DA candidates debate for position

WICHITA COUNTY, Tx (RNN Texoma) - Two candidates running for Wichita County district attorney faced off Thursday afternoon.

Maureen Shelton, current Wichita County District Attorney, has held the position since 2011 but has worked in the office for 24 years.

Shelton said she's seeking re-election because she doesn't believe her job as DA is finished.

"Whether it's the Firefighters Association, the Police Officers Association, or the Sheriff of Wichita County, they all support and endorse me because they know what I'm capable of," Shelton said. "It's not just about me it's about the district attorney's office doing well and training young lawyers to be good attorneys and good assistant attorneys."

However, opponent John Gillespie believes that's not enough as a DA.

In fact, he takes a jar filed with skittles on his campaign trail to prove his point on why Shelton should not be re-elected.

"There's 2,034 in here, one for each day that my opponent went without being the lead prosecutor in a jury trial," Gillespie said. "She went from June 2012 until January of 2018 not being lead prosecutor. That's five in a half years."

Gillespie was a  former Assistant District Attorney for Wichita County and left his role when he announced he was running against Shelton.

He said it was time for some change when he said he noticed the District Attorneys Office was headed the wrong way.

"In the last couple of years ten attorneys have left and I hear that an eleventh has given his notice. That's a 58% turnover rate. It's hemorrhaging and major cases are being assigned to inexperienced attorneys," Gillespie said.

This is something Shelton believes is natural in any DA's office.

"Younger attorneys get trained and they see higher paying jobs in the private sector, so that's going to be constant," Shelton said.

When asked what changes they would make they both had different answers that involved the safety of our community.

"We're upgrading our technology and I think that will help an improve juries to understand our cases in Wichita County," Shelton said.

"I  would also start an identity theft financial crime unit I think you need a point prosecutor who has tried identity thieves," Gillespie said.

The Rotary Club of Wichita Falls will host one final debate in two weeks featuring candidates for Wichita County Justice of the Peace.

Early voting starts February 20th. Primary election day is set for Tuesday, March 9th. Monday is the last day to register to vote in those primaries in your county.

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