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San Jacinto News Times - Local News

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County Democratic Party under new leadership


COLDSPRING -- San Jacinto County Democratic Party is under new leadership with the appointment of Yvonne Ryba of Shepherd. Ryba was recently appointed chair by the local Democratic County Executive Committee when Deborah Turner resigned the position to become a candidate for county treasurer. Turner has held the position since 2010. Turner's candidacy has stirred some questions from the local Republican Party. According to sources, San Jacinto County Republican Chair Sean Hanson has requested an opinion from the Executive Director of the Republican Party of Texas as to the legalities of Turner's resignation and the Democratic candidates' applications. "I knew my candidacy would cause some questions so I contacted the Election Division of the Secretary of State to obtain a clarification of the proper procedure," said Turner. "I knew when I filed, the Party would not have a chair." Section 161.005 of the Texas Election Code states that a person cannot serve as Cou nty Chair if the person becomes a candidate for an elective office of the federal, state, or county government. According to Hansen's opinion request and Democratic sources, the staff attorney Turner spoke with at the Election Division advised her that according to Article XVI, Section 17 of the Texas Constitution and Attorney General Opinion DM-943, Turner could continue serving as County Chair after filing for the County Treasurer position. Article XVI, Section 17 is known as the "constitution holdover provision" stating that all officers within this State shall continue to perform the duties of their offices until their successors shall be duly qualified. According to the Attorney General Opinion given to Turner, this holdover provision was placed in the Constitution to prevent public convenience from suffering because of a vacancy in the office. However, according to Hansen's letter, Keith Ingram, who is the Director of Elections with the Secretary of State, said that the staff attorney made the wrong ruling when advising Turner and that Turner did resign and could not accept filings on the Democratic Primary Ballot. "I don't know if the constitutional provision applies to me and that is why I contacted the people that should know," said Turner. The Secretary of State is the chief election officer for the State of Texas. The Secretary of State's Elections Division provides assistance and advice to election officials on the proper conduct of elections. "I simply followed their advice." Asked if she rescinded her application after questions were raised, Turner stated she did not. Having talked with Keith Ingram and staff members at the Democratic Party of Texas, Turner said it was suggested that she rescind her application. "Having filed my application, I could no longer act as Chair and I could only submit my withdrawal request to the County Executive Committee," said Turner, adding, "I never submitted my request." Section 172.052 of the Texas Election Code requires that a withdrawal request for the general primary must be filed with the authority with whom the withdrawing candidate's application for a place on the ballot is required to be filed. "If I have received an incorrect ruling from the Secretary of State, then it has certainly caused some uncertainties," said Turner. "I marked each application with the date and time and by filing my application last on November 9th, the four applications accepted prior to mine would have been properly filed. If the ruling I received was correct, then the other two applications I accepted on the 12th and 14th would also have been filed following the proper procedure," said Turner. "However, if the constitution holdover provision does not apply to a county chair, the last two applications would not have been filed following proper procedure." After discussing the uncertainties with the Democratic Party of Texas and the Secretary of State, Turner said it was decided that the best option to avoid any further confusion would be to have all the Democratic candidates to refile their applications with the Secretary of the County Executive Committee. "Because we were still within the filing deadline, there would be no restrictions of candidates refiling their applications with the Secretary to ensure proper filing," said Turner, adding, "the filing of an application is to have the candidate's name placed on the ballot and the review done by the filing authority is not to determine the candidate's eligibility but to determine whether the application complies with the requirements as to form, content, and procedure that it must satisfy for the candidate's name to be placed on the ballot." According to Yvonne Ryba, the following candidates have refiled their applications with the Secretary; Mark Nettuno for Commissioner, Pct. 4; Rebecca "Becky" Capers for District Clerk, Deborah Turner for County Treasurer; Beth Sewell for Justice of the Peace, Pct. 1; Harris "Red" Blanchette for Justice of the Peace, Pct. 2; Randy Ellisor for Justice of the Peace, Pct. 3; and Greg Magee for Justice of the Peace, Pct. 4. While she is only accepting the position on an interim basis, Ryba said she is looking forward to serving the Democratic Party. "This confusion was caused by an incorrect ruling from the Secretary of


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