DALLAS - Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins was once again targeted by one of the state's top Republican leaders.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says the county's unenforceable ‘safer at home’ guidelines are in conflict with the governor's recent orders. A similar letter was sent to Democratic leaders in the Austin and San Antonio area.
Simply put, it’s a political back and forth.
The attorney general says Dallas County is violating key parts of the governors’ order. But Jenkins says that’s not the case.
From the start of the coronavirus pandemic in Texas, there was tension between Democrat Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Republican Governor Greg Abbott. Tuesday added to the tense narrative.
Republican Texas AG Ken Paxton sent Jenkins a letter saying the Dallas County stay at home order conflicts with Gov. Abbott's order on multiple issues.
“The big city mayors and county executives in these large urban counties, they have a somewhat different perspective on the risks of the virus,” said Mathew Wilson, a political science professor at SMU.
Paxton sent what he calls 'warning letters’ to multiple Texas counties and cities that all have Democratic leaders: Dallas County, Austin and Travis County and San Antonio and Bexar County.
The attorney general says Dallas county's order conflicts with the governor’s order in several ways.
When it comes to houses of worship, Paxton says Dallas County's order "limits how a house of worship conducts services."
As for the order in Dallas County requiring anyone older than 2 years old to wear a face covering, Paxton says the governor's order encourages people to wear masks and not orders them. However, Dallas County's order does not impose a fine or penalty for failure to wear a face covering.
Another concern of the attorney general is Dallas County's stay at home order itself. Paxton says Abbott’s order only "requires Texans minimize social gatherings and in person contact" with people who you don't live with.
“If the local governments try to fine, arrest or jail someone for violating these local ordinances, then this really could come to a head,” Wilson said. “Because the state government could come in and say you have no authority to punish this person.”
We all saw what happened when leading Republicans in the state, including Paxton, criticized a Democrat state district judge in Dallas for jailing a salon owner who defied orders and reopened her non-essential business.
Jenkins reacted to the attorney general's letter in a statement saying: "We intentionally modeled the public health guidelines based on the governor’s recommendations, never imagining he did not want his own guidelines followed."
Dallas County's amended stay at home order ends Friday.