SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Two republican candidates are vying for the spot of Smith County District Attorney, Jacob Putman and Alicia Barkley.
Putman is a current Assistant District Attorney and Barkley, who left the district attorney's office in 2002, currently has a family law practice.
KLTV sat down with the candidates to discuss their plans for the district attorney's office and why each believes they are the best choice for the position.
Barkley spoke about her experience.
"I tried hundreds of felony cases," says Barkley. "Also, I was in more of a management position in the district attorney's office and was the acting first assistant for the last several years that I was there."
Putman also spoke about the experience he has gained during his nine years working in the district attorney's office and touched on his relationship with law enforcement.
"I've prosecuted more felony cases than any prosecutor in Smith County," says Putman. "Law enforcement knows my work, they trust me and I think that's what sets us apart."
When it comes to the relationship between law enforcement and the district attorney's office both candidates say that communication is key and that they plan on having an 'open door policy' if elected.
"I think it is imperative that we have an open door policy with law enforcement," says Barkley. "Prosecutors need to be available if law enforcement has a question or a need we need to be there."
"We should have a monthly meeting where all the heads of law enforcement come together and share information," says Putman. "We talk about what's going well and what we can do better."
Putman added that he wants to ensure there is trust between the district attorney's office and law enforcement by 'making sure that we end selective prosecution.'
"When law enforcement works up a case and they make an arrest they need to know that we are going to seek justice no matter who the defendant is," says Putman.
When asked about representing victims Barkley says a prosecutor should represent every victim 'as if they were their own.'
"They have to have a fire to represent victims," says Barkley. "I think every victim deserves the right to have a voice in the outcome of their case, every victim has a right to be represented."
Barkley added that a prosecutor should first and foremost protect their community and secondly represent the victim.
Putman said he would work to make it so victims were notified as soon as the district attorney's office received their case.
"Victim's know when the police get involved and often they don't hear anything from our office until after the case is indicted," says Putman. "I think we should notify victims earlier and we can do that by using our victims coordinators, our prosecutors, and our investigators to keep that open line of communication."
When it comes to representing victims Putman also says, "ultimately as the state you have to make sure justice is done, but you always want to consult your victims and make sure that you can provide the best protection for them that you can."
In January, an audit released by the district attorney's office found discrepancies in the way Putman and nine other prosecutors handled the reductions and dismissals of felony cases.
Putman says if he's elected into office all policies will be clear and transparent.
"Throughout my campaign and the nine years I've been at the district attorney's office I've been committed to truth," says Putman. "I want to run an office where people will know that everyone is being treated the same, the rule of law is upheld and that when people are coming to court for justice they are getting equal justice for everyone no matter who you are."
Barkley stressed that this race is not about policy violations but about judgment.
"The decisions made by prosecutors can have dire consequences," says Barkley. "We've seen some of that in this case, that's literally why I got into this race was because of the decisions that were made by my opponent."
Barkley says she would ensure policies were clear and that all prosecutors in the district attorney's office are exercising sound judgment by making changes to the way cases are filed with the district attorney's office.
"I think we need to make some changes in the way that cases are filed in office from the very beginning," says Barkley. "I think that we need to make some changes in the way that cases are presented to grand jury and the way that they are traced throughout the process."
Initially, Putman was running unopposed however Barkley joined the race in December saying 'Smith County deserves a choice.'
Currently there is no democratic candidate running for the office.