Pubdate: Wed, 14 Apr 2004
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2004 Amarillo Globe-News
Author: Greg Cunningham
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


Voters in Hale and Swisher counties indicated in March that they were ready 
for a change in the 64th district attorney's office when they voted out 
incumbent Terry McEachern, but the unanswered question was: Who would lead 
the change?

In Tuesday night's Republican primary runoff, the overwhelming response to 
that question was Plainview City Attorney Wally Hatch, who campaigned on a 
restrained, common-sense prosecutorial approach and was rewarded with a 
landslide victory over opponent Hollis Browning.

"I really think that was a key," Hatch, 44, said of his approach to 
prosecution. "People said they wanted a change, and I think Hollis and I 
both started out talking about changing things. But as the campaign went 
on, I think he slipped back into the old, hard prosecution approach, which 
isn't always the answer."

Hatch won the right to represent the Republican party against Democrat Eric 
Willard in the general election by pulling in 1,455 votes to Browning's 679.

Browning, 51, a Plainview lawyer, said he was surprised his previous 
prosecutorial experience didn't carry the day on Tuesday.

"My campaign was based on me saying what I think was the right thing, which 
is that experience is most important for a district attorney," Browning 
said. "Obviously, the people didn't agree with me."

Much of the impetus for change likely came from the controversy over the 
1999 Tulia drug bust. Incumbent McEachern prosecuted the cases vigorously, 
securing long sentences in eight trials, then plea bargaining most of the 
rest of the cases.

Hatch refused to judge McEachern's actions, but said throughout the runoff 
campaign that he wanted to operate the district attorney's office with a 
proactive, common-sense approach to justice, as opposed to just locking up 

That approach will have to face one more test in November.

"I'm very happy tonight, but I've still got another election to go," Hatch 
said. "We're going to keep working hard, because I'm not taking anything 
for granted.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager