By Stephen Young
By Stephen Young
By Stephen Young
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Foster served as a member of the league's screening committee and recalls witnessing an altercation in the basement of the Warren Avenue Christian Church between future County Commissioner John Wiley Price and Justice of the Peace Charles Rose. (Neither held office at the time.)
"It was a bloody mess because he punched Rose in the nose, and blood was squirting everywhere," Foster says.
The incident caused Foster to stay away from league activities for a couple days, but he ultimately returned because of his passion for politics. He became the owner of an alarm company in 1979 but continued to stay involved in politics through various organizations including the Oak Cliff Democrats and other "scattered clubs that fell by the wayside."
After attending the Dallas Baptist University Police Academy, Foster obtained his peace officer's license in 1988 and became a reserve deputy constable in 1990. That same year, he started his second company, Paramount Alarm Systems, which provides home security and fire alarm installation and monitoring.
In 1992, Foster took his first stab at running for elected office, filing for Precinct 7 constable. The lifelong, committed Democrat ran and lost as a Republican. Foster slumps in his chair and his voice takes on a defensive tone when he's asked to explain why he ran in the GOP.
"I was never a Republican," he says in his office on the second floor of the former Texas School Book Depository. Foster says he didn't take the race seriously and spent only $300 on his campaign, but when pressed says he ran on the Republican ticket to gain name recognition.
"I was still pretty green to politics," he adds.
The failure of 1992 was more than a decade behind him when Foster aspired for a higher office in 2004, this time as a Democrat. He tried to parlay his limited experience as a reserve deputy constable and security company owner into becoming county sheriff. He made the primary runoff that election, but Sheriff Lupe Valdez destroyed him by a 73-27 margin.
Two years later, Foster would run for county judge. Why county judge? As with many things concerning Foster, there's two takes on that.
In the original story, Foster said he filed at the last minute after waiting around party headquarters to see if someone—anyone—else would step forward. These days, he offers a slightly tweaked version of the story that would lead to him being dismissively dubbed "the accidental judge."
Now, he says he wasn't merely waiting for any Joe Blow to stroll in and take him off the hook. He claims there was a former state representative with strong name recognition who planned on running. Foster says he was merely the backup plan, though he won't name the no-show candidate.
The party hardly rallied behind Foster's campaign, and he raised a paltry $8,400. County Democratic chair Darlene Ewing, however, claims the party's efforts got him elected, and she says he's been abandoned because he deserted the party by not attending Democratic functions after his election.
"I'm not talking about doing favors for the party," she says. "I'm talking about recognizing who put you in that office, and so you show up at clubs, and you make appearances when people ask you."
Foster claims he didn't have a choice. During two separate training sessions conducted by Seana Willing, executive director of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, Foster says he was told that he's restricted from appearing with candidates for office because it could give the appearance that he's endorsing those candidates, which is prohibited by the SCJC.
"I cannot get the Democratic Party to understand that I'm not permitted to do that," he says in frustration. "How can I build up the party if I risk being removed from office for going out and appearing at someone's fund-raiser?"
Well, not quite. Willing says outright endorsements are prohibited, but the commission does not restrict county judges from attending political events or fund-raisers.
So, Foster doesn't quite grasp the intricacies of the SCJC's policies, but that hardly explains his broader reputation for being something of a dummy, especially when you hear assertions from friends and acquaintances that he's really an intelligent (if inarticulate) man. How did the public perception of Foster go downhill so fast?
His surprise win in November 2006 over Republican County Judge Margaret Keliher partly explains it. His victory was gauged a fluke, part of a sweep that saw Democrats win 41 of 42 contested races that year. Foster was a political blank slate then, and he kept handing the media a piece of chalk so it could write bad words. He dodged the press. He tried to keep public records secret. He threatened this paper's advertising.
"He was, frankly, embarrassing," says Democratic precinct chair and former Dallas City Plan Commissioner Neil Emmons.
In June 2007, the editorial board of The Dallas Morning News described Foster as "the primary beneficiary of straight-ticket voting"—which is the paper's polite way of saying he didn't deserve the job. The News' editorialists were annoyed that Foster ducked out on a meeting to decide whether to oust Constable Mike Dupree, who may—or may not—be Foster's friend, depending on whom you ask. Foster first claimed he had to be at a funeral, and then called in sick to the meeting, which led to it being canceled.