VIDEO: Smith County District Attorney candidates participate in debate

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Smith County District Attorney candidates Jacob Putman and Alicia Barkley faced off Thursday afternoon during a candidate debate.

Held at Potpourri House, it was the first time the candidates spoke on issues in two weeks ago, when each held press conferences to comment on the others' actions throughout the race.

Initially, Putman was running unopposed. However, Barkley joined the race in December saying, "She felt strongly led to do so, after becoming aware of all the issues in the current race."

In January an audit released by the district attorney's office found nine prosecutors, including Putman, violated internal policy regarding reductions and dismissals of felony cases.

During the conference, Putman said law enforcement agencies asked him to run, saying "I'm not a part of the good old boy system. ... I want to end selective prosecution."

He also addressed the Dabrett Black case.

Black, 32, is accused of fatally shooting Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Damon Allen during a 2017 traffic stop on Thanksgiving Day in Freestone County. Black had previously served time in prison for assaulting a Smith County deputy. Putman was a prosecutor in that case.

Putman said he had repeatedly laid out all of the facts.

"I have run this race with integrity. I have laid out all the facts of all these cases on our website," he said.

He went on to describe his record and his campaign.

"Every prosecutor knows ... that you don't know what someone's going to do tomorrow. We're aggressive and tough on crime. I've got more life sentences for violent offenders than any other prosecutor in the last nine years," Putman said.

The candidates were asked a series of questions including questions specifically submitted for them.

Barkley said several times during the debate that she didn't feel comfortable or safe with Putman running the office.

"If I thought you were safe, I would not be running right now. ... We are not safe when a prosecutor makes the decisions  that my opponent has made. ... I am here because Smith County deserves a choice that will ... protect its citizens," Barkley said.

She went on to say, "I ask you to look at the records of myself and my opponent. Mine is rock solid."

Putman later addressed Barkley's comment while responding to another question.

"You want to compare records? Let's compare records. But let's give all the facts," he said.

The event was hosted by the Smith County Republican Women's Club.

Putman is currently an assistant district attorney in Smith County and Barkley, who left the district attorneys' office in 2002, has a family law practice.

The primary election is March 6.

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