The race for Montgomery County Judge is about to get a lot more interesting. Community leader and non-profit founder Billy Graff has confirmed to the Texas Citizen Journal that he intends to run for the position, currently held by incumbent County Judge Mark Keough, in the 2022 Republican Primary election. Graff will formally announce his candidacy on Thursday.
Graff is a Marine Corps veteran and a retired pastor. A native of East Texas, Graff holds a doctorate degree in Philosophy in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University. He is the founder of IConnect Ministries, a disaster relief non-profit that helps people rebuild their homes. He and his wife Dawn live in Conroe.
With a focus on reforming county government, Graff ran for County Commissioner Precinct 1 in 2020, losing to Robert Walker 58% to 42%. However, many political observers were surprised at how competitive he managed to make the race, given that he had only lived in the county for a few years at the time and was running against a candidate who’s family has lived in Willis for generations.
A political outsider who is strongly opposed to nepotism and conflicts of interest, Graff’s campaign for county commissioner focused on making government smaller and more accountable. Now Graff is turning his attention to the office of county judge, the presiding officer of the commissioners court.
In addition to the incumbent, Graff will also be facing City of Montgomery Mayor Sarah Countryman who has also announced a campaign for county judge.
When asked whether there was room for a third candidate to enter the race, political strategist Robert Coats, who is working with the Graff campaign, sought to contrast his campaign with the two candidates already in the race. Coats, who is the Republican Party Area Chair for Montgomery, says Graff will run a campaign with broad appeal across the various local factions.
“Both candidates have had ethical lapses of a high order that blemish their moral leadership ability,” said Coats. “Dr. Graff is the only candidate in this county who can unite disparate wings of the Republican party by being fair to everyone while pursuing a very conservative agenda. However Dr. Graff will be running an election race where he’s not running against anyone. He will be talking to voters directly and will describe what moral leadership looks like.”
Graff faces a tough battle ahead in what will assuredly be a hotly contested primary. However, the he has been underestimated by Montgomery County’s political class before, and through hard work and determination, he manged to run a very viable campaign for county commissioner. Whether Graff can unseat the incumbent for the top county job remains to be seen, however, given his unexpectedly strong showing last cycle, it would be unwise to misprize him again.
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