In a stunning upset in the Denton County Sheriff’s race, businessman William Travis stormed the polls and came away with a win that didn’t require a runoff with incumbent Sheriff Benny Parkey.
Travis took 54 percent of the votes, while Parkey took 35 percent and Lewisville Police Officer Jesse Flores came in a distant third with 11 percent.
Travis said he owes the win to his supporters.
No Democrats filed for the seat, so Travis will be unopposed in November and will take office in January.
“It’s just the good people behind me,” Travis said Tuesday night in a telephone interview. “It’s just the people who worked so hard for me. They showed they’re ready for a change.”
Travis sent out numerous mailers critical of Parkey’s administration, but he said that is just politics.
“We traded punches just like you do in campaigns, but we’re buddies,” he said.
Parkey said that he was outspent in the race, and he believes that some inaccurate information in Travis’ campaign fliers had an impact.
“Many of the county’s crime statistics were manipulated,” he said. “But that’s just part of politicking. The people who came to the polls spoke their piece about who they wanted for sheriff, and it wasn’t me.”
Travis is a businessman and has not worked in law enforcement since 1997. He said he could quickly earn a Texas Peace Officer’s license and pointed to two years with Dallas police and a stint with the DEA as his background.
His campaign was mostly based on his desire to pull the sheriff’s office away from the federal task forces and concentrate on drug seizures that would allow the county to keep all the proceeds instead of sharing them with cooperating agencies.
His mailers focused on criticism of the Parkey administration, claiming crime had risen dramatically on Parkey’s watch and promising to “draw a line in the sand” to protect citizens. The mailers claim that under Parkey’s administration, 900 murders, rapes and aggravated assaults occurred in Denton County in 2010. Parkey countered on his Facebook page that Travis apparently counted the crime statistics of every law enforcement jurisdiction in the county, including Denton, Lewisville, and parts of Dallas and Carrollton to reach those numbers. Parkey said the number of major crimes in his jurisdiction that year actually was 85, not 900.
In one recent mailer, Travis depicted Parkey as Pinocchio, with a nose that extended across the flier. The wording accused Parkey of lying about Travis but did not say what lies Parkey had told.
Parkey, in turn, sent a mailer that depicted a rotting, misshapen apple, stating that the DEA considers Travis a bad apple and containing the following quote from an August 1, 2000, story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “ … A federal judge threw out the conviction and 10-year prison sentence last week of a man accused of dealing drugs because a federal drug agent fabricated evidence … Travis resigned from the DEA in November 1997. DEA officials would not say whether he was pressured to resign or was fired, but they consider him a bad apple who tarnished the agency’s reputation.”
Travis denied any wrongdoing and said that scandal was based on made-up information.
Parkey was seeking his third term in office. He had been a detective in the Denton Police Department and defeated former Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Leveling in 2004 to take the seat.
He ran on his record of improving the sheriff’s department by hiring high-caliber officers, of starting a sheriff’s academy that allows jailers to become licensed law enforcement officers and the accomplishments of his narcotics unit. Four of those officers are cross-trained as federal agents, allowing full cooperation between the sheriff’s office and federal agencies like the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security.
Parkey also pointed to his cooperation with other county law enforcement agencies, offering the sheriff’s office assets to the smaller agencies and sending his specialized crime scene unit to help with their major crime.
Flores, a Lewisville police officer, did not talk to any press or send out any mailers but was reported to be concentrating on registering Hispanic voters in the Lewisville area.
DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .