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Democrat says he can beat Hoagland
Collin County: Longtime commissioner stands on record foe is attacking
12:00 AM CDT on Wednesday, October 25, 2006
By ED HOUSEWRIGHT / The Dallas Morning News
ELECTIONS '06Bill Baumbach likes his chances on Election Day.
Some people might question his optimism.
Mr. Baumbach wants to unseat longtime Collin County Commissioner Jerry Hoagland on Nov. 7 and become the first Democrat elected to county office in 20 years.
Mr. Baumbach, a first-time candidate, said he's not deterred by the Republican grip on county government or Mr. Hoagland's 26 years in office.
"I am going to win," Mr. Baumbach said.
Mr. Hoagland says his accomplishments and experience merit another four-year term.
He recently opposed a task force's recommendation to increase spending on health care for the poor. He also supported a 17 percent pay hike for commissioners before retreating after public outcry.
Those stances have made him vulnerable, Mr. Baumbach said.
"People want better," he said.
Mr. Hoagland embraces his reputation for being outspoken and conservative on social service issues. But he says he reflects the views of his constituents in Precinct 2, which includes East Plano, Murphy and Wylie.
"The people I'm talking to agree with me," Mr. Hoagland said. "They don't want to spend a lot more money on indigent health care."
Mr. Hoagland acknowledges that his flip-flop on commissioners' pay gave a boost to Mr. Baumbach. But he emphasizes that he subsequently pushed for a salary freeze and voted against a 6 percent raise that hiked commissioners' salaries from $96,471 to $102,259. He pledged to donate his additional pay to volunteer fire departments.
"I don't feel like Mr. Baumbach is telling the whole story," Mr. Hoagland said.
Mr. Baumbach has vowed not to accept more than $70,000 a year in salary.
"That's a promise I'm going to keep," he said. "I'm not sure the job is worth that much."
Mr. Hoagland dismisses Mr. Baumbach's salary pledge.
"That's his business if he wants to do that," he said.
Since taking office in 1980, Mr. Hoagland has led efforts to create the Collin County Community College District, Pizza Hut Park in Frisco and, most recently, the Collin County Adventure Camp.
"When you can accomplish something like that, it makes it all worthwhile," Mr. Hoagland said.
Mr. Baumbach, however, says Mr. Hoagland and other commissioners too often operate out of public view. He faults commissioners for holding meetings during the day, instead of at night when more residents could attend.
"For the first time, we're putting the Commissioners Court in the public eye, and they don't look good," he said.
Mr. Hoagland responds that commissioners have tried night meetings, and attendance doesn't increase. He said residents are welcome to attend and speak at any commissioners' meeting.
Mr. Hoagland has the financial edge in the race. He has raised $29,017, compared with $8,843 for Mr. Baumbach, according to campaign reports filed with the county Elections Department.
Mr. Baumbach faults Mr. Hoagland for accepting campaign contributions from engineering firms and other companies that do business with the county. State law does not prohibit such donations.
"I will not accept any money – not one dime – from a county vendor," Mr. Baumbach said. "Commissioners should never allow even the appearance of a conflict of interest."
Mr. Hoagland, however, said the donations don't influence his votes. He points out that his largest contribution from any county vendor is $1,000.
"That's not going to sway me to vote one way or another," Mr. Hoagland said. "I would not let myself get into a compromising situation."
Mr. Baumbach calls for a 10 percent cut in the property tax rate, or about 2.5 cents per $100 valuation. He said rising property appraisals have generated ample tax revenue.
"We can afford a 10 percent tax cut and still improve county services," Mr. Baumbach said.
Commissioners recently cut the tax rate a half-cent to 24.5 cents per $100 valuation. For a house valued at $222,312 – the county average – the annual property taxes would be $544.
Mr. Hoagland said a 10 percent tax cut would jeopardize vital county services.
"I think it's reckless for him to make a comment like that," he said of Mr. Baumbach.
County Commissioner Joe Jaynes said Mr. Hoagland campaigns tirelessly and has die-hard supporters. He expects him to hold onto his seat.
"Jerry's been here for 26 years, but you could never accuse him of burnout," Mr. Jaynes said. "He works hard. He has ideas all the time.
"Some are great. Some aren't. But they're all worth looking at."
Deborah Angell Smith, chairwoman of the Collin County Democratic Party, said Mr. Baumbach entered the race as an underdog but has steadily picked up support. His campaign could encourage other Democrats to seek county office, she said.
"The change from being a predominantly Democratic county to a predominantly Republican county didn't happen overnight," Ms. Smith said. "The change back will not happen overnight. But I think it's a natural adjustment that the political climate comes back to some sort of balance."
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