Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins uses his voice to be the voice of the people. But he is leaving some to wonder if it's a conversation he should be part of.
A Washington, D.C. based group has been traveling the nation calling for the president's tax bill to be repealed. They came to Dallas on Friday, with the biggest voice being Judge Jenkins.
The county judge is finding his way into more and more conversations around national and state political issues. He says it’s where his voice should be.
“It’s what I should be doing,” he said. “It affects the citizens that live here, and it’s important to their lives.”
Jenkins has been increasingly adding his voice to issues he sees as important to Dallas County residents.
“I don’t go looking for these issues,” he said. “They come and find me.”
Jenkins has tackled issues like lobbying for the Affordable Care Act, holding job fairs, challenging business to what he calls a living wage at $15 an hour, championing criminal justice reform and pushing back against the bathroom bill of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.
“With the failure of the state and the federal government to be able to get anything done, it falls on local government to be the solution,” the judge said.
In this highly partisan political year, Jenkins was unopposed in Tuesday's Democratic primary. However, he does face Republican challenger Todd Gottel in November.
SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson sees Jenkins as an activist county judge.
“I don’t think Clay Jenkins is the only one who is making the role more visible, making the role more political,” Jillson said.
As the chief elected official in Dallas County, Jillson says Jenkins is in his place to speak out.
“He is an elected official on a partisan ballot,” the professor said. “So he's elected as a Democrat the same way Greg Abbott is elected as a Republican. And so they can speak to public issues from their partisan perspective.”
For Judge Jenkins, left-leaning is the right thing to do.
“We've got to stand up for the people that live here and speak out on the issues that are important to them,” he said.
Gottel says he sees Jenkins as representing the interests of only one group of people when the county judge should be standing for all the people of Dallas County. Gottel says the tax cuts are not a bad thing as he has seen it so far, adding that there have been examples of major companies providing bonuses and hiring more workers.