Thursday, February 21, 2008

Denton County Commission candidates

By DMN - Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hugh Coleman

Age: 40

Education: Bachelor's degree from Trinity University; law degree from University of Tulsa

Occupation: Attorney for Hayes, Berry, White & Vanzant

Years living in Denton County: eight

Total campaign contributions (including in-kind contributions): $22,049

Money spent: $16,211

Cynthia White

Age: 45

Education: Bachelor's degree from University of North Texas; work on master's degree from UNT

Occupation: Precinct 1 county commissioner since 2000

Years living in Denton County: 22

Total campaign contributions (including in-kind contributions): $28,849

Money spent: $15,735

Republican candidates for Precinct 1 commissioners clash on cash, structure

By Dan X. McGraw - Denton Record-Chronicle Staff Writer - Wed., Feb. 20, 2008
The local spotlight has turned on the Precinct 1 county commissioner’s race as the Republican candidates continue to one-up each other and the March primary draws closer.

Hugh Coleman
Through campaign fodder and forums, Commissioner Cynthia White and her opponent Hugh Coleman have criticized each other, both for their campaign contributions and for their philosophies on the county’s road and bridge system in a mostly rural precinct.

White, 45, who serves as an ex-officio road commissioner, has contended that the system should remain as is because it provides residents more benefits than the old system.

“This [change] has been phenomenal for residents,” White said. “We finally have a system that puts an elected official directly responsible for the roads. We have also paved more roads and in­creased customer service.”

Coleman, 40, a former Denton County assistant district attorney, has advocated for returning to a county engineer system that would centralize the department under one building. He would also put a certified public engineer in place.

Under that system, Coleman said, the department would be free of influence from developers and campaign contributors, and run more efficiently.

Precinct 1 Commissioner's Race
“I want to take the politics out of roads,” he said. “My opponent de-evolved the system. I want to take this county into the future. We need someone who is certified by the state. We don’t need amateurs.”

By putting a county engineer in place, Coleman said, the county could save taxpayer dollars by eliminating contracts to Teague, Nall & Perkins and Innovative Transportation Solutions.

The county pays more than $14,000 per month to Teague, Nall & Perkins for engineering work, and Innovative Transportation Solutions has a yearly contract for more than $300,000 for consulting work.

White has said that Innovative Transportation Solutions is invaluable for the county, and that the county is working to hire a county engineer.

While the road issue has become the most debated topic, the candidates have exchanged blows to one another about political contributions.

Coleman has pledged not to take money from developers or vendors to ensure that his decisions wouldn’t be influenced if he is elected. Coleman has criticized White for taking $7,000 from developers and vendors.

“It colors your opinion,” he said.

Responding to allegations that she is too close to developers and vendors, White said her decisions are not affected. The county works to partner with those developers, and they get no benefits from her or the rest of the Commissioners Court, she said.

White pointed to a developer’s request to change the name of Byran and Fields roads, which she voted against.

Using the same argument on contributions, White has criticized Coleman for being backed by court-appointed attorneys. In past forums, she has called it illogical to not see a problem with those contributions.

However, Coleman said the judges, not the Commissioners Court, determine the attorneys’ pay, so those contributions could not influence how he served as commissioner.

Coleman has also questioned White’s desire to increase public safety in the county, and if elected, he said he would like to increase patrols and extend them to freshwater supply districts.

White refuted that comment by pointing to dozens of positions allocated to the sheriff’s office, but she cannot force how the sheriff uses them, she said. Coleman criticized that argument.

While the race has taken its twists and turns, it won’t end in March. Whoever comes out of the Republican primary will face Democratic candidate Phyllis Wolper in the general election.

The winner of that race will take office Jan. 1, 2009.

DAN X. McGRAW can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is .



Age: 40

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Trinity University; law degree from University of Tulsa

Occupation: Attorney for Hayes, Berry, White & Vanzant

Years living in the county: Eight


Age: 45

Education: Bachelor’s degree from University of North Texas; work on master’s degree from UNT.

Occupation: Precinct 1 county commissioner

Years living in the county: 22


Through the first months of their campaigns, Hugh Coleman and Cynthia White have gone different directions to build their campaign war chests. Here is a breakdown of how much money the candidates have, who their biggest contributors are and how much they’ve spent.

Hugh Coleman

Fund total: $31,369.19

Total contributions (including in-kind contributions): $22,049.59

Money spent: $16,211.07

Top contributors: $1,500 from Bruce Isaacks*; $1,000 from Douglas Coleman; $900 from Randall Hearne; $850 from Leslie Hudson; $500 from nine others

* includes an in-kind contribution

Cynthia White

Fund total: $15,180.09

Total contributions (including in-kind contributions): $28,849.50

Money spent: $15,735.25

Top contributors: $2,500 from Phil Huffines; $2,500 from Don Huffines; $2,000 from the Texas Realtors Association; $1,000 from eight others

Read more in the
Denton Record-Chronicle

1 comment:

politico said...

Like many local races, the smart ones use
the old phrase 'follow the money' to
figure out what's really going on, as
opposed to what comes out in the media. In
other words, who is primed to make a lot
of money based on public expenditures.

In school board races, it often involves
redistricting. If you're a developer, and
you can make sure the houses you build
go into a 'good' school, you can easily
make 10-20K more per house. So behind
the scenes you do whatever you can,
including contribute lots of $$ to
make sure you have enough votes on the
school board.

In county elections, it's the roads. You
can often buy tracts of land in the middle
of nowhere cheap. The way you make money
is to make sure there will be a good road
out to your development. So behind the
scenes you do whatever you can, including
contribute lots of $$ to make sure you
have enough votes on the commissioner's

There's good reasons to promote economic
development, but in the USA we usually
don't tolerate money explicitly buying
influence, like they do in Latin America.
It's much more subtle.

The incumbent has some accomplishments to
her credit. The challenger has definitely
come out fighting; it's an uphill battle
when you are fighting the big money. There's
a good chance he'll pull off an upset; he
has a lot of momentum, for a lot of

The incumbent was very canny with hiding
the money -- repeatedly failed to file
with various excuses, which brought
repeated fines from the ethics commission.

Probably the most impressive group in all
of this are the group of college Republicans
getting involved. These are definitely
cream-of-the-crop types -- idealistic and
passionate. The sad thing is that they
don't even realize they're being used;
if you get a chance to talk with them
you'll see that
they have integrity and feel strongly
that public money should be used honestly
and fairly.
The smart ones will figure it out sooner
than the rest; usually
happens after the election.

I know this -- you probably guessed it; I
was one of them once, many years
ago; different issues,
different location, but it's basically
the same story. I'm pretty embarassed,
looking back, mainly about how strongly
I argued and pushed back at that time,
when people tried to show me the light.
I guess I'm a slow learner :)