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Overview of the Tax Assessor primary

We’re a bit more than three weeks out from the start of early voting, so it’s time for some overviews of the contested primaries on the ballot. Here’s the first one, for the Republican race between County Tax Assessor Leo Vasquez and former County Treasurer and now-retired employee of the Tax Assessor’s office, Don Sumners.

Sumners sees the job as a platform for activism. He saw the county treasurer’s job that way when he held it from 1995 to 1998.

In his single term he spoke out against Commissioners Court’s increase of the tax rate, the pay raise it authorized for commissioners and other county employees and the bond measure that approved taxpayer funding for football, baseball and basketball stadiums.

“I was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool,” Sumners declared. He said his candidacy did not result from the Tea Party movement, but that he hopes to gain its leaders’ endorsements.


Sumners, 70, retired last November so he could run against his new boss.

“I just didn’t want to see all the work that Paul had done to raise the stature of the office to make it something more than just a bureaucratic collection agency, which is really what it was under (Carl) Smith,” who led the office from 1947 until his death in 1998, Sumners said.

Vasquez, he said, has dropped the advocacy role of the office.

Vasquez counters, “The more one starts yelling and screaming about every little thing, the less people will listen to you.”

That’s actually an interesting philosophical difference. My view is that Sumners’ beliefs are more suited to the Treasurer than the Tax Assessor. I believe that as long as the Tax Assessor is also responsible for being the voter registrar, than that person ought to at least give the appearance of not being a strident partisan. I don’t see anything wrong with the Carl Smith model. Of course, I won’t be voting in that primary, so it doesn’t really matter at this time. We’ll see if Sumners’ views get any traction with those voters.

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