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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Defense Attorney Wins Dallas DA Election

Democrats have turned the tide in Dallas County, rejecting a high-profile GOP candidate for district attorney, kicking incumbent county judge Margaret Keliher to the curb and choosing dozens of Democrats for judicial posts.

CRAIG WATKINS won the DA race in Dallas County.

Age: 38

Professional background: Worked as a municipal prosecutor and public defender before starting a private law practice. Also owns a real estate title company and previously owned a bail bond company.

Party: Democrat

Political experience: Ran unsuccessfully for district attorney in 2002.

Hometown: Graduate of Carter High School in Dallas. Now lives in DeSoto.

On the campaign trial, Mr. Watkins, a defense attorney who has never prosecuted a felony case, wears his relative lack of prosecutorial experience as a badge of honor. He promises to shake up the office with progressive criminal justice ideas.

“The difference between the two of us is, not only am I running against the guy standing next to me, but I’m running against the system that has failed us,” he said in a fall campaign appearance.

Mr. Watkins’ “Smart on Crime” message includes a promise to give low-level offenders second chances to avoid prison through diversion programs. He also would lobby for better education funding and rehabilitation for convicts.

“Our role is more than just prosecuting criminals,” he said. “Our role should also be prevention and addressing why people commit crime. I will not just sit back and wait for someone to commit a crime.”

Mr. Shook’s “Community Oriented Proactive Prosecution Plan” would have prosecutors working closely with police and community members to focus on root causes of crime in neighborhoods.

Mr. Shook said his prosecutors also would help police target hardcore criminals who are responsible for a disproportionately high percentage of crime. He said he also would be an advocate for more funding for special courts and diversion programs for drug offenders and the mentally ill.

“It’s more of a philosophy,” Mr. Shook said. “More than waiting for crime to happen, we go after crime.”

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