Candidates for judge seats, state representative face audience questions at Dallas political forum

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Stephanie Fargo (left) was the first Republican of the season to accept an invitation to the Monday Night Politics forum. She is competing with Democrat Chika Anyiam (right) for the judge’s seat in the Dallas County Criminal District Court No. 7. (Image: David Wilfong / NDG)

By David Wilfong, NDG Contributing Writer

On Aug. 27 another round of Monday Night Politics was held at the African American Museum at Fair Park. Hosted by the Dallas Examiner, the series provides a forum for candidates seeking political office, and an opportunity to interface with the public. Monday night’s event featured two judicial races and one campaign for state representative.

The first race highlighted was the 101st Judicial District Court, where Staci Williams is seeking to hold off a challenge from Republican Mike Lee in the general election. Williams was the only candidate appearing at the MNP forum (both candidates are extended invitations in each race). She took the opportunity to remind the audience she had been there four years prior, and emphasized she had kept her promises made at the time.

Williams had told the voters she would make the process fair in her court, which is a civil court and has distinct differences from the criminal process. She said she has made a point to give attorneys ample time to prepare instead of rushing cases through. In the area of remaining involved in the community, Williams touted her personal program she has implemented to better inform Dallas County residents of the particulars of the civil court process.

“We’ll talk about it more, but I want to talk about the Citizens Civil Academy which is a program that I created to educate citizens about the civil court process,” Williams said. “It’s free, non-partisan, and we take them all over Dallas County. In fact, we had over 250 graduates of the Citizens Civil Academy and it doesn’t cost the taxpayers of Dallas County one penny. It comes from my campaign fund.”

The second segment of the evening featured both candidates for Dallas County Criminal District Court No. 7. In this race, Democratic nominee Chika Anyiam faces Republican Stephanie Fargo for the judges bench. Anyiam overcame a field of three competitors to gain the Democratic nomination. Fargo currently holds the position. Fargo comes to the race as a former prosecutor, and Anyiam’s experience is in criminal defense.

“I think you guys can see from this evening that the criminal justice system, criminal justice reform should be a bi-partisan topic,” Fargo told the largely Democrat audience. “Take the politics out of it. As a judge, I seek justice. As a prosecutor, I sought justice. It was important to me; I’ll say it again, to figure out why that case happened so that we can keep that person from coming back to the criminal justice system. The differnce between me and Ms. Anyiam is that I now have a proven track record. I had a proven track record as a prosecutor, and now I have a proven track record as a judge.”

Anyiam was quick to point out Fargo’s appointment by Texas Governor Gregg Abbot, and the fact he was not put on the bench by the voters.

“Please remember that Judge Elizabeth Frizell was the judge of this court,” Anyiam said. “(She) resigned and so we’re both – my opponent and myself – are running for that bench. I have the experience, over 20 years as a criminal defense attorney. I have the track record. I was selected by my peers three times as one of their best; not just because I walk the halls and do pleas, but because I’m a trial lawyer, and we need a good trial judge as the presiding judge of the Criminal District Court No. 7.”

The final segment for the evening centered on the race for Texas House of Representatives District 113. In that race, Democrat Rhetta Andrews Bowers faces Republican Jonathan Boos. The current state representative, Republican Cindy Burkett is not seeking reelection, so there is no incumbent. Bowers was the only candidate attending Monday night’s MNP forum.

Bowers said West Texas money funded her opponent and Empower Texans (a Political Action Committee). She also said he was an anti-vaccination advocate, which she sees as dangerous given the current rate of disease in nearby areas. A proponent of public education, Bowers warned her opponent was a supporter of school vouchers. She also noted she would be the first African American to hold the seat in Austin.

“I want to bring representation to our community that represents us,” Bowers said. “The district itself is 43.1 percent Anglo, 49.4 percent Black and Brown, and 7.5 percent ‘other.’ And what I found when I was that substitute teacher is that our students, and our community needs representation that looks like us.”

There will be no MNP forum held on Labor Day, but it is scheduled to return on Sept. 10. There may be changes to the venue and races in upcoming weeks due to candidate availability and size requirements.