Longtime judge Sharen Wilson to step down, enter Tarrant DA race

Posted Wednesday, Sep. 04, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Veteran state District Judge Sharen Wilson is giving up her courtroom to run for Tarrant County district attorney, ending months of speculation about her interest in becoming the county’s top prosecutor.

A felony criminal district court judge since 1990, Wilson filed campaign documents Wednesday and sent out email invitations to supporters asking them to “join me” on the steps of the historic Tarrant County Courthouse today for an “exciting announcement.”

Wilson, who will run in the Republican primary, is prohibited by state law from serving as a judge while seeking another elective office. She cleaned out her court chambers last week and has submitted papers to the state indicating she is retiring, her campaign said.

“While this chapter of my life is concluding, I am by no means riding off into the sunset,” Wilson said in the email to supporters. “I have exciting plans and I want you to be there when I make the announcement. ... My service to Tarrant County is only beginning,”

Wilson did not return phone calls seeking comment from the Star-Telegram on Wednesday.

Delayed decision

Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon, who political insiders have considered vulnerable since a sexual harassment settlement became public last year, said he will make a decision about seeking another term within the next three weeks.

“I’ve been thinking about it and haven’t decided for sure,” Shannon said. “I expect I’ll have something by the end of the month.”

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Shannon in 2009 to serve out the term of the late District Attorney Tim Curry. Shannon was elected to his own term in 2010.

In January, Tarrant County Tax Assessor Ron Wright, a fellow Republican, called on Shannon to resign after the county paid a $375,000 no-fault settlement in a lawsuit brought by a former assistant district attorney. Shannon has denied her accusation.

Wright said the case “left an unrelenting cloud hanging over the DA's office.”

In addition to Wilson, three candidates have filed campaign treasurer designations with the Tarrant County Election’s Office for the district attorney’s race: Assistant District Attorney Bob Gill, and veteran attorneys George Mackey and Wes Ball.

Candidates can’t actually file to run until November for the March 2014 GOP primary.

Tough judge

Wilson is well-known in legal and political circles.

After graduating from Texas Tech University School of Law in 1980, she worked as a prosecutor in the Tarrant County district attorney’s office for seven years, rising to chief of the felony division in 1983 and becoming one of its most successful prosecutors.

After leaving the office in 1988, she worked briefly as a defense lawyer and first ran for district attorney in the GOP primary in 1990 against Curry. She was appointed to Criminal District Court No. 1 by Gov. Bill Clements after she came in second in a four-way race.

Wilson is known as a tough judge with a good knowledge of the law. But she has also been criticized for rulings that some people believe were not much more than political grandstanding from the bench and for rough treatment of prosecutors, attorneys and witnesses.

Wilson, whose judicial term ends in 2014, had to be careful about making a public declaration about seeking the district attorney’s office while serving as a judge.

The media advisory for Thursday’s press conference didn’t mention Wilson and said Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson would make a “major 2014 political announcement.” But her campaign spokesman Craig Murphy said Wilson would be there “and the subject is the DA’s office.”

None of her opponents said he was surprised.

“I suspect she knew all along that she was going to jump into this race,” Ball said. “It’s getting a little crowded in here.”

This contains material from Star-Telegram archives.

Max B. Baker, 817-390-7714 Twitter: @MaxBBaker

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