Indicted Montgomery County judge locked in battle for his job

An unpopular toll road, rising tax bills and the specter of criminal indictment - taken together they amount to a trio of critical concerns that could well keep Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal from winning another term.

Speaking one-on-one with FOX 26, Doyle concedes appraisal values have risen, but points to a 20 percent homestead exemption as proof he's attempting to hold the line.

The judge also points a finger of blame at lawmakers in Austin.

"The problem is if you look at your tax bill, over 50 percent of it, and in some cases almost 60 percent of it, is school districts. Well, the state has cut funding and cut funding to schools and more of that burden has been shifted over to school districts. The school district tax has gone up and up and up every year," said Doyal.

Doyal's critics contend that if he was truly committed to providing relief the judge would have substantially lowered the tax rate to offset a doubling of appraised value in Montgomery County over the last decade.

And then there's a proposed 3.5 mile county toll road on Highway 249 near Magnolia. Doyal says rapidly growing Montgomery County must foot the $70 million bill because the State of Texas refuses to fund a so-called "free road".

"If you are waiting on 249 to be constructed as a free road, it probably won't happen in our lifetime," said Doyal.

But multiple Republican state lawmakers tell FOX 26 Doyal's claim is simply wrong, given the billions of dollars in fuel taxes re-dedicated solely to highway construction by the legislature and the unignorable fact that Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, leader of the Texas Senate, now lives in Montgomery County.

And then there's Doyal's pending criminal indictment for violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

He says the law is unconstitutional and the private negotiations, which prosecutors contend was a crime, actually benefited taxpayers.

"We sat down with the opposition. Not our buddies, the opposition, private citizens and got a bond issue that the whole county supported," said Doyal.

Doyal is being challenged in the March 6 Republican Primary by State Representative Mark Keough, who has trumpeted "ethical reform" as a key component of his campaign.