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Texas judge: Obama reelection could bring unrest

August 25, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske

HOUSTON -- Some outraged West Texas residents were preparing to speak out at a public meeting Monday against a Lubbock County official who warned this week that if President Obama is reelected, unrest may erupt and the president might respond with United Nations troops, necessitating more sheriff’s deputies in Lubbock to deal with the crisis.

Lubbock County Judge Tom Head first made the comments earlier this week on the local Fox affilliate, where he appeared with another local official.

“He’s going to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the U.N.,” Head said of Obama. “Then what happens? I’m thinking worst-case scenario -- civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe.”

The comments by Head, a Republican, have sparked anger among some Democrats, who are calling for his resignation.

"It’s just a pattern of being completely out of touch,” Kenny Ketner, who leads the Lubbock County Democratic Party, told The Times.

Ketner said they were organizing residents to pack a budget hearing at the county courthouse at 10 a.m. Monday, “to make their voices heard.” 

Head has not wavered from his position. He later elaborated in a video interview with the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, which serves the city of 230,000 about 350 miles west of Dallas at the southern end of the Panhandle that George H.W. Bush called “the barometer of the nation” and has been deemed the second-most conservative in the country after Provo, Utah.

In Lubbock, the county judge presides over the commissioner's court, or county commission, but has a slew of other duties, including holding elections, mental competency hearings, and overseeing emergency management.

As the county’s chief emergency-management official, Head told the newspaper, he must prepare for worst-case scenarios—including a Category 5 hurricane, Democrats retaining control of the U.S. Senate and Obama’s reelection.

“Do I think U.N. troops are going to be rolling into Lubbock? Probably not going to happen,” the judge said, appearing to backpedal.

Head said he was trying to justify a proposed 1.7% property-tax increase that would pay for more sheriff’s deputies and law enforcement.

Ketner and other critics said it was only the latest in a series of gaffes by the judge.

Three years ago, Head posted a flier on the courthouse bulletin board with arrest photos of nine people -- seven of them black -- wearing Obama T-shirts.

“Did you ever see anyone arrested wearing a Bush T-shirt, or for you older folks, an Eisenhower?” he wrote next to the flier, according to the Avalanche-Journal.

At the time, Head told the newspaper the posting wasn’t racist and was intended to “try and get people talking to one another.”

Ketner said he investigated ways to immediately oust the judge in the wake of his recent comments, but to no avail.

“We’re not able to recall Judge Head through a petition. We are urging people to file a complaint form with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct,” he said.

“Judge Head’s really crossed the line with his remarks,” Ketner said. “It’s really embarrassed Lubbock. Lubbock is still a great city with wonderful people. I’m certain that most Lubbockites don’t feel this way. There is a faction supporting Judge Head, but most citizens are outraged by this.”

Head has been the top elected official in Lubbock County since 1999, according to the county website. He is a former police officer and SWAT team member at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. He has not returned calls for comment.

He appeared to have the support of the county’s Republican leadership.

Lubbock County Commissioner Mark Heinrich, who appeared on the controversial broadcast with Head on Tuesday, has dismissed his remarks as unrealistic, but said the commissioner’s court, or county commission, will not seek Head’s resignation.

Carl Tepper, who chairs the county Republican Party, described Head to The Times as “a real soft-spoken guy,” usually very professional and kind.

In the wake of his comments, Tepper said, “I’ve seen outrageous things spoken on both sides of the aisle.”

“Some of the rhetoric against him has been over the top,” Tepper said, particularly Internet posts.

While Lubbock residents may not really believe Obama would send U.N. troops to West Texas, he said, “They’re not happy with Obama’s foreign policy. They certainly see the world differently.”

Tepper said county Republicans back the judge despite opponents’ demand that he resign.

“They’re welcome to run somebody against him and answer this at the ballot box,” Tepper said.

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