Recommending a candidate in this Republican primary should have been simple, but what unfolded in our editorial board meeting was nearly unbelievable and raised questions.
Incumbent Tom Wilder has served as district clerk for 23 years and knows the job. His opponent Frank Palomino clearly doesn’t have the background or qualifications to be effective.
Yet throughout the roughly hour-long discussion with our editorial board last week, Wilder badgered and belittled Palomino. Wilder scoffed at Palomino’s qualifications and attacked him for a minor campaign finance infraction 16 years ago.
Palomino got in a few digs of his own, then finally swung back with a verbal haymaker. He accused Wilder of not being married to his wife, Charlene. A video captured the district clerk as he came unglued and it appeared that the two men might actually come to blows.
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“You’re a lying dog,” Wilder yelled. “You bring my wife into this? I’ve been married since college. …. You’re a snake. You’re a lying snake” (Later, Wilder produced documents showing he and his wife married in 1962 and were divorced for nine months in 1972 before getting remarried.)
The unbridled tempers and lack of control by both men led to a lengthy discussion by this board about either man holding this significant public position. One, however, will be the Republican nominee, so we looked at all the facts, which is what we urge voters to do..
Wilder is a powerhouse in local Republican Party politics. As district clerk he runs a $10.8 million operation that handles roughly 60,000 new court filings a year. In 1995 he put in remote filing for attorneys and in 1996 online access to court records.
Palomino is a former Democrat who Wilder defeated in two previous elections. He’s a retired logistician for Lockheed Martin who has promised to “purify” management, but hasn’t said how he’d do that and he’s has raised little to no money for his campaign . He touted his experience in logistics and computers but said he couldn’t upload his picture online so he doesn’t even have a website.
Throughout the editorial board discussion Wilder was defensive. He raised concerns late last year when the Star-Telegram questioned him about cases that couldn’t be accessed through the county’s computer system because litigants used initials and aliases to hide their identities. He blamed a computer glitch and said he has to accept these lawsuits as filed. Others state court officials dispute that.
Wilder’s behavior — along with some of his policy decisions — is troubling. But the county is building a new more sophisticated case management system for the district clerk, that will likely include enhanced Web access and search capability. Wilder is better prepared for overseeing that task.
As a result the Star-Telegram Editorial Board reluctantly recommends Tom Wilder as the Republican nominee for District Clerk.