Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced in a press release on November 12 that he is filing documents to seek re-election. Jenkins was first elected in 2011 and is the preeminent county official handling the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am filing for re-election because there is still a lot of work that needs to be accomplished in Dallas County. From fighting back against COVID-19 to making sure our children have access to quality education and health care, I am ready to continue this fight alongside the people of Dallas County,” Jenkins said in a press release. “The resilience our community has shown during these difficult times has been an inspiration to me and my family. I am confident our best days are ahead of us and together there is nothing we can’t achieve.”
Jenkins has regularly been at odds with Gov. Greg Abbott over COVID-19 restrictions, including requirements that school districts do not issue mandates requiring face masks.
In August 2021, Jenkins issued a mask requirement for childcare and public schools through grade 12. The order was in direct opposition to an executive order by Abbott that banned government agencies in the state from issuing mask mandates.
Lower courts in Texas initially sided with Abbott, who had special executive powers due to the declaration of a public emergency.
The Texas Supreme Court found for Jenkins on August 24 and issued an injunction against Abbott’s order. The court found that under Texas law, the county judge has the right to make local decisions to address local emergencies.
The Covid-19 pandemic is not the first health crisis Jenkins has handled while serving as County Judge. In 2012, the West Nile Virus was discovered in Dallas County. Jenkins declared a state of emergency after a significant spike in cases that summer. He was instrumental in developing a plan to spray from the air to prevent outbreaks of the virus.
Jenkins also was the leading County official in handling the Ebola outbreak that hit in 2014.
Jenkins received national attention when he entered the apartment of a Liberian man who was the nation’s first case of Ebola without wearing protective equipment. Ebola is not transmitted through the air and is not spread by asymptomatic people.
Though Jenkins has no medical training, the unique laws of Texas make him the highest-elected County official overseeing emergencies.
In 2014, Jenkins issued an order providing housing to thousands of unaccompanied minors who had crossed into the U.S. as part of a series of migrant caravans.
Billy Clark, a criminal defense attorney from Cedar Hill, will challenge Jenkins in the March primary in 2022. Clark believes that the county’s Covid-19 response was not executed correctly.
Jenkins was reelected in 2018, winning more than 63 percent of the vote. He defeated Republican Brian Hutchinson and Libertarian Preston Poulter to hold onto his position.
The primary election will be held in March, with the general election on November 8, 2022.