Moss upsets Griffin, West wins outright, Wall finishes first but races runoff

STEVE NASH steve.nash@brownwoodbulletin.com
Sam Moss and his son, Luke, 10, look at early voting results at the Adams Street Community Center Tuesday night.

Brown County Court-at-Law Judge Frank Griffin lost, Brown County Judge Ray West finished in first place and barely avoided a runoff election, and Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Bob Wall finished in first place but couldn't avoid a runoff in the Brown County Republican Party primary Tuesday.

Criminal prosecutor Sam Moss upset Griffin, who has served as the first, and so far, only judge of the Brown County Court-at-Law since its creation in 2003. Moss does not have a Democratic opponent in the November general election.

Moss received 3,309 votes, or 56.29 percent, and Griffin received 2,570 votes, or 43.71 percent, according to the unofficial count from Brown County Elections Supervisor Suzy Young's office. 

West finished first in a three-way race, receiving 2,976 votes — 50.06 percent, requiring 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a runoff. Challengers Ronnie Lappe finished second, with 1,599 votes, or 26.90 percent, and Dennis Graham finished third, with 1,370 votes, or 23.04 percent.

While West avoided a runoff, he faces Joe Cooksey, who filed to run as an independent in the November election.

In the Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace race, Wall received 384 votes, or 40.85 percent. Mike Holder finished second, receiving 350 votes, or 37.23 percent, and John Lawson finished last, receiving 206 votes, or 21.91 percent.

Wall and Holder will face off in a May 27 runoff election. The winner of that race will not have a Democratic opponent in November.

Brown County Court-at-Law judge's race

Moss works in the 35th Judicial District Attorney's Office as first assistant district attorney. Moss jumped to a solid lead, which he never relinquished, in the early voting results.

A crestfallen Griffin entered the crowded Adams Street Community Center, where several candidates and their supporters had gathered, as final results rolled in from Young's office.

Griffin found Moss, spoke briefly with him and left, declining to comment to the media.

Moss said he'd known it would be difficult to successfully challenge an incumbent. "I thought I could do it. That's why I did it," Moss said.

County residents need to thank Griffin for his service to the county, and Griffin "needs to be congratulated for the way he ran his race," Moss said.

Moss said he had believed it was time for him to "try new things" in his career.

"I saw the opportunity to serve the people in the county in a different way and thought I had some things to offer there," Moss said.

The county court-at-law shares jurisdiction with the district court and county court. Under local rules, the court hears all family law cases filed in Brown County, hears condemnation cases, assists in felony cases, and has primary responsibility for all misdemeanor criminal cases except theft by check. 

Brown County Judge's race

West said he's pleased with his first-place finish. "It's nice to avoid a runoff," West said. "Any time you're involved in a contested race with three candidates, it's difficult to avoid a runoff.

"I would not say I'm surprised, but I'm thankful. I'm very thankful for (voters') support. I think the people understand that I take (the job) seriously and it is not a pastime, nor is it one that I take lightly."

West has been county judge since 1992 and is a partner in the Massey and West law firm.

When asked his thoughts on facing Cooksey in November, West said, "I'm running for county judge. I'm not running against anything."

Lappe said he'd known it would be difficult to face a popular incumbent. "I did my best. I congratulate him," Lappe said. The two have known each other since seventh grade and will continue to be friend, Lappe said.

Graham said he's "honored and grateful" for the support he received from voters and thanks the candidates for running a clean race.

"It was a lot of fun. I wish Ray the best," Graham said.

He said while it's disappointing to lose, he knows if he did his best and "gave 110 percent, you can't go home feeling bad about it.

"I started the race with accountability, integrity and respect, and I finished the race with accountability, integrity and respect." 

Graham said he'll continue to work hard as a member of the Brown County Water Improvement District board.

Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace race

Wall said with three people running, he's not surprised the race will be decided in a runoff.

"I intend to run on my experience and my education," Wall said. Wall said he thinks he finished first because of "experience."

Wall said he will have nothing more to say about the controversy over the eight-liner machines operated by Holder's brother, Greg, in the Monte Carlo cafe. Sheriff Bobby Grubbs recently fired Holder and his wife, Michelle, from their jobs with the sheriff's officefollowing "an internal investigation … concerning employee associations with an eight-liner business in the North Lake area of Brown County. It was determined that two employees were in violation of departmental professional conduct policies concerning their association with questionable activity (promotion of gambling)."

Holder said in an earlier interview that the controversy over the eight-liners was politically motivated and that Grubbs and Wall were to blame. Both Holders have said numerous authorities including Grubbs knew about the Monte Carlo eight-liners and had never said they were being run illegally.

 Mike Holder, reached by phone Tuesday night, said the Bulletin had not printed the truth from Holder's earlier interview. "I have nothing to say to you. You're full of (expletive)," Mike Holder told a Bulletin reporter.

When asked again if he had any comment on Tuesday's election results, Holder replied, "No sir. None whatsoever."