Election Day - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

11/07/06 - East Texas

Election Day

With just 15 House seats separating Democrats from future control of the House, party chair Howard Dean is promising Democrats will deliver change, while Republican chief Ken Mehlman insists the GOP will "defy the experts" and maintain a House and Senate majority.

At least two dozen Republican House seats are considered to be at risk, but GOP operatives hope their last-minute "get out the vote" drives will fend off Democratic challengers. The airwaves are also saturated with campaign ads, as the two parties push their electioneering spending upwards of some 225 million.

Several elections have been held in Angelina County over the years, but none with the response of the 2006 mid-term election. What's driving voters to the polls?

"We know exactly what's motivating the people...the wet dry issue.  They are very emphatic about it.  There is no question about it," says Angelina County Tax Assessor Collector Bill Shanklin.

Proposition 1 is to allow "The Legal sale of beer and wine for off-premise consumption only." Proposition 2 is to allow "The Legal sale of mixed beverages in restaurants by Food and Beverage certificate holders only" without requiring a membership.

The advantages of a wet county include a multi-million dollar economic boost, fewer drunk driving wrecks, and more jobs in the community. That's what proponents of Proposition 1, retail alcohol sales, want voters to know. Proponents believe voting to make Angelina County wet will not increase teen drinking because retail outlets are not where kids get their first taste of booze.

John Hatch with Texas Petition Strategies says, "If this group really is wanting to focus on the problem, the problem is not the licensed retail outlet. The problem is - and we all agree - is that we should be holding the family and friends accountable, because that's where these kids are getting their alcohol."

Oscar Dillahunty, who supports Propositions 1 and 2 says, "I feel like Lufkin is a super place. Angelina county is a super place to live in. They need the money, the taxes and the jobs. I think this will bring them into the 21st century."

Not everyone welcomes those efforts. A group of East Texans rallying against the push to vote Angelina county wet says, no matter how much revenue alcohol sales would bring in, it would cause too many new problems. Members of Angelina County Citizens for a Better Community say their goal is to prevent alcoholic beverage sales in the county. They say proponents are giving out the wrong information, and they want to set the record straight. Instead of boosting the economy, opponents believe a wet county eventually becomes less attractive to other types of retail business, and they're afraid it would lead to more accidents and more violence.

Early voting in Angelina and Nacogdoches Counties reached record numbers during the early voting period, which ended November 3rd. In Nacogdoches County, voters will decide a hotly contested race for county judge between Republican Joe English and Independent write-in candidate Harlon Brooks.

English said, "I participated in the commissioner court meetings for the last year. I try to make all those, and I feel like that's important for me to be able to understand the finances of the county, where they raise their money, and how they spend it."

English was unopposed in the primary, so he substituted costly campaigning with preparation to take office. English thought he had the county judge's race won, and then, suddenly, local businessman Harlon Brooks stepped into the picture.

"We have put out close to 300 signs. We've spent over $20,000 and plan to spend some more because we are serious." Brooks wants to run county government like a business, knowing it takes money to make money. He says he can do it without a tax hike. "We should take the oil and gas resources that's coming in and look at that very seriously, and plan on how we can work that down."

English follows the philosophy of a conservative mentor. "I do consider myself as a Christian conservative. I definitely believe the Reagan economic philosophy is the best way, and that's to keep our tax base low."

Both men say they're proud to be running, even though they went about it in two entirely two different ways.

For continuing election coverage watch KTRE and ktre.com.

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