Craig Watkins: The Man Who Would Be King

Every week, managing editor Patrick Williams disappears into his office and reemerges a cranky, anti-depressant-gobbling, third-person-referring superhero we like to call Buzz.

OK, people, listen up. Buzz can't believe we have to repeat this lesson, but apparently someone hasn't been paying attention. We're looking at you, Mr. Watkins, so please put away your comic book.

Now, class, can anyone complete this saying for Mr. Watkins' benefit? Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts ... How? Anyone?

Apparently Buzz wasn't the only one absolutely dismayed last week when Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins' first assistant, Heath Harris, said he intends to challenge Darlene Ewing for chairmanship of the Dallas County Democratic Party. "Get ready for Boss Watkins," Dallas Morning News political writer Gromer Jeffers wrote in a column about the news. "Wary Democrats" are grumbling quietly -- that means anonymously -- that Watkins wants to take over county politics, Jeffers wrote.

Harris denied it, presumably straight-faced. Why, it's just a coincidence that a half dozen of Watkins' assistants are eyeing primary challenges to incumbent Dem judges, that Harris is gunning for Ewing and that Watkins' wife is a consultant who gets paid by judicial candidates. Machine? What machine?

When it comes to denying blindingly clear reality, the anti-evolution crowd could take a lesson from Watkins and friends.

Since local Democrats are too wary, Buzz phoned Wade Emmert, county GOP chair, to get him to state the obvious. "I think Craig Watkins is trying to take control of the entire party," Emmert said.

Well, no duh. But more important, Emmert suggested, is the fact that Watkins is making his power play in the judiciary, creating a judge-electing "machine where there are consequences when you don't kiss the ring."

But didn't Republican district attorneys used to do the same thing? No, Emmert countered. Guys like former District Attorney Bill Hill may have been politically influential, but they didn't try to control the Republican Party itself. Putting that much power in the hands of a prosecutor and electing a slate of judges beholden to him has scary implications for the judicial system, he said, and that's far more important than political infighting among Democrats.

Which is why maybe some of those wary Democrats need to start grumbling loudly. This is important stuff. Those guys in the courthouse can screw with real life. Yours.

Let's just hope our two-party system can put a check to overweening ambition. No, we don't mean Democrats and Republicans. We mean Democrats and Other Democrats.

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