The race for Tarrant County District Attorney is wide open following Republican incumbent Sharen Wilson’s decision not to seek re-election in 2022.
Three Democrats believe they’re the candidate who can shift the office’s direction: Tiffany Burks, Albert John Roberts and Lawrence “Larry” Meyers. Three Republicans have also thrown their hats into the race.
Early voting starts on Monday, Feb. 14. Election Day is Tuesday, March 1. To find more information about polling places and voting by mail, visit Tarrant County’s elections website.
Once elected to a four-year team, the district attorney directs the prosecution of criminal cases across Tarrant County and leads a staff of more than 300 people.
In addition, the district attorney oversees a civil division tasked with providing legal advice to the county’s elected officials and administrators. Wilson earned an annual salary of more than $200,000 during her time in office.
The Fort Worth Report interviewed candidates to learn more about their goals if they win the Democratic primary and are elected to the county’s top law enforcement job in November.
Tiffany Burks, 51, kicked off her prosecutor career 24 years ago as an assistant district attorney just outside of Houston. The bulk of her career, though, was spent in the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office, where she rose to become deputy chief of the criminal division in 2015.
After more than 21 years in the office, Burks resigned last summer and announced her campaign in September. Her desire to “restore the community’s faith in the criminal justice system,” as well as disagreements with some of Wilson’s prosecutorial decisions, led Burks to run for higher office.
If elected, her top priority would be to hire experienced personnel who can justify their reasons for pursuing prosecutions and do not view punishment as their central goal.
“The criminal justice system is only as good as the people that work in it, period,” Burks said. “Let me find the people who are doing the work the right way and put them in the DA’s office in the hopes that people with the right mentality can help build a bridge between our office and our community and rebuild the public’s trust in our system.”
In addition to supporting prison diversion programs and police training models that emphasize conflict de-escalation, Burks wants to address concerns about the county’s bail system. Bail should ensure community safety and bring defendants back to court to face charges – not imprison people who can’t afford to get out, she said.
“Communities want to feel like they’re getting a fair shake,” she said. “When it comes to the bail system, a lot of people don’t feel like they’re being treated equally.”
Albert John Roberts
Albert John Roberts, 40, spent more than five years as a prosecutor under former Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins. After earning the title “Prosecutor of the Year” during his time there, Roberts returned to his hometown of Fort Worth to work for Wilson’s administration.
In 2017, less than two years after arriving in Tarrant County, Roberts left his position to open a private practice and challenge Wilson in the 2018 district attorney race. After running unopposed in the primary, Roberts lost the general election with nearly 47% of the vote.
“I don’t really feel like I’ve stopped running because I’m running for change, I’m running to reimagine the criminal legal system,” Roberts said. “In order to re-envision it, it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.”
As district attorney, Roberts would recommend no jail time for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses, adopt a cite-and-release program for marijuana possession and eliminate pre-trial detention for people charged with nonviolent misdemeanors. The moves would save taxpayer money by lowering incarceration costs, Roberts said.
Roberts believes the reputation of the district attorney’s office has suffered following controversies over the prosecution of Crystal Mason for illegal voting and delays in the trial of Aaron Dean, the Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson in 2019.
“There’s a number of public examples where the DA’s office hasn’t continued to build faith in the system — they’ve actually slipped back and lost some faith within the community,” he said. “I’m the candidate who’s best positioned to bring that consensus that we need in order to have a 21st century DA’s office.”
Lawrence “Larry” Meyers
Lawrence “Larry” Meyers, 74, may be a familiar name to Tarrant County voters. The former Fort Worth judge served on the statewide Court of Criminal Appeals for four terms between 1992 and 2016.
He earned national media attention in 2013 after switching his party identification from Republican to Democrat as he sought a spot on the Texas Supreme Court. Thanks to the change, Meyers became the first Texas Democrat to hold statewide office in this century.
“I wouldn’t classify the state as conservative,” Meyers told The New York Times in 2016. “It’s just the fact that people who are getting elected to a lot of the positions profess to be conservative, but I would think the state is much more broad-minded than that … I’ve never regretted changing over to being a Democrat.”
He lost the Supreme Court race in 2014, and was defeated by a Republican in his bid to stay on the criminal appeals court in 2016.
Two years later, Meyers ran for Tarrant County judge, losing to incumbent Glen Whitley. In 2020, Meyers was on the ballot again as a candidate for 48th District Court Judge. That campaign also ended in defeat.
The Fort Worth Report could not find current contact information or a public website for the Meyers campaign. Phone calls and emails to accounts previously connected to Meyers were not returned.
Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman Foundation. Contact her by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.