The race for Smith County Constable Precinct 1 was over in March. Willie Mims earned 51% of the primary vote to end a chance at a runoff. Without a Republican challenger in November, he essentially won the seat.
Meanwhile, Curtis Traylor was a distant third with just 10% of the vote as Bobby Garmon was second with 38% of the vote. Traylor’s chance at constable was over.
That’s what makes Tuesday night’s victory by Traylor over Garmon seem more like a movie script than an election.
After the loss on March 3, the coronavirus disrupted what would have been early voting leading up to the primary, where Mims would not even appear on the ballot because of his landslide victory.
However, as the pandemic stopped elections, it did not stop a lawsuit filed by Garmon alleging Mims did not meet filing requirements and thus could not be a candidate. The lawsuit was filed well before the March voting, but the lawsuit was never decided.
Garmon had a reason to fight. He was an incumbent, but how he got into power was another wild story. Garmon served as appointed constable since 2017 after former Constable Henry Jackson was sentenced to six months in federal prison for tax evasion. Jackson argued he could run the office from prison during a lawsuit to remove him and appoint Garmon. His offer to run an office of the law from prison was denied and Garmon was the new top cop.
Knowing he only had 10 percent of the vote and Garmon was the constable, that was it for Traylor.
Then he noticed a message in his Facebook inbox that said, “Are you going to run?” He checked the paper and saw the news, the 12th Court of Appeals ruled that a runoff between Garmon and Traylor must be held to decide the party’s nominee.
Just after 9 p.m. Tuesday night, it was official. Traylor, 32, a Tyler native, with 13 years of experience in the criminal justice field and a former corrections officer, beat Garmon earning 813 votes, or 54.60% as Garmon received 676 votes, or 45.4%.
As early numbers came in and as the final numbers were announced, Traylor still did not believe it.
“It hasn’t sunk in ... We had a lot of support but Garmon is a Goliath in Smith County,” said Traylor. “It was a shock to us. We knew we had support we didn’t know it would translate into votes. But we worked our butts off, connected with voters, connected with community leaders and organizers and got them on our side. I’m proud of our team and community leaders to get where we are.”
How does that explain only receiving 10% of the vote the first time around?
“Basically, people were getting to know me, they only knew of me,” said Traylor. “I had to get acquainted with them. I was born and raised here and a product of this community. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go through a race again, the negativity during campaigning. I had to pray about it but I thought, ‘You know what, I’ll do it for my community, whatever happens, happens’ and that’s what I did.”
Traylor said it also helped that while Mims did not show support for him, he did not campaign against Traylor.
“When early numbers came in, we were ecstatic and cheering,” said Traylor. “I was cheering, my team was cheering, we couldn’t believe it.”
Now that he has won, he is setting goals.
“The most important thing is to diversify the office. We want an all-inclusive office that reflects our community, we want hispanics, women and young African American males,” said Traylor. “We are putting together an internship program, we need to get our deputies trained in human trafficking and have a trained mental health deputy. Those are some of the biggest issues in our community.”
(Zak Wellerman contributed to this story)