Challenger is county attorney who sought his removal from office
Dallas Morning News
February 2, 2008
From Wire Reports Alicia A. Caldwell, The Associated Press
PECOS, Texas – The West Texas prosecutor who received national attention for ignoring a lengthy and graphic Texas Rangers report detailing sexual abuse at a nearby state juvenile jail thinks he can win another term in office.
But the scandal involving the systematic abuse of children held in Texas Youth Commission facilities won't be ignored. His only opponent is the county attorney who tried to run him out of office on grounds of misconduct and incompetence, and the two have been feuding since the scandal broke last year.
Randy Reynolds decided to seek a fourth term last year after speaking with his family, close friends and colleagues.
"Close supporters caused me to run again," Mr. Reynolds said. "People whose opinions I trust told me to run, and the decision was made."
Opponent Kevin Acker, the county attorney for sparsely populated Ward County, said he's running "to give the voters of the district a choice."
Ordinarily, a race to fill the prosecutor's office in a remote three-county patch of scrub in far West Texas, including the nation's least populous county and spots of lucrative oil and gas fields, wouldn't get much attention.
But this race features the verbal brawling between the two Democratic candidates, which started in the midst of last year's youth jail sex scandal.
Some of Mr. Reynolds' critics in the last year said they won't endorse his challenger but plan to keep an eye on the March 4 primary, which will decide the race because no Republican filed to run.
"Neither candidate has sought my support," said state Sen. Carlos Uresti, a Democrat whose district includes the Pecos area. "My main concern is that the district attorney be a person who is vigilant about protecting children and diligent about prosecuting cases."
Legislators learned last year that Mr. Reynolds for two years had a detailed Texas Ranger report outlining allegations of sexual abuse at the Pyote jail and hadn't acted on it. The Texas attorney general's office took over the case and launched a massive investigation of the juvenile justice system in Texas, upending the agency charged with jailing and rehabilitating juvenile offenders.
The feud started last spring in the midst of the state probe.
Before a grand jury convened by the attorney general indicted two former TYC employees on charges of having sex with teenage inmates, Mr. Acker announced plans to ask a court to kick Mr. Reynolds out of office.
But Mr. Reynolds beat him to court, filing a petition to remove Mr. Acker about 15 minutes before Mr. Acker could get his in. Both petitions cited "incompetency" and "official misconduct." And both were abandoned before being heard by a judge.
Mr. Reynolds, an amiable man who said last year's crush of criticism was hardest on his family, said Mr. Acker's candidacy wasn't a surprise.
"He's been hot for this job for quite some time," Mr. Reynolds said. "He considered running last time." Mr. Acker has said he considered running in 2004 but decided against it because he didn't want the job. He said he's running now because no one else would.
"I didn't want his [Mr. Reynolds'] job," Mr. Acker said. "I've asked three or four people, and they don't want to get involved in politics."
Alicia A. Caldwell,
The Associated Press