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Local political parties forced to adjust to election shake up

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Elected officials in McLennan County expecting to be on the ballot in November, may not be able to run for office after all. That is because redistricting has cause some incumbent justice of the peace and constables to run against each other in their own parties. Neither political party is thrilled they have to do this, but they both say something needs to be done to make the new system work.

"Because of the way this is set up, we have taken the power, to me, of that individual voter that man and woman on the street. We have taken the power of their vote and essentially given it to a committee," McLennan County Democratic Party Chair Mary Duty said.
     
In order to save money the county commissioners reduced the number of precincts from seven to five. Unlike most transitions, this reduction will go into effect after the primary elections, but before the fall elections. Thus candidates in the same party will have to go head to head for the nomination, despite winning the people's vote in March.

The fate of the candidates will no longer lie with the people, but on elected chairs in each precinct. That small group of elected officials will have the power to determine which candidate will be running on behalf of each party. Some party officials say even though there may be controversy, it will work itself out.


"We may not be able to pick your previous elected official was because there are other people who have elected officials as well and that has been part of the controversy or misunderstanding is a better description. Where people think you should put the current serving elected official in there. Well we can't do that," McLennan County Republican Party Chair Ralph Patterson said.
     

Party officials say they trust elected chairs in each precinct to nominate a worthy justice of the peace and constable, but some officials think this isn't following the true democratic process.

"There is no incumbent there is no one that is entitled to it so our goal as the Republican Party and my job as the Republican Party chairman is to make sure we pick the best candidate to be elected in November," Patterson said.

"We want the voters who took the time to look at the candidates and come vote. We want them to know that their vote matters," Duty said.
       
If a candidate feels they won't be nominated by their own party, they will have the option to run as an Independent. But they will have to make that decision by next Thursday. No matter what happens party officials anticipate this year's election to be much different than it has been before.

"I think that there is going to be all kinds of movement within both parties and within people who serve and want to have a following and want to continue to serve," Duty said.

Republican officials say they plan to select candidates by next week, and Democrat officials hope to select candidates sometime soon.
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