Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Jana Duty

Beating Bradley

The Statesman writes about the aftermath of the GOP primary for District Attorney in Williamseon County where voters resoundingly threw out John Bradley.

Jana Duty

Michael Morton wasn’t on the ballot, didn’t campaign and didn’t back a candidate, but the recently exonerated former inmate cast a long shadow on the Williamson County district attorney race, becoming the key issue in the defeat of a once-popular John Bradley.

Jana Duty, a 10-point victor in Tuesday’s Republican primary, made Morton a centerpiece of her campaign, focusing on Bradley’s decision to fight Morton’s 2005 request for DNA testing. It would take six years for a court to order tests that cleared Morton of the 1986 murder of his wife, Christine, and led authorities to another suspect, Mark Alan Norwood.

Voters responded by turning out Bradley, Williamson County’s lead prosecutor for the past 10½ years and one of the state’s most prominent district attorneys.

Political observers said Duty was aided by lingering resentment over Morton’s treatment, a superior campaign organization and votes from crossover Democrats drawn to the GOP primary by an opportunity to torpedo Bradley.

And unlike prior years when Bradley made news by securing long prison sentences — accounts that played well with Williamson County’s conservative-leaning voters — this election cycle was punctuated by headlines involving controversy in and out of the courtroom.

Beyond the Morton affair, Bradley also was criticized for his leadership of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, which was investigating the science used to convict and execute Cameron Todd Willingham for the arson murder of his three young daughters.

[…]

One of Bradley’s leading backers, Dan Gattis Jr., said the Morton connection meant “everything” to the district attorney race.

“Jana Duty’s whole campaign was tying him to the Morton case,” Gattis said, adding that the Morton case “humbled and matured” Bradley and would have made him a better DA. Instead, his handling of the Morton matter left him vulnerable to challenge.

I’m pretty sure Michael Morton’s attorney John Raley would disagree with the assertion that Bradley was in any way changed for the better as a result of this experience. As people like Sen. Rodney Ellis and Scott Henson said back when Bradley was proclaiming that he had learned his lesson, actions speak louder than words, and Bradley’s actions were loud and clear. The voters made the right choice, and Bradley got what he deserved. Not that he has any need to fear for his future, of course. I’m sure his patron Rick Perry will find something for him to do, and if not there’s always the professional airing-of-grievances circuit. Don’t you worry about ol’ John, he’ll be just fine.

The battle for Williamson County DA

Outside of the Congressional races, the hottest primaries this year are District Attorney races. We’ve got them in Harris County, in Travis County, and of course in Williamson County.

An 11-year Republican incumbent who hasn’t faced an opponent since 2002, District Attorney John Bradley now finds himself in a pitched battle against the current Williamson County attorney just to keep his party’s nomination.

“It’s the most intense race I’ve seen in Wilco — period — and I was born and raised here,” said 48-year-old Bill Gravell, a political consultant and a pastor in the area. “It makes the Texas football game against Texas A&M look like a peewee game.”

Jana Duty scrapped her plans to seek re-election as county attorney, a position she’s held since 2005, to challenge Bradley.

The battle to keep his seat is a unique challenge for Bradley, who has been district attorney since he was appointed in 2001. He won the 2002 Republican primary with 68 percent of the vote.

The candidates are challenging each other’s record in office in campaign rhetoric. Duty said she’s running against Bradley because he has “propelled Williamson County into the national spotlight in a very negative light.”

You know what I think of John Bradley. I doubt I’d care much for Jana Duty, but she would have the virtue of not being John Bradley. There is a Democrat running – Ken Crain – and as always one wonders who would be the better opponent for an underdog candidate. Williamson County is trending the right way, and while it’s unlikely to be there yet the right candidate at the right time can break through. Eye on Williamson and Wilco Watchdog are good resources if you want to follow this race more closely, and of course Grits is on it as well.