The Smith County District Attorney's Office will see its first change in leadership since October 2003, with Jacob Putman set to take over the seat in January.

Putman won the primary election with 12,658 votes, or 56.1 percent, to Barkley's 9,914 votes, or 43.9  percent, according to complete, unofficial returns. There is no Democratic challenger in November's general election. 

"It feels great to win this election," Putman said. "We worked really hard to get out and get the word out. We wanted to get the truth out as much as we could and that's what we did." 

The DA's race easily has been the most heated local race leading up to the primary, with both sides campaigning hard on their own merits and against their opponent. 

It had appeared as if the DA's race would be taken easily by Putman, who announced his candidacy in February 2017. He didn't have a challenger from the time First Assistant DA April Sikes dropped out of the race in April until Barkley entered the race on Dec. 11, the last day to file to be on the ballot. 

Barkley late Tuesday said she regrets that she didn't enter the race sooner.

"I sincerely hope my opponent will proceed with caution when it comes to violent offenders," she said. "I hope he listened to the victims and that he fulfills all his promises."

Barkley, 48, a former assistant district attorney who now runs a private family law practice, said she entered the race because she believed the voters of Smith County needed a choice and that she had the strength, leadership and maturity to run the office. 

Putman, 35, campaigned on bringing change to the DA's office, where he has spent the past nine years. He said he would strive for greater supervision of the assistant DAs, increase collaboration and communication with law enforcement, and aim to modernize the discovery process in criminal cases.

Barkley entered the race questioning Putman's handling of a 2015 case in which a Lindale man attacked a Smith County sheriff's deputy and was given a plea deal that called for one year's jail time. That man, Dabrett Black, later was involved in another altercation with local law enforcement in July 2016 and was out on bond when he was charged in the Thanksgiving Day fatal shooting of Department of Public Safety Trooper Damon Allen in Freestone County. 

Allen's widow campaigned for Barkley, attending some public events with her. Barkley also drew the support of District Attorney Matt Bingham, whom she ran against in 2004 for the DA position that he ultimately won, as well as Sikes, the first assistant DA; David Dobbs, the former first assistant DA; former Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass; and former District Judge Cynthia Kent. 

Putman garnered a strong base of support early, including former state Sen. Kevin Eltife, state Sen. Bryan Hughes, and state Reps. Cole Hefner and Matt Schaefer. He also got endorsements from the Tyler Patrolman's Association, the East Texas Regional Fraternal Order of Police and Grassroots America -- We the People.

Putman and his supporters staunchly defended his actions in the Dabrett Black case, with Putman saying he reached the plea deal at the request of the sheriff's deputy who was the victim in the case.

Putman's dismissal and reduction of Black's charges without Bingham or Sikes signing off on court documents caused the DA's office policies to be scrutinized by local and state media.

In one of several news conferences resulting from the matter, Bingham said he chose not to fire Putman for his actions, but elected to keep him and help him learn how to prosecute capital murder cases and allow him to get as much experience in the office as possible.  

Bingham later released results of an internal audit his office conducted to see what cases were dismissed by assistant district attorneys. The audit showed 204 cases in which charges were dismissed or reduced without the signature of Bingham or Sikes, and of those, 79 were handled by Putman, the most of any of the nine prosecutors who did not follow what Bingham said is office policy of getting his or the first assistant's signature on such deals.

Putman refuted the findings, saying office policy was unclear and that Bingham often didn't respond when he sought a signature. He said the audit contained lies and half-truths and was part of a smear campaign against him. 

Putman more recently defended his actions in asking in December for a Texas Rangers investigation into whether Sikes falsified her timecards, a claim the Rangers determined was unfounded. 

According to a Rangers memo, Putman said he was reporting the potential criminal violations in order to ensure he was afforded whistleblower protections should Bingham try to fire him. The memo went on to say Putman believed another candidate would be entering the race Dec. 11 and Putman anticipated Bingham and Sikes would drag his name through the mud and make sure he was not elected.

The Rangers notified Putman in late February of their findings that there was insufficient evidence that Sikes falsified her timecards, and also advised him to pursue another complaint he lodged — that Sikes had failed to file campaign finance reports on time — with the Texas Ethics Commission. 

During the heated campaign, Putman raised more money overall than Barkley, $103,555 according to the most recent campaign finance reports, to the $72,730 Barkley reported since entering the race in December. However, she raised more money than Putman during the most recent filing period, $39,305 to his $22,480 for the Feb. 4-24 filing period. 

Crime and Breaking News Reporter

I started working at the Tyler Morning Telegraph in June 2016. I am a retired U.S. Air Force Sr. Master Sergeant. After a 21-year military career, in Security Forces, the military police of the Air Force, I went back to college and studied journalism.

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