In a story we ran last July (texas-gay-republican-county-clerk-doing-his-job-and-we-thank-him) we were introduced to Mr. Russ Towers. An excerpt from that coverage reads:
Russ Towers was appointed Lamar County clerk on April 1  after his predecessor retired. He previously served as the county’s appointed elections administrator for seven years. Towers, 39, is believed to be the only openly gay county clerk in the state and the first out official in Lamar County, 100 miles northeast of Dallas.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, Towers said he’s issued four marriage licenses to same-sex couples, including three on the first day (original article was on Monday July 6th).
“I had done a lot of consulting with other larger counties and my county attorney as well, and I decided to go ahead and pull the trigger, do the right thing,” Towers told the Observer. – Texasobserver.com
Russ is making the news again and we thank the Texas Observer for covering the news from The Lone Star State. This time around Russ is not making news for doing his job, but for wanting to keep it. His position will be decided on in the next election. I would say he is up for re-election, but as stated above, he was appointed to his position due to a retirement and was never elected in the first place.
We all knew there would be some backlash from marriage equality and it seems like this might be a form of it in Lamar County, Texas. To see who is running against Russ and to find out what her political beliefs are, review this recent story from the Texas Observer.
In her bid to unseat openly gay Lamar County Clerk Russ Towers, fellow Republican Ruth Graves Sisson is running on a platform of “integrity” and “family values.”
But there may be a few hitches. Sisson has an extensive criminal record, including 12 misdemeanor theft charges from 1991 to 2006, and police reports contain two separate accusations of racial prejudice against her.
In addition to trumpeting “family values” — a term long used by social conservatives as an anti-gay dog whistle — Towers said Sisson is conducting a “whisper campaign” targeting his sexual orientation.
“I hate to assume what [Sisson] means by ‘family values,’ and I hate to feel as though she’s implying that I don’t have any or that being gay is an issue,” Towers told the Observer. “I do feel it’s hypocritical given her record. We are all worthy of forgiveness in the eyes of God. However, that does not change your criminal history. One mistake, maybe two mistakes, maybe five are forgivable, but I think it’s a problem when someone has used the courthouse as their collection agency, basically.”
Lamar County, with a population of 50,000, is situated 100 northeast of Dallas in conservative East Texas. The 39-year-old Towers, whose family has been in the area for generations, moved to Dallas in 1997 before returning home a decade later. He spent six years as the county’s elections administrator before being appointed to his current position by the Lamar County Commissioners Court in 2015, after the previous clerk retired.
With no Democrat running, if Towers defeats Sisson in the March 1 primary, he would become the first openly LGBT person to win an election as a Republican in Texas. According to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a Washington, D.C. PAC, only 16 of the nation’s 470 openly LGBT elected officials are Republicans.
“I am what I am, and I suppose it’s pretty neat to make history, but all I want to do is come to work and be a good county clerk,” Towers said, adding that he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the election.
Sisson, meanwhile, recently told The Paris News — which hasn’t reported on her criminal record — that she’s “raised a family with strong family values in a Christian environment,” and that her work experience in telecommunications has brought her into contact with “many traditional, family-oriented Christians while serving Lamar County.”
“I’m passionate about maintaining integrity, displaying courtesy, as well as keeping strong family values,” Sisson said, echoing the one-paragraph platform laid out on her campaign website. – texasobserver.com
For more information on Sisson's bad check writing, arrest record, theft cases, civil suits, eviction notices, charges of racism where she kicked her own daughter out of her home go over to the full Texas Observer story. That cut out about 6 paragraphs!
“The priority here is, do you perform the job that you’re voted in for?” Paris Mayor Dr. AJ Hashmi told the Observer. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m a cardiologist, and everyone’s heart, when you open their chest, is the same color, and I’m very happy that people in my town think that way.”
Hashmi, who first met Towers when he served as elections administrator, said he wasn’t aware of Sisson’s criminal record.
“I think Russ does a very good job at what he does,” Hashmi said. “His private life is none of my business.”
Lamar County commissioners, all Republicans, knew their elections administrator was gay when they voted unanimously to appoint him clerk, Towers said. Commissioner Keith Mitchell “respectfully” declined to discuss the clerk’s race with the Observer, and other members of the court didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Towers said he’s helped bring both the elections and clerk’s offices into the 21st century — from electronic poll books and real-time online voting results to digitizing the exchange of records with attorneys, bondsmen and title companies, and implementing electronic filing of court documents.
Last July, Towers told the Observer he was proud to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. But he said ensuing media coverage focused on his sexual orientation may have “soured” some Lamar County residents, especially after bodybuilding photos lifted from his Facebook page were published on national LGBT news sites.
“I think there are those who will vote against me simply because I’m gay, and because they don’t know me and don’t know my work ethic,” Towers said. “If you evaluate me based on my job history and performance, it’s pretty clear that I am the right person for the job.” – texasobserver.com
Russ, we wish you the best. It seems like an easy decision if you think about it, but not everyone thinks clearly when its election time. We'd love to sit down for a coffee after you are officially elected, but let's have a smile on that face first!
Thanks go out to the Texas Observer. After reading their story about Russ Towers, I thought it must be an LGBT publication, right? To be so liberal in Texas … think again. Go to the Texas Observer- About Us page and you will see statements like this.
Our guiding light continues to be our founding mission statement:
We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of humankind as the foundation of democracy. We will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit.
It's good to see some sanity still exists out there.