeated Johnson in the 2018 general election.
Johnson criticized Creuzot’s policy of declining to prosecute thefts of items worth less than $750 if not committed for pecuniary gain. She also pledged to enforce the state’s restrictions on abortion.
Creuzot is one of the district attorneys who committed to use “prosecutorial discretion” to avoid seeking charges against those who violate state laws against abortion.
A former Republican and state district judge, Creuzot pointed to research he contends supports policies he has implemented throughout his tenure. That includes a policy to decline to prosecute first-time possession of marijuana in small quantities.
In an interview with The Texan earlier this year, he highlighted his work in conjunction with Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia, who implemented a similar policy to avoid arresting members of the public for low-level marijuana possession.
Though they were unsuccessful, statewide Democratic nominees also captured Dallas County by substantial margins. Gubernatorial contender Beto O’Rourke won the county with 63 percent of the ballots, as did candidate for lieutenant governor Mike Collier and attorney general hopeful Rochelle Garza.
Johnson and Creuzot could not immediately be reached for comment.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."