Republican runoff for district attorney is a battle of backgrounds – and endorsements

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From an ideological standpoint, there are many similarities between Phil Sorrells and Matt Krause, the two Republicans vying to become the next Tarrant County district attorney.

Both are bona fide conservatives and have the track records and endorsements to prove it. Sorrells, 58, served as judge of Tarrant County Criminal Court No. 10 for 25 years and as an assistant Tarrant County district before that. He won the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.

Krause, 41, has represented District 93 in the Texas House of Representatives since 2013. His endorsements include U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

So how will voters in the May 24 Republican runoff decide?

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Early voting runs from May 16-20. Voters who cast ballots in the March 1 primary must vote in the same party’s runoff. But voters who did not vote in the primary can vote in either runoff.

“I predict this will be a very low turnout election,” said Jim Riddlesperger, Texas Christian University political science professor. “In the DA’s race, I’m not seeing a lot out there persuasive to choose one candidate over the other. It’s all about who turns out to vote.”

However, Riddlesperger said one factor that could drive turnout is the statewide Republican runoff race for Attorney General between incumbent Ken Paxton and George P. Bush.

“My crystal ball is a little murky but if there is enthusiasm to vote in the AG’s race that could impact the local races,” Riddlesperger said.

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Sorrells was the frontrunner in the March 1 Republican primary with 40.5 percent of the vote. Krause finished second with 30.8 percent and a third candidate, Mollee Westfall, finished third with 28.6 percent.

“I started working in the Tarrant County district attorney’s office right out of law school,” Sorrells said. “I’ve been in the DA’s office or a judge. That’s the only place I’ve ever worked. All my experience is in the courtroom in criminal law. My opponent has never handled a criminal case in his life.”

As an assistant district attorney, Sorrells prosecuted felony criminal cases.

Krause maintains that the role of the district attorney is more of an administrator and policymaker than a courtroom litigator.

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“The job is about leadership and management and that’s my skillset,” Krause said.

After graduating from law school, Krause ran the Texas office of a national nonprofit constitutional litigation firm.

His work there involved advancing and defending pro-life, religious liberty and other constitutional issues, according to his website.

“I’ve been involved with constitutional law litigation and the district attorney’s office has a huge civil law component,” Krause said. “My opponent has no experience on the civil side.”

Sorrells said his top priorities are improving the retention rate of prosecutors in the district attorney’s office and clearing a backlog resulting from pandemic shutdowns and policies.

“There are always openings,” he said. “We need to do a better job of retaining experienced prosecutors.”

Krause’s priority is to be “an agent of change” focused on determining needs and instituting policies and practices “to keep Tarrant County safe from violent crime.

“I want to make Tarrant County an example for the rest of the state,” Krause said.

Prior to entering the district attorney’s race, Krause had filed to challenge Ken Paxton is in the Republican race for Texas attorney general. But after incumbent Sharen Wilson announced her plan to retire as Tarrant County district attorney, Krause dropped out of the crowded race for the state office to run for DA.

Besides the district attorney’s race, the Republican primary runoff ballot includes several other local races.

Incumbent State Rep. Stephanie Klick, faces a Republican runoff challenger in her re-election bid for the House District 91 seat, covering the North Richland Hills, Watauga and Haltom City area.  A nurse, Klick was first elected to the seat in 2012.

Capturing 49 percent of the vote, Klick narrowly missed avoiding a  runoff on March 1. She faces David Lowe, a military veteran and stay-at-home father.

In the Republican runoff for Krause’s District 93 seat, former Southlake Mayor Laura Hill squares off against Nate Schatzline, a former pastor and founder of an organization aimed at government reform. He is also operations director for an anti-human trafficking organization.

Schatzline captured 43.5 percent of the vote in the March 1 primary. Hill finished second with 36.6 percent. Fort Worth Councilman Cary Moon was received 19.8 percent and was eliminated from the runoff.

Also on the Republican runoff ballot in Tarrant County is the race for judge of County Criminal Court No. 5 between Brad Clark and Mamie Johnson.

There are no local Democratic runoff races but Tarrant County Democrats can cast ballots in two U.S. Congressional district races that straddle counties and in statewide runoff races for Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller and Land Commissioner.

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