Nancy Tanner is running for Potter County judge.
I’m seeing an increasing number of her lawn signs cropping up on yards — in Randall County.
The appearance of these signs begs a question I’ve been kicking around in my noggin for the nearly two decades I’ve lived in Amarillo: Why don’t the counties merge?
Here’s a bit of background for readers of this blog who live far away.
* Amarillo straddles the line dividing Potter and Randall counties. It serves as the Potter County seat; the Randall County seat is about 12 miles south on Interstate 27 in Canyon. The city’s population is now very close to 200,000 residents. Roughly 60 percent of whom live in Potter County, the rest in Randall County.
* Randall County’s main courthouse complex is in Canyon, but the bulk of its business is done at its annex in south Amarillo, which collects about 80 percent of all the revenue for the county and adjudicates a similar percentage of all the small-claims crimes decided by the justice of the peace.
* Amarillo, indeed, comprises about 85 percent of Randall County’s population and generates about 80 percent of the county’s property tax revenue.
* The Randall County jail sits on the southern edge of Amarillo, next to the Youth Center of the High Plains.
All that said, the Potter County judge race featuring five candidates running for the Republican nomination is of interest to Randall County residents because many of them work in Potter County. As for Tanner’s yard signs showing up in a county where residents cannot vote for her, that’s just good politics on her party. They put her name out there and give her more of a ubiquitous presence. I’m quite sure the other candidates — those with the money to spend — will do the same thing eventually.
Back to the question of a merger. It’s always made sense to me to meld the counties into one, given their common interests and the fact that Amarillo sits atop the line dividing them.
It’s an immensely complicated process politically. How would one merge the county governments? Who gets to keep their job? Who would lose theirs? How do you settle the obvious turf fights? How do you accomplish this thing legally? Would Canyon residents want to lose their status as the county seat? Lastly, what would you call this new county and how do we settle on a name?
It would require at minimum a constitutional amendment election, meaning that all Texans would have to vote to allow the counties to merge in a statewide referendum. We’ve amended the Texas Constitution for far less consequential things than this, so this is a natural.
I know this topic has been nibbled at for many years. Nothing ever happens for obvious reasons. Merging the counties would step on too many political toes and there would be too many battles to fight. No one seems to have the stomach for fighting them.
I get all that.
Lawn signs, though, for candidates running for office in a neighboring county seem to make as much sense as having two counties of nearly identical size sharing a single significant city.
Which is to say it makes little or no sense at all.