The three Democratic Party candidates for county judge all expressed surprise that last week's primary election did not result in a runoff for the position.

Political observers had expected incumbent County Judge Walter Maynard to be in a runoff with one of the other candidates. Instead, Dwayne Griffin, a county justice of the peace, won outright. Pam Miller, Glen Rose's mayor and the first woman to run for county judge, came in third.

Griffin will face Republican Mike Ford in the November general election. Ford, currently a county commissioner, ran unopposed in the Republican primary race for county judge.

In a post-election interview this week, Maynard acknowledged he was “disappointed” by his defeat.

“I was surprised in the difference in the numbers of the votes,” Maynard said. “I thought there possibly would be a runoff. But Dwayne worked hard and he got his people out” to the polls.

“I won't sit here and not say I'm disappointed,” added Maynard, who has served as county judge for 12 years and has spent the second-longest time in that job next to Temple Summers.  “I've had a good run.”

In the closely watched race, Griffin beat Maynard by 541 votes to 246, or a margin of 61 percent to 28 percent. Miller received 96 votes, or almost 11 percent. Ford drew 685 votes.

“I think everybody expected a runoff,” Miller said. “I congratulate Dwayne on his victory and I appreciate the people who supported me.”

Griffin said he was “amazed at the numbers.”   

“I was shocked,” he added. “I also expected a runoff. I really appreciate the support that I got. From what I'm hearing, it's just that I got out and worked hard.”

Griffin sent out regular e-mails, campaigned door-to-door and used technology and bilingual advertising to his advantage. His 21-year-old son, Brandon, who is studying computer science at Sam Houston State University, worked on his father's campaign and helped him with his political Web site.

“He got a lot of the 22- to 24-year-olds to get out and vote,” Griffin said.

Some of the biggest issues facing the county are its financial support of Glen Rose Medical Center and expanding the business tax base, he said.

“I plan on actively working to get some other businesses in here,” Griffin said. “Seventy-eight percent (of county tax revenues) coming from one entity (the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant) is a lot. I would like to get that down to 30 to 40 percent.”

Challenger Ford said he also was surprised that there won't be a Democratic runoff for the job.

“It will be an interesting race,” Ford said. “It's very difficult to read the numbers in an election like this where you have to declare a party” and vote in that primary.

He believes some voters switched party lines to vote in the county judge's race.

Ford said he was pleased with the support he received. “It's a good start,” he said. “In essence, I didn't campaign.”

The hospital remains “a hot-button issue,” Ford said.

“There are strongly held convictions on both sides,” he added. “People have a lot of questions: how do you best do it and what's the best oversight for the hospital?”

Other issues facing the county ahead will be adapting to growth while maintaining quality-of-life and redistricting.

“I'm so worried we're going to be lumped in with the Metroplex – and not just on the federal side but on the state side,” Ford said. “Decisions made in the legislature bleed down to us and cost us money. It's important that the judge be connected to people who make those decisions.

“Unfortunately, we are losing the greatest voice we had, (State Sen.) Kip Averitt,” he added. Averitt did not seek re-election for health reasons. (See the related story in this issue.)

Maynard, who has served as county judge for 12 years, ran largely on his business management, budget experience and years of tax knowledge. Now was not the time for change, he said at a recent candidates forum.

“I don't feel like Dwayne's people were voting against me,” Maynard said in the interview. “I think they were voting for Dwayne.”

He will remain in office through the end of December. Maynard said he does not plan to run for another political office.

“I'll be 70 in June,” he said. “I've given 29 years of service here.”

During his time as county judge, Maynard said one of his biggest accomplishments was getting the county through budget constraints after utility deregulation affected the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant. He also cited the businesses that have moved to the industrial park as well as Hill College.

Keeping a rein on the county budget without affecting citizens' level of services will remain a challenge in the years ahead, as will dealing with continued growth, Maynard added.