Jackie McCaslin’s last-minute entry increases the Precinct 4 county commissioner race total to five candidates, which makes it the most crowded field among county races for the November election. It and the county judge race comprise the only two races to feature more than one Democratic challenger.

Precinct 4 covers the southeastern portion of Johnson County and includes the cities of Venus, Grandview, Keene, eastern Cleburne and portions of Alvarado.

Incumbent Republican Troy Thompson announced plans last September to seek re-election to the office he’s held for 13 years. He will face fellow party members Don Beeson and Cary Rogers in the March 7 Republican primary. Whichever of the three emerges victorious will compete in the November general election against the winner of the March 7 Democratic primary contest between McCaslin and Janet Thomas.

McCaslin, a Johnson County resident for more than 27 years, attended Fullerton College in California and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. McCaslin previously sold real estate in Burleson and owned two businesses. She delivered Meals-on-Wheels in Alvarado and volunteered for the Johnson County Committee on Aging.

She said she currently provides pet therapy for residents of nursing homes throughout the county and tutors underprivileged schoolchildren. McCaslin’s love of animals led her to lobby and petition for county animal control and spend 20 years working animal rescue.

“The population of Johnson County has more than doubled since I moved here,” McCaslin said while explaining her reasons for entering the race. “I have seen profound changes in all aspects of Johnson County except for our commissioners court. Our current court needs a change in its dynamic, its thinking and its approach to problem solving.”

McCaslin said women, according to the U.S. census, form 50.1 percent of the county’s population and that women-owned firms account for 29.9 percent of county-owned businesses.

“I would like to see a woman with a vote and voice on our county commissioners court; government at any level should reflect diversity in opinions and representation,” McCaslin said.

McCaslin said concerns regarding the Barnett Shale and gas exploration also spurred her decision to run.

“I do not think our commissioners have prepared, or fully understand, the impact [gas exploration] will have on our county,” McCaslin said. “They need to start listening to the questions and problems that our residents are experiencing. It is the responsibility of officials to educate themselves.”

McCaslin said when she ran for commissioners court in 2002 she promised east Cleburne residents she would explore options and possibilities for community enrichment. She said the area remains in “dire need” of improvement and amenities four years later and promised to listen to residents of the area and make working toward improvement a priority if elected.

Thompson said he is focusing on the primary election against “good competition” before considering his eventual Democratic challenger, in reaction to McCaslin’s entry into the race.

“I’m not sure why so many candidates entered this race, but I’m looking forward to the public forums where I can substantiate my record, put it on the table and tell people what I’ve done over the last four years,” Thompson said.

Thomas, a Keene Elementary School teacher, said she welcomes McCaslin’s candidacy, even though it makes her job harder.

“While I’d personally love to run unopposed, more choice is always good for the voters,” Thomas said.

She said she’s not sure why so many candidates are running in Precinct 4 but thinks it may be that many see the race as an opportunity to bring someone new into the office.

Rogers, a businessman, said he is more worried about getting through a “tough” Republican primary before turning his attention to the Democratic contenders.

“So many people are displeased with the incumbent, I think,” Rogers said when asked why the Precinct 4 race is so crowded. “As I go around, I find a lot of people who may not want to vote for me necessarily but are clear on who they don’t want to vote for.”

Rogers called McCaslin’s entry a good thing in that challengers from either party provide one sure way to “give incumbents that have been in office forever the incentive to stay honest and on their toes.”

Beeson, a Johnson County sheriff’s detective, said he had no problem with McCaslin’s candidacy.

“I don’t have a problem with the number of people running.” Beeson said. “That’s fine with me. That’s the way our political system is set up.”

Beeson said he reads the interest and participation in the race as either residents growing more aware of local politics or people striving for change.

Matt Smith can be reached at 817-645-2441, ext. 2339, or msmith@trcle.com

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