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Sommerman the likely winner in Northern Dallas Commissioner district; Jenkins, Creuzot reelected

Gray haired man in green shirt smiling, looking at a man in yellow shirt. Behind him ins a large bush or tree.
Bret Jaspers
/
KERA
Andrew Sommerman.

Dallas County is looking at an all-Democratic commissioners court.

Unofficial results show Democrat Andrew Sommerman has won a close race for District 2 on the Dallas County Commissioners Court over incumbent J.J. Koch, the lone Republican on the court.

Numbers posted at 5 a.m. show Sommerman ahead with about 53% of votes in the district to Koch’s 47%. All but three of the county's 462 vote centers had reported results at that time.

The district includes northwest Dallas County, the Park Cities, and some neighborhoods of the City of Dallas.

The outline of District 2 was redrawn last year after the 2020 Census. Conservative areas like Rowlett and Sachse were moved into another district.

In a Facebook message on Wednesday morning, Koch said his quest for reelection fell short, attributing his loss to those new boundaries.

"A year ago, the Commissioner’s Court voted to redraw the lines of my district to flip my seat from red to blue and, in turn, to place the entirety of Dallas County in the hands of a single-party government," Koch said. "I entered this race for re-election knowing that was a possibility, and despite my efforts and those of the countless amazing supporters of this campaign, last night that possibility became a reality."

In an interview with KERA on Wednesday, Sommerman pushed back on that interpretation.

"If the commissioners court had wanted to, they could have created a solid D district in the north," he said, while acknowledging that redistricting was a factor in his win. "They reflected communities when they redrew this map ... and brought them together in a natural and logical fashion."

Koch has held the seat since 2019. He ran for reelection saying he would bring party diversity to the court and make the county run more efficiently.

During the surge of the Delta subvariant of COVID-19 last year, he refused to wear a mask in the commissioners courtroom because he said County Judge Clay Jenkins did not have the legal authority to order masks in the court.

The issue is still tied up in a lawsuit involving Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on mask mandates. Sommerman is one of the lawyers representing Jenkins in the suit.

Sommerman and Koch agreed on several policy issues, particularly related to expanding mental health offerings in the county and lowering the property tax rate.

But Sommerman disagreed with Koch's approach on the increasing jail population. Koch and Commissioner John Wiley Price have publicly criticized judges for months.

Sommerman plans to take a different tack.

"We can't be yelling at them and saying you're not doing your job and expect their cooperation," he said, stressing he wanted to work with judges to develop a plan.

Dallas County Commissioners Court - Commissioner J.J. Koch and County Judge Clay Jenkins
Jacob Wells
/
KERA News
Commissioner J.J. Koch and County Judge Clay Jenkins at the Dallas County Commissioners Court on Sept. 20, 2022.

The commissioners court sets tax rates, spends money, and appoints officials to county boards and commissions. Two other members won reelection: Commissioner Elba Garcia, a Democrat who represents the western part of the county, and Democratic County Judge Clay Jenkins.

It’s unclear how eliminating the last Republican from the panel will affect its debate or decisions. Democrats have controlled the majority of the votes on the board for about a decade.

“We don’t represent parties, we represent districts in our commissioners court,” Sommerman told KERA in late September. “I will represent Republicans and Democrats — everyone — fairly.”

In other results, Jenkins and Dallas County Criminal District Attorney John Creuzot both faced well-financed Republican opponents, but easily defeated them in a county where President Joe Biden won by more than 30 percentage points in 2020.

Jenkins beat business owner Lauren Davis 62% to 38%, according to unofficial results. Creuzot defeated his predecessor, Faith Johnson, 59% to 41%.

“Over the next four years, we’ll increase access to mental health care, and all forms of health coverage,” Jenkins said in an election night statement. “We’ll improve broadband, and we’ll reach out and get that free broadband under the American Connectivity Plan to over 200,000 more households here in Dallas County.”

Jenkins also promised to increase affordable housing options for residents.

The last sitting Republican constable in Dallas County, Ben Adamcik, also appears to have lost reelection. His opponent in the constable precinct 3 race, Democrat Henry Curry, was ahead by about 5% as of 5 a.m.

This story has been updated.

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at bjaspers@kera.org. You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.