WACO, Texas (KWTX) Sparks flew Thursday as Republican McLennan County District Attorney and GOP challenger Barry Johnson faced off at a forum in Knox Hall at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco.
The Republican candidates forum Thursday was packed. (Photo by John Carroll)
During the monthly lunch meeting for the McLennan County Republican Club, Johnson accused Reyna of mishandling the Twin Peaks shootout investigation and the first trial of a biker charged in the May 17, 2015 shootout that left nine bikers dead and 20 more injured.
Reyna prosecuted the case of Christopher Jacob Carrizal during a five-week trial in November that ended in a mistrial after jurors deadlocked.
"He doesn't go to the courtroom and when he does go to the courtroom, he screws it up," Johnson said.
"But they say, ‘oh the first case, that Carrizal case, that's the first to go down. And then they're all going to go like dominoes.’”
“Wrong,” he added.
Reyna fired back.
"I'm going to stand strong. If it requires me to take an arrows from gang members defense attorneys who are puppets up here, that's fine, I'll take 'em,” he said.
Pointing directly at Johnson Reyna added: "These bikers are coming after us and what are we going to do? We're going give them (Johnson)? Because then if we do we might as well give them the key to the city.”
Johnson was born and reared in Waco, but practiced law in Dallas for more than 20 years before returning nine months ago.
"I guarantee you I've been in the courtroom many times with much more difficult cases than Mr. Reyna has done,” he said.
But Reyna responded, "I was raised here I was born here you are my family I didn't leave to go live in some other county."
Johnson also suggested that Reyna has given friends and supporters special treatment.
"When a political official betrays his oath of office and betrays the public trust by giving special favors to friends and political contributors there's only one word to describe and that's, corrupt,” he said.
Reyna dismissed the claim and another allegation contained in a sworn affidavit in which a Waco attorney said one of her clients told an FBI agent investigating Reyna in 2014 that he delivered cocaine for Reyna’s use.
"All of that is ridiculous, untrue including the allegation that I've ever had or done had delivered to me or done cocaine, ridiculous,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the FBI’s regional office in San Antonio has said she can neither confirm nor deny any type of investigation involving Reyna or anyone in his office.
The president of the Republican Men’s Club, Wes Lloyd, said he hadn’t expected sparks to fly.
"I was a little surprised, typically these are pretty boring, honestly, with rhetoric staying a little lower but they got more heated than typical."
Democrat Seth Sutton and independent Daniel Hare are also running for the office.
Republican incumbent Abel Reyna
Incumbent Abel Reyna, seeking election to his third term as the county’s prosecutor, grew up in McLennan County, went to school locally and graduated from Baylor Law School.
He was raised the son of a former McLennan County DA who later rose to the bench at the 10th Court of Appeals.
He was in private practice in Waco for a time before he ran for office.
Reyna swept into office when he defeated former DA John Segrest running on a “tough on crime” platform.
Republican challenger Barry Johnson
Reyna’s only primary challenger is Barry Johnson, is a highly respected lawyer who’s website says he has 28 years trial experience in both state and federal courts.
He, too, has lineage in the McLennan County Courthouse as he is the son of the late District Judge Joe N. Johnson, who also served as justice of the peace for many years.
Johnson, a 1979 graduate of Baylor Law School, has three adult children.
Johnson was named a Super Lawyer by Texas Monthly magazine.
Democrat Seth Sutton
Democrat Seth Sutton, a Waco attorney, has no challenger in the primary, and also is a graduate of Baylor Law School.
He was born in Joshua and graduated from Plano High School.
Before Sutton donned his business suit he was a musician and actor in New York and was pursuing a career in musical theater.
Sutton also holds a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications from Texas Tech University.
Sutton started his law practice in Las Vegas, where he practiced federal criminal law, but after a short time he came back to Waco in 2006.
Sutton is a partner in the Sutton, Milam and Fanning Law Firm, in Waco, where he practices with attorneys Jason M. Milam and David Fanning.
Sutton and his wife have five children.
Just to keep his hand in the business, Sutton said, he occasionally appears at the Waco Civic Theater.
Independent Daniel Hare
Independent Daniel Hare serves as the director of career development-employer relations at Baylor Law School.
Born in Edmond, Okla., he holds BA and MA degrees in business from the University of Oklahoma.
Hare first came to Waco in 2003 when he served as Baylor's athletic development officer from 2003 to 2006.
He earned his juris doctor from Baylor University in 2009 and met his wife Adrienne while working in the Bear Foundation.
They now live in Hewitt with their three children.