Denton County Sheriff William Travis Is Losing Endorsements Like Mad

Denton County Sheriff William B. Travis is losing endorsements faster than blood pouring from a bullet wound. A state representative, Denton county officials, mayors and mayors pro tem from several cities and a couple of Denton County constables have withdrawn their support, and the future of the sheriff's campaign is bleak indeed, leaving some to speculate if he'll be tendering his resignation soon.

Only two days after the Observer's report on his troubled background at the DEA appeared this week, Travis' endorsement page disappeared from his campaign website. Travis is seeking the Republican nomination for a second term on March 1, facing Tracy Murphree, a former Texas Ranger who once worked under Travis before resigning in January 2015. 

Travis couldn't be reached for comment. 

The campaign has seen Travis attacked on all fronts, beginning several months ago when court documents chronicling Travis' career miscues began circulating.  They continued when articles appeared in local newspapers that shed light on campaign finance reporting problems and questions concerning Travis' time as a DEA agent in the 1990s. Travis faces accusations he fabricated evidence for a search warrant in a DEA case and committed sexual misconduct while at the agency.

Travis denied all allegations, saying he didn't fabricate evidence, despite what a decorated Fort Worth police officer had claimed, that he didn't have sex with a DEA informant and that he wasn't fired from the DEA, although a federal prosecutor said otherwise in a federal court document.

He sent letters to voters, claiming that his opponent would "turn back the clock and re-institute the very same policies and procedures that put more drugs on our streets and in our schools." Murphree, a former narcotics officer, said he was the one who wrote the policies that Travis claimed led to the removal of $100 million worth of drugs off the streets.

"I'm appalled that he's going to try to use deception and scare tactics to imply in any way that I have said anything about going back to old policies," Murphree told the Denton Record-Chronicle in early January. "Or that my policies would result in more drugs on the street and in the schools. It's just ludicrous."

Travis didn't stop there. He also sent out fliers indicating that Murphree was "a failed lawman," a sentiment that the numerous law enforcement associations don't seem to hold as they lined up to endorse his opponent. He also claimed that crime rates were soaring when his opponent worked for the sheriff's office. Murphree took to his campaign Facebook page to dispute Travis' claims. 

"I think he forgets I worked for him twice as long as I worked for Benny [the former sheriff of Denton County]," Murphree wrote. 

Denton County Judge Mary Horn had originally endorsed Travis but pulled her endorsement after reading our story on Travis' sordid background. 

"My endorsement was based initially on his job performance over the last four years," Horn said. "But I didn't know about everything that had taken place before that time. It's sickening." 

Flower Mound Mayor Tom Hayden had also endorsed the incumbent sheriff, agreeing with Horn that Travis had done a good job. Unlike Horn, he didn't pull his endorsement based on the information revealed in our investigation. 

"I chose to," Hayden said. "That's all I have to say." 

A quick look at Flower Mound Town Ethics Code Sec. 2-415(9) reveals that "no officer, official or employee of the town shall use the prestige of his position on behalf of any political party or engage in any political activity which does not maintain the nonpartisan policy of the town." But Hayden denied that he used his position as mayor to endorse Travis. "[It had to do with] Tom Hayden the individual and not anything to do with my elected office," he said. "It had nothing to do with the office." 

"That's verifiable," he added. "I discussed it with our town attorney."

Flower Mound City Attorney Bryn Meredith sent an email to Flower Mound Town Council, claiming that city officials had told him that they were simply endorsing Travis as an individual, not a public official. 

"The sheriff was instructed not to use or reference the member's public office," Meredith wrote.  

On Travis' campaign website, the endorsement had read "Tom Hayden, Mayor of Flower Mound," as well as "Steve Dixon, Mayor Pro Tem of Flower Mound" and "Bryan Webb, Flower Mound City Council." 

"I never paid much attention to [the website]," Hayden said.  

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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.