Denton County prosecutor Forrest Beadle now has a chance to take over the Veterans Treatment Court after beating longtime incumbent David Garcia for the judge's bench of County Criminal Court at Law No. 3.
With 94 percent of precincts reporting in Tuesday's Republican primary, Beadle received 54 percent of the vote, while Garcia collected 46 percent. Beadle did not draw a Democratic opponent.
"I'm appreciative of my wife, my friends and most importantly, the veterans out there that backed me ... especially the ones who worked for the court and understood the issues that came into play in this race," Beadle said.
Beadle, who had served as felony prosecutor in the 367th Judicial District Court, centered his campaign on perceived problems with the veterans court, which helps treat certain veterans' combat-related mental illnesses that lead to criminal behavior. The program, which Garcia voluntarily presided over since 2012, gives participants a chance to have their criminal charges dismissed upon their graduation from the program.
The primary function of County Criminal Court at Law No. 3 is handling criminal misdemeanor cases. But the veterans court was a source of friction between the candidates even before the election started heating up.
Beadle had been the lead prosecutor in charge of screening candidates for the program since 2012. Starting in the summer of 2016, Beadle let fewer people into the court because he didn't feel the judge sufficiently punished participants who violated the rules, he said.
Specifically, Beadle believed Garcia should have explored the possibility of jail more often.
Garcia said he initially sent participants to jail when the program started. He started using more forgiving sanctions to better investigate why the participants violated the rules in the first place, Garcia said.
Despite their differences, Beadle expressed his gratitude for Garcia's service in the court.
"Judge Garcia is a patriot, and I'm very appreciative of the things he's done for this county," he said.
Johnson wins another four years as DA
District Attorney Paul Johnson will serve another four-year term after soundly defeating his Republican opponent Brent Bowen in the GOP primary.
With 94 percent of precincts reporting, Johnson, who was first elected as district attorney in 2006, collected 65.3 percent of the vote. He did not draw a Democratic opponent for the Nov. 6 general election.
"I never take anything for granted, and I'm always humbled by the voters when they elect me," Johnson said late Tuesday night. "That touches me ... and that's what drives me."
During the campaign, Johnson, a Highland Village resident, touted ongoing improvements to the case intake process and his efforts to create specialty courts. The Veterans Treatment Court program and the Mental Health Treatment Court, which gives eligible defendants a chance to have their cases dismissed, took shape during his tenure.
Bowen has been a defense attorney in Denton since 2004, and he previously ran for district attorney in 2010. He campaigned on what he called a lack of communication between prosecutors and defense attorneys, as well as a failure to implement updated technology in the intake process and courtrooms.
Bowen also criticized Johnson for being "soft on crime" because the DA had sought the death penalty only twice since 2007. One of those cases ended in a life without parole sentence in 2011, while the other is still pending in Jonathan Bailey's 431st Judicial District Court.
Holland wins GOP nomination for Justice of the Peace Precinct 1
Joe Holland looks to continue his tenure as justice of the peace in Precinct 1 after beating longtime Denton police Officer Danny Fletcher in Tuesday's Republican primary.
With 94 percent of precincts reporting, Holland received 55.6 percent of the vote. He will take on Democrat Keri Anne Caruthers of Denton in the Nov. 6 general election.
Holland, a small-business owner who presided over the court since 2007, said he plans to use another four years in office to deal with growing truancy rates, which he considered the most pressing issue facing the court.
Throughout his campaign, Fletcher said he wanted to improve efficiency and transparency in the court. He believed Holland performed too many weddings for his own personal gain. Fletcher also provided two examples of what he felt was a lack of transparency in the court.
In one example, a local defense attorney protested when Holland attempted to close his courtroom during a public criminal proceeding in January.
Justices of the peace serve four-year terms and receive a $93,729 annual salary. The court handles small claims and Class C misdemeanor cases. Justices also can perform weddings and magisterial duties, such as signing criminal arrest warrants. Precinct 1 covers the central and southeastern part of the county, including Denton, Corinth, Shady Shores, Lake Dallas and Hickory Creek.
Piel wins judge seat in County Criminal Court at Law No. 2
Former Denton County assistant district attorney Susan Piel is set to replace a retiring Virgil Vahlenkamp as judge in County Criminal Court at Law No. 2.
With 94 percent of precincts reporting, she held a commanding lead over her Republican opponent Sean Kilgore with 65.4 percent of the vote in Tuesday's Republican primary. She did not draw a Democratic opponent.
Criminal Court No. 2 handles high-level misdemeanor cases, such as assaults, burglary, drunken driving and weapons charges.
Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 race heads to runoff
Don Cartwright and Harris Hughey are headed to a runoff election in the Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 race.
Hughey grabbed 40.4 percent of 9,374 total votes, while Cartwright collected 38.8 percent. The third candidate, Scott Smith, received 20.8 percent of the vote.
The winner of the May 22 primary runoff election will face Democrat Michael J. Callaway of Roanoke in the Nov. 6 general election.
Precinct 4 includes cities and towns in the southwestern portion of Denton County, including Argyle, Ponder, Roanoke and Justin.
JULIAN GILL can be reached at 940-566-6882.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the coverage area for Justice of the Peace Precinct 4. Precinct 4 includes cities and town in the southwestern portion of the county.