Dallas County DA Craig Watkins defeats GOP challenger

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by JENNIFER EMILY and JASON TRAHAN

The Dallas Morning News

Posted on November 3, 2010 at 9:08 AM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 3 at 9:09 AM

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DALLAS — Democratic incumbent Craig Watkins defeated Republican challenger Danny Clancy in the Dallas County district attorney race.

Clancy had a slight lead much of the night, but Watkins pulled in front as votes were tallied three hours after polls closed.

Final vote counts show Watkins with 208,222 votes – 50.64 percent – and Clancy with 202,974 votes – 49.36 percent.

Throughout the bitterly contested campaign, Clancy and Watkins sparred over experience, record, ethics, conviction rates and how to deal with county commissioners.

Watkins refused to back down when commissioners called for cutbacks in all departments. Last year he saved all the jobs on the chopping block in his office by using a drug-seizure fund to help pay for a fingerprinting machine. This year he saved nearly a dozen jobs, but three were lost. Both times, he had vicious verbal battles with commissioners.

Clancy argued that shouting matches are not how a district attorney should deal with commissioners. He said that in hard economic times, the district attorney's office must share in the budget cuts even if that means losing positions.

Clancy also blasted Watkins for not having the experience to be district attorney because he had not been a prosecutor before taking office. He often noted that Watkins had not personally prosecuted any cases.

But Watkins did question two witnesses during a death-penalty case. He has said that serving for four years as the DA has given him experience, and he questioned what Clancy, a defense attorney, did during his time as a judge or a prosecutor to improve the criminal-justice system.

Clancy called Watkins a celebrity district attorney for creating a conviction integrity unit that seeks to free the wrongly convicted. Watkins has appeared on national television multiple times, and the Investigation Discovery cable network even created a show called Dallas DNA about wrongful convictions in Dallas County.

At debates, the discourse between the two often turned ugly.

During one debate, Watkins declared that one difference between the two was that "I have a backbone and a brain." Clancy retorted that he believes the differences are "experience," "competence" and "ethics and integrity."

Watkins won the 2006 election against Republican Toby Shook with 50.9 percent of the vote. He lost a close contest in 2002 to Bill Hill.

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