Democratic challenger for DA withdraws from race | Elections


Seth Sutton, the Democratic challenger for McLennan County District Attorney, has suspended his campaign.

“I want to thank those who have given to it, whether in time, money or energy,” Sutton wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday. “Your generosity humbles me. It is out of respect for your gifts that I am making this call as early into the process as possible.”

The 2,900-word announcement leaves two Republicans and one independent in the district attorney race.

The Republicans, challenger Barry Johnson and incumbent Abel Reyna, square off in the March 6 joint primary election. Early voting runs Feb. 20 through March 2. Johnson, who moved back to Waco recently, has practiced personal injury law in Dallas since 1989 and is the son of the late Judge Joe N. Johnson, who served as justice of the peace and state district judge for 40 years.

Reyna, 45, the son of Felipe Reyna, a former district attorney and appellate court justice, is seeking his third term as district attorney.

The winner will face independent Daniel Hare in the November general election, if Hare can collect 500 signatures on a petition from registered voters who did not vote in either the Democratic or Republican primaries.

Sutton, 43, a member of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and a Waco attorney, initially announced his run in early December.

“Had I continued to campaign, my goal would have been to steer the conversation away from name calling and mudslinging toward real issues,” Sutton wrote in his post. “Also, please take the time to consider the campaigns of Daniel Hare (Independent) and Barry Johnson (Republican). Regardless of who is at the helm, things need to start being run differently now. We simply cannot afford, financially or ethically, to continue on our current path.”

Sutton listed three reasons for suspending his campaign: his family, his law partners at Sutton, Milam & Fanning PLLC and his clients.

“While I’m disappointed, all is certainly not lost for me personally: I’ve got baseball to coach, theater to watch, and concerts to attend for now. There is still plenty of time in future years for this campaign to happen. Despite what my seven-year-old and my knees tell me, I’m still young,” Sutton wrote. “I have a roster full of clients who have entrusted me with their cases and they must receive the representation they deserve. One of those clients, decorated Marine Jeff Battey, has stood falsely accused in the Twin Peaks matter for almost 3 years.”

The announcement came too late to remove Sutton’s name from March primary ballots, county Elections Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe said. There may be time to remove his name from the November ballot, she said.

McLennan County Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Duty said she believes there are procedures that could lead to a Democrat taking Sutton’s place on the November ballot.

Either way, she respects Sutton’s decision, Duty said.

“I love Seth Sutton, but I sure would like to have a candidate run against Abel Reyna in the fall,” Duty said.

Sutton raised $3,350 in political contributions and did not spend any money between Dec. 12 and Dec. 31, according to his latest campaign finance report.

Sutton declined further comment late Tuesday, referring to his post.

Staff writer Phillip Ericksen contributed to this story.

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