By Emily Attebery
Shades of red and green shirts, advertising whom they support, drift into their separate groups. The sounds of their many conversations are filled with excitement and critique. In the back of the large brick building, black shirts stand ready to help and monitor an anticipated argument.
The Criminal Justice Student Association’s plan to host a Smith County Sheriff’s debate between incumbent, Larry Smith and candidate, Chris Green turned into a heated discussion. However, the political importance of the event and the topics it addressed are some of the reasons why the debate was hosted at TJC in the first place.
“I’m excited for the students to be able to ask questions from people who’ve been in law enforcement a long time and get some perspective,” said Sheriff Larry Smith.
While the debate offered people from the community a chance to hear the candidates for the next sheriff’s election, it largely focused on allowing the CJSA to hear the politics behind law enforcement at work.
“How important it is to maintain your character and integrity throughout your law enforcement career? it takes forever to build and just a minute to lose,” said Smith, “And once you lose it, you can’t get it back.”
Sheriff Smith’s challenger, Chris Green, said he offers enough passion and business education to compete with Smith’s experience.
“My sign says ‘restore trust’, a business person has the forethought to hire people for the right positions. The best people, leaders that you can delegate authority to, those that you trust that have the experience to lead these young men and women coming out of these academies,” said Green.
Though the two candidates have large opinions and some contrasting views on hot topics such as the education of incoming officers, open-carry gun laws, gang activity, weight/fitness requirements of incoming officers, officer interaction in the community, etc., the CJSA made sure to host an event that encouraged a balance of hearing from both sides.
“They’ve always said that the ones we do here [at TJC] are the most fair that they see, no agenda on our part,” said Professor and Public Administration Coordinator James Ledet, “We’re not one side or the other, we’re just trying to be equal and let the people hear what they have to say.”
All of the questions asked during the event were designed by the CJSA students. A student committee then selected which questions would be presented at the debate.
“So, this is all student driven to see what the students want to know — try to get them involved in the political process,” said Ledet.
Participation from CJSA was abundant among the older generations present at the debate, however, some of the students wish that more of their peers would show interest in learning about the candidates.
“Young people are the ones who have something to say about the law, something about how it works, and when there’s events like this they don’t show up, they don’t come to see what this new candidate has to offer,” said CJSA student, Wendy Cervantes. “You know this is the sheriff, they’re going to be running the town and these young students don’t want to show up to see what they have to say”.
CJSA student Dané Cook believes the most important thing to hear about is “what’s going on in our community and what they have to bring to our community.”
Reasons like these are why the CJSA wants its own students in its program to come out and hear the politics behind law enforcement. It is also a reason why they believe all college students should be concerned with government.
“Get involved in the political process; have a voice. We want them to have a voice. I tell my classes if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the government,” said Ledet.
In 2012, Smith and Green ran against each other for Sheriff, and the result was a tight 52.78 percent for Smith and 47.22 percent for Green in the July primary runoff (according to Smith County Election Results).
CBS 19 will be hosting a live debate between Smith and Green on Thursday, Feb. 25 starting at 6 p.m.
The Texas Republican Primary will be Tuesday, March 1, 2016. The U.S. General Election will be Nov. 8, 2016.
For more information on the Sheriff candidates and candidates for other Federal, State and County positions visit: