It's going to be a competitive race, because he has name recognition. He's well known and in some circles well respected.Duty has some of her own baggage, but of quite a different sort than Bradley's. She's been in a big feud with the good-ol' boy crowd at the county commissioners court, which hired an outside attorney over her objections - ironically the attorney who was the second chair prosecutor at Michael Morton's original trial. The State Bar upheld a complaint against Duty for revealing information she learned in executive session of the commissioners court. But the reason she did so stems in part from conflicting roles: She was attending an executive session as attorney for the commissioners court, but she is also a prosecutor. The information revealed related to what she believed was a criminal offense.
I recently did a poll, a survey, to see how the people out in the general public feel about the job that he's doing. Do they echo the concerns that are being echoed in the courthouse? And what I found is that they do. They are concerned. I think a lot of people want to see change, and I don't believe they see John Bradley the way he sees himself.
So that was encouraging to me that with the proper message, getting the truth out about the way that office really runs, that he can be beat.
Bradley will inevitably attack Duty over the state bar reprimand - indeed, in the Trib story he's already begun - but her revealing secret information because she believed a crime has been committed is quite a polar opposite issue to Bradley's woes. By comparison, Bradley opposed DNA testing in the Morton case for two decades, mocked Morton for seeking to prove his innocence, and fought to keep information secret that would ultimately exonerate an innocent man and lead to the capture of an alleged killer. Grits prefers a prosecutor who broke a rule to expose corruption over one who manipulated the rules to cover up mistakes and misconduct. Anyway, there's an extent to which Duty's reprimand stems from a fundamental tension that exists between the role of a County Attorney as adviser to the commissioners court and her role as prosecutor of crimes. Those duties, Duty discovered, sometimes conflict.
While there's no other coverage of Duty's nascent campaign yet, at least that I could find, here's the text of an email Grits received this morning announcing her candidacy:
The Trib's Brandi Grissom called Bradley "a giant figure in Texas politics," but that may overstate things: He's an influential figure in legal circles, no doubt, but politically he lost his only ever competitive race - for the Court of Criminal Appeals back in the '90s - was appointed to his current spot by Rick Perry, and has never faced a serious challenger until now. Duty, by contrast, appears quite serious: She's coming to get him.Williamson County Attorney Jana Duty announced her intentions today to challenge District Attorney John Bradley in the March 6th Republican Primary election. Duty said she is challenging Bradley because she believes the citizens deserve a D.A. who understands that his/her job is to seek justice.
“Unfortunately there is a cloud hanging over the District Attorney’s office,” Duty said. “John Bradley represents all that is wrong with our criminal justice system today. Instead of seeking justice, Bradley aggressively fought against DNA testing for a man who was wrongfully imprisoned for over two decades for murder. The whole time the real killer remained on the loose committing additional crimes. Bradley has also repeatedly refused to prosecute his buddies at the courthouse for their blatant violations of the law. Worse still, he reduces roughly 25% of his felony cases to misdemeanors annually, and passes them off to my office. Some of those cases involve child predator offenders which I find reprehensible. These are not the actions of a tough prosecutor, but instead are the actions of a self-serving politician who cares more about his statistics than seeking justice. That’s why I am running for District Attorney.”
Duty has served as the Williamson County Attorney since 2005 where she prosecutes misdemeanor and felony crimes. During her tenure in office, she has more than doubled the amount of protective orders obtained for victims of family violence, saved millions of tax dollars through innovations and efficiencies, and has implemented checks and balances to insure government transparency. Duty has also earned a reputation for taking on the “good old boy” system at the courthouse, a reputation she embraces.
Duty continued, “I make no apologies for being an advocate for the people of this county. If that makes me unpopular with the courthouse insiders, so be it. My pledge to the people of Williamson County is to bring honesty and integrity back to the D.A.’s office, to see that everyone is treated evenly and fairly under the law and to continue fighting to protect our families as I have done as County Attorney. We need a D.A. who will put the public interest above his own political career and that of his friends.”
Duty’s public service continues a family tradition that goes back nearly two centuries. Jana Duty is a direct descendant of Joseph Duty, one of Stephen F. Austin’s “Old Three Hundred” settlers, who received a title to a league of land in Texas from the Mexican government in 1824. Eventually he settled with his family at Webberville in Travis County. Duty also had four ancestors who fought in the Texas Revolution, including two who participated in the final victorious battle at San Jacinto. In fact, the Duty family has had at least one family member fight in every conflict that Texas has ever been a part of.
Duty is a graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio and the St. Mary’s University School of Law. Prior to becoming a prosecutor, she was a high school English teacher. She and her husband, Daniel, are the proud parents of three children and three grandchildren. They make their home in Georgetown.“The implications of this campaign go well beyond me and my family,” Duty concluded. “I hope the entire community will rally around our cause and send a strong signal on March 6th that business-as-usual will no longer be tolerated. It’s time to start a new era in the District Attorney’s office, and that fight starts today.”To find out more or to join the campaign, please visit www.JanaDuty.com .
Now we find out if Bradley the media bully can back up his tough-guy image on the campaign trail standing on his own two feet as opposed to on the shoulders of this or that political patron. Can he raise money? Does he know how to run a campaign or employ consultants who do? Will voters really prefer him when they have a choice? Has the Michael Morton case damaged him beyond repair, or will voters believe his road to Damascus schtick? Stay tuned. We'll find out next spring.
MORE: Check in later at the blogs Wilco Watchdog and Eye on Williamson County, both of which I'm sure will be covering Duty's announcement soon.