Chatter among the political class continues to heat up regarding who the candidates could be to replace retiring Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) representing Texas’ 8th Congressional District. However, Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough is making it clear that he has no interest in running for the open seat.
Keough spoke to the Montgomery County Pachyderm Club on Tuesday, where he gave a “state of the county” address and afterwards fielded questions from the audience on various topics.
During the Q and A segment of the meeting, The Forty-Five News Publisher Reagan Reed raised the topic of Brady’s retirement and the open congressional seat.
Keough has been rumored to be a potential candidate to run for CD-08. He served two terms in the Texas House of Representatives representing the same legislative district Brady himself once held. Keough is now the incumbent county judge of the largest county in CD-08 and has the support of a large cross section of movers and shakers across the political spectrum in Montgomery County.
“We have an open congressional seat…” said Reed. “Has the thought crossed your mind to maybe consider running for congress, or are you definitely running for county judge?”
However, Keough ruled out a run for congress in his response and stated emphatically that he is running for re-election to his current office:
“Reagan, let me make it clear so there’s no question in anybody’s mind: God has called me to run for the county judge of Montgomery County and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it,” Keough replied.
Keough’s answers would also put to rest the rumor that he is considering challenging Governor Greg Abbott in the 2022 Republican Primary. Keough has been highly critical of Abbott throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Indeed, Keough spent much of his “State of the County” speech discussing his response to Covid-19 and how it was at odds with how Abbott handled the crisis. Keough chronicled the history of the pandemic and his thought process as it played out.
Keough defended his initial stay at home order based on the information he had at the time.
Keough said that on March 6, 2020 a meeting of local officials in Montgomery County. Keough said the models given to him by health experts at the time predicted that Covid-19 could kill approximately 20% of the population of Texas.
“Meanwhile, my health district comes to me and they said judge, the modals show that by the end of April we are going to have 100,000 cases in Montgomery County… It was at that point that I came out with my stay at home order.”
However, Keough said his stay at home order had two major differences from other orders: it classified gun stores as essential businesses and allowed churches to remain open.
As the pandemic progressed and it became apparent that fatality rates were drastically lower than initially feared, Keough decided to lift his stay at home order on April 17 after only a couple weeks.
“The thing I kept emphasizing with all these people, ‘99.5 percent recovery,'” Keough said. He also criticized Abbott for issuing Covid-19 related orders, such as contact tracing and shutting down businesses, without approval from the state legislature.
Keough said the mantra that has guided him throughout the pandemic has been, “You cannot have a healthy community without a healthy economy”. He continued, “We also came out with the clear understanding that all business is essential.”
At the end of his talk, Keough called up Montgomery County Republican Party Election Security Committee Chairman Robert Coats to address the Hart voting machine system used by Montgomery County.
While acknowledging that Montgomery County’s voting machines were somewhat outdated, he defended the security of the voting system after he and his committee conducted a thorough investigation.
“The irony of an older voting system is this, because they have to patch in stuff… it’s very hard to hack into these things.” Coats said. “It would be dang near impossible. You’d have to have 100 different individuals doing a hundred different types of things with this system, so it’s virtually impossible to hack our voter system in this county.”
Keough will be up for re-election as county judge in 2022. He does not currently have any declared opponents.