Williamson County District Attorney: A Bitter GOP Primary
It’s one of the fastest growing counties in America, yet it has managed to maintain one the lowest crime rates in the state. Williamson County, home to Dell headquarters, glistening new subdivisions, and — as this government tourism video reminds us — a beautiful historic county seat.
But as you admire the Victorian architecture or go shop at the outlet malls, you can’t help but notice large campaign signs advertising one of most combative political contests in Williamson County’s recent history. Round Rock Leader newspaper editor Brad Stutzman has been covering politics in WilCo since 1984.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a nasty, more bitterly contested election than this race that we have in the Republican primary for district attorney,” Stutzman said. “If it was a Western, somebody would have to leave town at the end of it.”
Williamson County attorney Jana Duty’s primary campaign strategy has been to hang the case of Michael Morton around the neck of the incumbent district attorney John Bradley. Morton was exonerated last year for the murder of his wife, based on DNA evidence, but not until after he spent 25 years behind bars.
“There is no question that Jana Duty has made this [campaign] from beginning to end about the Michael Morton case,” Bradley said in an interview in his office on the second floor of the Williamson County Courthouse. “She has misled the public because she refuses to tell them that I didn’t prosecute Michael Morton. I wasn’t even a prosecutor at the time 25 years ago. I wasn’t even in Williamson County. And it’s really the dirtiest kind of politics to try to smear something like that.”
Morton’s lawyers have argued that had Bradley allowed DNA testing to be conducted sooner, Morton might have been able to spend fewer years behind bars. Meanwhile, Bradley’s line of attack on Duty focuses on what he says is her lack of experience.
“The entire job of the district attorney is to prosecute adult felony cases and protect the community. My opponent has never prosecuted an adult felony case, not one,” he said.
Jana Duty never returned our numerous requests for an interview. But in her campaign commercials, she suggests it’s time to cut Bradley down to size.
“I actually liken Mr. Bradley to the great and powerful Oz,” Duty says in one commercial. “To the people of Williamson County, he has a reputation for being this very powerful, very tough, all knowing type of person. But unfortunately when you pull back the curtain, you find that it’s just a farce.”
Whoever wins the GOP nomination will face Democrat Ken Crain in November. He’s a lawyer from Georgetown. Today is the last day to vote early in the primaries. Election Day is Tuesday, May 29.