SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KETK) – The 12th Court of Appeals in Smith County has ordered a runoff election between Bobby Garmon and Curtis Traylor in the Democratic race for Pct. 1 Constable and has invalidated Willie Mims’ victory in the March 3 primary.
The court ordered the runoff election for July 14.
It issued the decision Thursday.
The court granted Garmon’s request for a permanent injunction enjoining Smith County Democratic Party Chairman Michael Tolbert from certifying Mims as the Democratic nominee for Smith County Constable Pct. 1 for the November general election.
The decision follows a long and contentious campaign for the constable position.
The race for Democratic nominee was a three-way one between Garmon, the incumbent, Traylor, a corrections officer, and Mims, a deputy constable. On December 20, during the campaign, Garmon filed a lawsuit claiming that of the 200 signatures Mims submitted to run, 85 of them were invalid.
In the challenge, Garmon asked Tolbert to reject Mims’ application and prohibit him from inclusion on the March 3 ballot.
Tolbert performed an independent investigation and determined that Mims’ petition lacked the appropriate number of valid signatures. Tolbert notified Mims of Garmon’s challenge on December 23. Tolbert also informed Mims that he agreed with Garmon’s allegations.
However, Tolbert did not officially reject the application or prevent Mims from appearing on the ballot.
On January 9, Garmon filed a lawsuit challenging Mims’ application and Tolbert’s refusal to remove Mims from the ballot. He sought a temporary restraining order as well as temporary and permanent injunctions prohibiting Mims’ name from appearing on the ballot and/or prohibiting Tolbert from certifying Mims as the Democratic nominee should Mims get more votes.
The case advanced to the Texas Supreme Court but was dismissed. After a review, it was ruled that Mims would remain on the ballot for March primaries.
On January 21, Judge Jim Parsons, a visiting judge presiding over the 241st District Court, issued a temporary injunction allowing Mims to remain on the ballot for Precinct One Constable during March primaries but invalidating any votes cast for him.
A permanent injunction hearing was set for March 12.
Mims won the primary, receiving 51.2% of the vote to Garmon’s 38.37%, but could not be certified as the winner due to Parsons’ ruling.
In the March 12 hearing, Garmon asked Parsons to order a runoff election between himself and Traylor. Parsons acknowledged that the evidence showed that Mims should not have been on the ballot and in an oral pronouncement granted a permanent injunction preventing Tolbert from certifying Mims as the Democratic nominee for constable. He also ordered a runoff between Garmon and Traylor be included in the Democratic primary runoff election.
However, Parsons subsequently entered a final judgment contradicting his oral pronouncement. His written judgment dismissed Garmon’s suit on the grounds that his complaints were rendered moot when the overseas and military ballots were mailed in January.
On March 20, due to the coronavirus outbreak, Governor Greg Abbott ordered that the primary runoff election be postponed from May 26 to July 14. As a result, overseas and military ballots would not be mailed until May 30.
Garmon then appealed Parsons’ decision to the 12th Court of Appeals.
In its ruling Thursday, that court sustained Garmon’s arguments, reversing Parsons’ decision to dismiss Garmon’s lawsuit and granting Garmon’s request for a permanent injunction against Mims’ certification as the Democratic nominee.