A candidates forum Monday night for federal, state and local candidates in the March 6 Republican Party Primary election turned somewhat feisty toward the end when Brown County Judge Ray West and challenger Dr. Paul Lilly sparred over West’s character.
    “What I envision, first and foremost, is restoring honor and integrity … I don’t mean to offend anyone, but I believe that office has taken a dramatic hit in that area and I believe we have some work and some trust issues that we need to confront,” Lilly told a large audience at the Adams Street Community Center.”
    West replied, “He started talking about character. If any character needs to be looked at, it’s the character of the people who make irresponsible and vicious accusations, then have them in the news media. I suppose the best way to say it is this. If I had done half the stuff I’ve been accused of, I would be somebody’s girlfriend in jail instead of your county judge.
    “The facts are what they are. It’s unfortunate when people listen to rumor and gossip and would prefer to rely on something spectacular than the facts before their very eyes.”
    Lilly, an associate professor at Howard Payne University, hopes to unseat West, who has been county judge since 1992.
    While Lilly did not directly mention the issue by name, he was referring to an investigation by the Texas Attorney General’s Office into allegations of corruption on West’s part. West was also the subject of a federal lawsuit from a former county employee who claimed retaliation by West and Brown County Attorney Shane Britton. West has said he was vindicated by the the attorney general’s office decision not to prosecute and by the lawsuit being decided in his favor.
    The issue has come up, directly or indirectly, at all three of the candidates forums beginning with the Jan. 26 forum at Howard Payne University’s Mabee Center.
    There was little the two men agreed on as topics included the McInstry project, whether there should be a veterans court and what they believe are priorities for the county judge’s office — most of them topics they addressed at the previous forums.
    Lilly’s statements included his assertion that the county develop a plan for five, 10 and 15 years out and work with city and municipal development district officials to bring in more business, tourism and revenue. “We need to be at the playing table,” Lilly said. “These are the kind of things that prompt me to run for county judge.”
    Lilly said he wants to be a “line of communication and support for elected officials and appointed officials.” Lilly has it’s neither required nor necessary that a county judge be an attorney and has said most Texas county judges are non-attorneys. The office of county judge was created to be the CEO of the county, and the judge should be a leader, Lilly said.
    West said priorities include reducing the amount the county pays for court-appointed attorneys. West also said health care costs for the county are an issue, and he urged county employees to try to become healthier to help reduce the costs. To keep down the costs, West said, county employees should avoid going to the emergency room for ailments such as colds and coughs.
    West said he believes it’s imperative that “you have somebody that knows what they’re doing … why don’t you ask the lawyers in town when they come see me? Why don’t you ask the six people that served on a jury a couple of weeks ago in a will contest. Why don’t you ask anybody who’s been before me in court if they don’t need a lawyer in this job?”