Dems Seize Dallas Co. Commissioners Court - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Dems Seize Dallas Co. Commissioners Court



    For the first time in about 30 years, Democrats will be the majority at the Dallas County Commissioners Court.

    Democrat Clay Jenkins, who defeated outgoing Dallas County Judge Jim Foster in the March primary, was elected Tuesday to the county judge seat. Dr. Elba Garcia, former Dallas mayor pro tem, defeated Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield, a Republican.

    District Attorney Craig Watkins, also a Democrat, said the change in party makeup means an end to his bitter budget feuds with county commissioners.

    Watkins narrowly won re-election to a second term Tuesday night. He beat Republican attorney Danny Clancy by only about 5,000 votes out of the more than 400,000 cast.

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    He said he intends to ask the new commissioners court in January to restore cuts that were made to his budget last month.

    "The highest law enforcement official in Dallas County will have the resources necessary," he said.

    But Commissioner John Wiley Price, a Democrat, said there is no money to give.

    "And maybe there's some political immaturity on his part; budgets don't work that way," he said. "The budget is fixed."

    For many of his 26 years on the Commissioners Court, Price was the lone Democrat.

    But he said the election of a Democratic majority will not change things much because most functions of county government have little to do with political parties.

    Price said the county is already facing a $21 million shortfall in the next budget, and said Watkins has a lot to learn about budget issues.

    "Here's hoping that he'll be a thoughtful student," he said.

    Jenkins, who beat Republican Wade Emmert for the county judge seat, will preside over Commissioners Court meetings.

    "We need to all come together -- Democrats, Republicans, independents, everyone in county government -- and do the right thing by the people of Dallas County," he said.

    Garcia said she heard a consistent message from voters during the campaign.

    "They want the county to move forward," she said. "They were tired of the finger-pointing. They were tired of the division."

    Despite his praise for the new political makeup of the Commissioners Court, Watkins told supporters it was time to put party politics aside.

    Watkins waited until after midnight, when nearly all the votes had been counted, to speak to his supporters at a sports bar in American Airlines Center.

    "This is an opportunity for us to take the high road," he said.