Tetens declares victory in McLennan County district attorney’s race

Published: Nov. 8, 2022 at 10:56 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - In a contest expected to refocus the post-COVID criminal justice system in McLennan County, Republican Josh Tetens soundly defeated his Democratic opponent, Aubrey Robertson, to win the district attorney’s race.

Tetens, 42, who thrashed one-term McLennan County District Attorney Barry Johnson in the Republican primary, equaled that polling dominance over Robertson.

As of Wednesday morning, Tetens was winning with 69 percent of the vote to Robertson’s 31 percent.

Tetens had 49,185 votes to 22,128 for Robertson.

“I would like to thank all of our supporters, and those who worked so very hard volunteering for our campaign,” Tetens said. “I want our community to know that I am ready to serve and work diligently to better our District Attorney’s Office. I truly appreciate the support I received from law enforcement, and I look forward to working with them and our entire court system to ensure justice is served.”

Robertson, 39, a former prosecutor in Harris and McLennan counties, also thanked his supporters.

“First, I would like to thank everybody who supported me,” Robertson said. “I think our message of experience really had an impact and I am proud of that message. Josh is everyone’s DA now and his success is important to all of us, and I wish him the best of luck.”

Johnson, like Tetens, had no prosecutorial experience before taking office. Johnson said he will do whatever he can to ensure a smooth transition of power.

“I am certainly not going to try to tell someone how to run the office,” Johnson said. “But as far as the nuts and bolts of some of the things that the DA has to be responsible for, I will certainly be available to meet with Josh so we can have a smooth and orderly transition of power.”

The race between Tetens and Robertson featured a contrast in styles. While Tetens raised close to $200,000 in campaign donations, held several fundraisers and spent about as much as he took in, Robertson funded his campaign out of his own pocket, solicited no donations and said he will return the ones he received.

Tetens, whose father was a longtime police officer, won the endorsements of local law enforcement associations and was aided by the considerable support of McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara, especially in his primary battle with Johnson.

Robertson said he is “100 percent” for the legalization of marijuana and would not expend a lot of the office’s resources to prosecute minor pot offenses. He also said he would not go “doctor hunting,” pledging he would not prosecute doctors who perform abortions.

Tetens countered that he will enforce existing laws, as his oath requires, and work to mend fences between the DA’s office and local law enforcement agencies.

The general election campaign was much more civil in tone than the primary contest between Tetens and Johnson. Robertson was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Tetens and Robertson both agreed that the current state of the DA’s office is in shambles and improvements must be made immediately.

" I think that we focused on the issues during this general election campaign and avoided any personal attacks,” Tetens said. “I think people are very tired of that, and frankly, more than anything else, I think it discouraged voters.”

In a bizarre twist that many didn’t see coming, Johnson hired Robertson in late July as his first assistant. The exercise lasted only 12 days before Johnson fired Robertson, saying the changes Robertson proposed as he hit the ground running were creating chaos in the office.

Many saw Johnson’s unusual hiring of the opposing party’s nominee as one last slap at Tetens, who bested Johnson by 40 percentage points, and perhaps even a jab at local Republican Party members for their lack of support for the incumbent.

Tetens said it is too early to announce any employment changes, while Robertson said he would “answer the call” and return to the DA’s office if Tetens thought his prosecutorial experience would benefit the office. Robertson currently works at the law office of former District Attorney Vic Feazell.

“I will say I think there are many outstanding prosecutors in that office that I look forward to working with,” Tetens said. “I do want to improve our communication with law enforcement, as well as with victims, and I would like to have a better relationship with the courts, as well. I also would like to be able to move the dockets more efficiently with the judges’ help, as well as working with the defense bar to ensure people are not having to wait years to go to trial.

“I am ready and willing to work and hope for a very smooth transition,” Tetens said.