Turned away two years ago in the race for sheriff, challenger Paul Lilly scored a major upset Tuesday night in defeating longtime incumbent Ray West in the race for county judge.
    Lilly, 48, beat West — who has been county judge since 1992 — in the Brown County Republican Party Primary election and will take office Jan. 1. Lilly will not have a Democratic opponent in the November general election. Lilly received 2,576 votes (54.02 percent) to West’s 2,193 (45.98 percent) according to unofficial results from the Brown County Elections Office.
    In other contested races, incumbent Joel Kelton defeated challenger Eddie Lord in the race for county commissioner in Precinct 2.
    Also in Brown County, District 60 state Rep. Mike Lang held a big lead over challengers Jim Largent in Gregory Risse in his bid for a second term, and U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway was leading challenger Paul Myers by a large margin.
    Lilly, a Fort Worth native, is retired from law enforcement and currently teaches criminal justice classes at Howard Payne University as an associate professor. He has never held an elected office and while acknowledging he is not an attorney, he has insisted that won’t be a detriment to being county judge.
    Lilly said he took his inspiration from Abraham Lincoln, who lost multiple races before being finally being elected to office.
    “I ran a grass roots campaign — a lot of door-knocking and visiting with people one on one. There wasn’t any place that I wouldn’t go, no group that I wouldn’t speak to. I listened to the advice of many people.”
    Lilly said he didn’t file to run for the office until two hours before the filing deadline. “It all came together,” he said.
     “I’m just humbled beyond words. It’s going to be an exciting time. We have nine months to prepare, roughly nine months before we take office, so that gives us plenty of time to get things organized. I’d like to put out a priority list of my top five priorities upon taking office. I’d like to visit with everybody that would give me the proper advice in those fields. I don’t want to put anything on that list that I’m not absolutely certain that we can achieve.
    “There wasn’t much mudslinging and I’m quite proud of that. We both were quite civil, I think, so I want to extend thanks to him (West) as well as his supporters.”
    Although Lilly said there had been little mudslinging, he acknowledged that he and West had gotten “a little testy” at the three candidates forums. In those forums, West fended off questions about an attorney general’s investigation about five years ago into allegations of criminal wrongdoing on West’s part. The attorney general’s office did not bring any prosecution or charges against West, and West said he was vindicated.
    West, reached by phone Tuesday night, said he lost not on qualifications but in the court of public opinion. A big factor in his loss was the “constant battering and finger-pointing and accusations” aimed at West in the campaign, West said.
    Before addressing that aspect of the race, West thanked his supporters. “I’ve enjoyed serving,” West said, acknowledging that he’s “a little surprised” at his loss. “Actually I’m quite surprised,” West said.
    “I don’t want anybody feeling sorry for me.”
    West said, though, that people might need to feel sorry for the county. “Next year will usher in someone who has never been to a commissioners court meeting,” West said. “We’ll see what happens to the dockets of the county court and district court. I think we will see a huge change in the way the caseload in the county court is handled.
    “We’ve gone from a professional to an amateur when it comes to the benchwork, and we’ll see how effective he is in guiding the commissioners court.”
    But West said there is no bitterness on his part. “I’m proud of the way I’ve done the job,” West said. I’m proud of the way I’ve conducted myself in office.”
    During the campaign, Lilly maintained the county judge’s office was intended as CEO of the county, and he said he would focus on providing leadership for the county if elected.