Deep-blue Dallas County got a touch of red Tuesday when Republican Susan Hawk ousted District Attorney Craig Watkins. Hawk talks about some of her plans, while a loyal Democrat talks about why she may have gained votes that used to belong to Watkins
Trust, transparency and non-partisanship are Hawk’s catchwords she says will set her apart from Watkins. She hopes Dallas County residents will soon define her by those words.
“First and foremost, I would think they feel like if a crime’s committed or they’re a victim of a crime or they’re falsely accused of a crime that the district attorney that represents them is someone they can trust,” Hawk says.
Hawk says law enforcement agencies, politicians, even residents stopped trusting Watkins, despite his admirable efforts like freeing jailed men who were in fact innocent. That effort attracted broad praise and attention, but so did alleged misdeeds.
“Pick up the newspaper and you’re reading article about the district attorney’s abuse of power, abuse of spending, abuse of funds,” Hawk says. “And I think the community deserves to pick up the paper and read about a district attorney who’s prosecuting criminals or helping to make the community stronger.”
Hector Flores agrees. The former national leader of the League of United Latin American Citizens strongly backed Watkins at first.
“He walked on water there for a while,” Flores says. “However, like anything else, his attitude began changing. I guess the whole concept of arrogance of power, where he became a very powerful politician.”
Flores says a court dispute between Watkins and Judge Lena Levario hurt the Hispanic community. Levario found Watkins in contempt in a case, a ruling later overturned. Watkins then backed a colleague to run against the Latina judge.
“So I don’t think you want to throw us aside and not care about it coming back to bite you in the rear end later on,” Flores says.
That wasn’t all. Flores says Watkins turned on fellow Democrats too, backing a colleague to overthrow Dallas’ Democratic Party chair. That attempt failed.
“You’ve got to go out and keep what you have and go to the enemy and get some of their votes too,” Flores says. “You don’t ever give any votes up to nobody.”
Flores is looking forward to a fresh start with Hawk. He and other Hispanic leaders expect to sit down soon with the incoming district attorney.