Coloring Book

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Absolutely. And hey. I want a bass boat. Should I run for office on that? "Hi. I'm delighted to be here this evening. My name is Jim Schutze. And I want a bass boat."

The Republicans are just as boring. Bulletin, bulletin, this just in--major breaking development: All of the Republican DA candidates have come out staunchly against crime! Republican fervor and excitement on this issue are so intense, a Martian watching from afar would be forced to conclude that Republicans, before this latest turn of events, must have supported crime.

Switch back to the Democrat tub, and all three candidates are saying the fake-drugs scandal shows we need more diversity in the DA's office. But the fake-drugs scandal was largely the creation of black leadership.

Pool-cue chalk was ground up and packaged into fake cocaine on the watch of the city's first black police chief, Terrell Bolton. Bolton defended the cops involved. Black leaders all defended Bolton. Groups like the local NAACP never lifted a finger to defend the victims, who were Mexican-American.

Craig Watkins, considered by many to be the leading Democratic contender, came within a little less than two and a half percentage points of defeating Hill in 2002, when the fake-drugs scandal was still a fresh hotfoot for Hill. But one reason Watkins failed to make it over the top may be that he refused to mention the fake-drugs scandal.

In the fake-drugs scandal, innocent people, many of them hard-working bootstraps immigrants who owned small businesses, were ripped out of their families and sent to State Rape Camp by local authorities. That's the kind of issue I used to think of as red meat for red-blooded Democrats.

When I interviewed Watkins recently, I asked him if he had avoided bringing up fake drugs during the 2002 campaign because he didn't want to embarrass then-Chief Bolton. He said absolutely not.

"I have wanted to run for DA since I was 16 years old," he told me. "I thought that I had a very good chance of winning, but I was being realistic. This race was a four-year race for me. And so I was really setting myself up for 2006 just in case I didn't win in 2002.

"In order to do that, I had to acclimate myself to some of those conservative voters to whom fake drugs was not an issue."

Yeah. OK. And I want a bass boat.

With the 2006 campaign under way, Watkins has adopted a moralistic stance on fake drugs. He still does not offer any blame for former Chief Bolton (black). But he's newly willing to be tougher on Hill, the incumbent DA (white). "When their ideology of the office is not about being fair and doing the right thing--it's more about making the numbers--that's what you get. You don't get quality justice."

Democratic primary candidate Larry Jarrett, a former Marine captain in the Judge Advocate General Corps and former assistant U.S attorney, has a similar line on fake drugs.

"Every defendant has to receive fair and moral treatment," Jarrett told me. "You can't be running cases through like a sausage factory."

B.D. Howard, the third Democrat in the upcoming primary, accuses the current regime in the DA's office of cultural narrowness and discriminatory practices.

"The Dallas Morning News had a story just a while back about how the district attorney's office still has the old way of excluding blacks from juries," Howard told me. "Why do blacks mistrust the system? I would ask the district attorney, 'What have you done to make blacks trust the system?'"

Yeah. Well. Normally I'd be the first sucker in line for that one. But that charge is based on stories in the Morning News that were transparently bogus (see accompanying story, "The DMN's Racism Geiger Counter").

So what about all this? And what if we did this radical thing instead: What if we thought about which candidate would make the best DA?

From my point of view they break down like this, in alphabetical order:

Vic Cunningham, Republican. Resigned a Dallas County criminal court judgeship to run for DA Former criminal prosecutor. Comes from a family with deep roots in local Republican circles. Wife is buddies with Laura Bush. Singled out for innovative sentencing and use of technology. Smart, tough, very conservative.

B.D. Howard, Democrat. Criminal defense lawyer. Way-back ties to conservative southern Dallas leadership. Enthusiastic about special "divert courts" designed to get first-time drug offenders out of the criminal system and into treatment. (By the way, so is Cunningham.) Howard speaks passionately about the need to get more of the minority community "invested in the criminal justice system."

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze