Sweatin' It Out With the Justice League!
State Senator Royce West and county judge candidate Clay Jenkins help pump up the crowd as District Attorney Craig Watkins grabs the mic Saturday afternoon.
Photos by Sam Merten
This, in case you have not heard, is the "Summer of Justice." Which, as far as summers-of goes, ranks somewhere in between the Summer of Love, the "Summer of '69," The Summer of George and The Summer of My German Soldier, a sadly forgotten Kristy McNichol vehicle from 1978. The Summer of Justice, alas, stars Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, who, on Saturday, predicted a 60-percent victory for Democrats in Dallas County this November.
Watkins, who's challenged by Republican criminal defense lawyer and former judge Danny Clancy, managed to corral media and supporters alike -- not to mention a handful of Democratic bold-faced names -- to join him Saturday to kick-off his re-election campaign. And so, of course, he began by mentioning the exonerations resulting from his office's Conviction Integrity Unit; he pointed to two exonerees in the crowd -- Steven Phillips and Chris Scott -- as proof of its success. Watkins also urged folks to vote for former Houston Mayor Bill White because of his "smart" education and energy policies in his bid to upset Governor Rick Perry.
"So the question is for the citizens of Dallas County are we gonna go back, or are we gonna keep movin' forward?" he told onlookers battling the 96-degree heat. "And so this is the epicenter of what it means to be a Texan. Think about it. Think about it. Dallas County went Democratic, and what did we do? We put good people in office that represented their citizens."
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White
State Senator Royce West, Watkins's mentor and top campaign contributor, emceed the event, which featured a DJ, hot dogs, bounce houses and face-painting. West confusingly shoehorned in the Dallas Cowboys as he introduced White.
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"Now, Dallas has the Dallas Cowboys, right?" West asked, prompting wooing and applause from the crowd.
"But not only do we have the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas also has the distinction of being the urban county -- one of the larger urban counties -- to turn blue again," he said.
West then introduced White as "the next governor of Texas," even though White himself didn't seem convinced of that in October, when he told us he had no intention of running for governor but would instead be seeking a seat in the Senate. But on Saturday, with Fair Park's Ferris wheel in the distance, White ripped Perry for talking "openly about secession."
"That should be a reminder that progress is a destination," White said. "It's a journey. Isn't it?"
After more wooing and cheers from the crowd, White bashed the state's ranking in adults with a high school diploma and its health care system (both 49th he claimed) and described himself as "a leader, not a follower," "a worker" and someone who's not in bed with the "big-money special interests."
"If you want that, then please make this cause your cause," he said before darting off into Watkins's campaign headquarters next door, which wasn't open to the masses.
West then introduced county judge candidate Clay Jenkins: "Are you tired of all the shenanigans that go on down at the commissioners court?" West asked.
"Yeah!" several folks yelled back.
"Are you tired of seeing the commissioners court in the news about something that really doesn't make any sense at all?"
Again, more yup-yups, but it is sounded more like a pitch to oust Judge Jim Foster than reasons why Jenkins makes a better choice than Republican Wade Emmert. Jenkins took the mic and started talking about Watkins and his "crazy high" conviction rate. This also was the first item listed on both sides of the brochure handed out at the event (see below).
When he did talk about the commissioners court, much like West Jenkins seemed like he wasn't aware that Foster had lost the primary, as he criticized the investigation of Constables Jaime Cortes and Derick Evans by former FBI Agent Danny Defenbaugh, including the early-morning seizure of Cortes's computer, which prompted two people in attendance to blurt out "Watergate!" Then he made it sound like he wouldn't be able to make the changes he deems necessary without former Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Elba Garcia succeeding in ousting Ken Mayfield from his seat at the commissioners court.
"If we can get myself and if we can get Dr. Elba Garcia elected, my goal is to bring the level of success to our commissioners court that our district attorney has brought to our district attorney's office," Jenkins said.
Linda Chavez-Thompson, who's running for lieutenant governor against David Dewhurst, was also given a speaking role, and state Representatives Roberto Alonzo and Eric Johnson were also on hand, along with Judge Lynn Cherry and council member Steve Salazar. Dallas County Democratic Party chair Darlene Ewing did not attend. We're also told that Representative Helen Giddings and Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway made appearances before we dropped by, and Watkins's campaign estimated the total attendance at approximately 150.
Check out the next few pages for more photos from Saturday.
No one matched the excitement of county judge candidate Clay Jenkins.
Steven Phillips (tipping cap) was released on parole in 2007 after serving 24 years in prison for a string of sex crimes he didn't commit. DNA evidence exonerated him in October 2008.
Chris Scott (shaking hands with Watkins) spent 12 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit. A reinvestigation of the case by the DA's Conviction Integrity Unit led to someone else confessing and Scott's exoneration in October 2009.
State Senator Royce West emceed the event.
State Representative Eric Johnson chats with Dallas County Judge Jeff Rosenfield.
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