Coronavirus

Clay Jenkins Has Been Dallas County Judge Since 2010. Edwin Flores Wants to End That.

Edwin Flores, a Dallas school board trustee and republican, wants to unseat Judge Clay Jenkins, whose held the position since 2010.
Edwin Flores, a Dallas school board trustee and republican, wants to unseat Judge Clay Jenkins, whose held the position since 2010. Getty Images
Around Texas and beyond, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has built a public profile for his fight against Gov. Greg Abbott’s approach to combating the coronavirus.

Jenkins has called for better protections against the virus, has criticized the state's Republican officials for lax measurements and even evicted J.J. Koch from a Commissioners Court hearing for refusing to wear a mask.

But now, after holding his seat for more than a decade, the judge has a significant challenger in next year's elections. Dr. Edwin Flores, a Dallas attorney, a Dallas ISD trustee and a Republican, entered the race for Jenkins’ position on Tuesday, The Dallas Morning News reported.

“We need to bring real common sense back to our county commissioners and to the court in general,” Flores told the Observer. “We need to bring some civility to it. And we need to bring more effective governing.”

By phone on Thursday, Jenkins didn't seem too worried. In fact, he's looking forward to a race that revolves around "a clash of ideas," he said.

“I welcome the competition, because that’s what democracy is about, people having choices in an election,” Jenkins said. “But what we’ve done over the last two years, and really ever since I’ve been elected, is we’ve listened to the experts. When it comes to the economy, we listen to experts in business. When it comes to the virus, they’re scientists.”

After Abbott issued a ban on mask mandates this summer, Jenkins sued the governor’s office, arguing that the ban stopped Jenkins from being able to protect the public from the virus. In late August, Judge Tonya Parker sided with Jenkins in the dispute, a major victory for Jenkins.

”We’re gonna be rolling out all our policy positions when we’ve officially, announced, filed, all that good stuff." Dr. Edwin Flores

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“It’s a victory for humans who live in Dallas County against the virus,” Jenkins told The Dallas Morning News at the time. “I hope we’ll all take off our red had and our blue had and put on our human hat and listen to doctors."

Flores declined to delve into the specifics of his policy stances on the coronavirus and other issues facing the county. "We’re gonna be rolling out all our policy positions when we’ve officially announced, filed, all that good stuff," he said.

Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University, says Flores "is a significant Republican candidate. ... He’s been publicly visible and is a respected figure."

Still, he's not sure Flores' credentials are enough to oust Jenkins. “I don’t think he stands a very good chance of winning," he added. “Democrats in Dallas County have appreciated that Jenkins has stood up against what they see as wrongheaded Republican policy at the state level."

Despite the political forces stacked against Flores, Jillson said it's "a credit to the Dallas County Republican Party that they have a credible candidate" in a county that's voted overwhelmingly blue even as Texas got redder and redder.

Party primaries are scheduled for March 1, and the general election will take place on Nov. 8. Additional candidates have until Monday to file paperwork establishing their candidacy for the Judge’s race.

Cedar Hill attorney Billy Clark announced his run for the Democratic primary against Jenkins on social media but hasn't yet filed the necessary paperwork, according to the Dallas Morning News.
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Michael Murney is a staff writer at the Dallas Observer and a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. His reporting has appeared in Chicago’s South Side Weekly and the Chicago Reader.
Contact: Michael Murney

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