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Victoria County DA, judge to seek GOP nomination (video)

By Jessica Priest
Nov. 12, 2013 at 5:12 a.m.
Updated Nov. 13, 2013 at 5:13 a.m.

Stephen Tyler

HOW TO FILE

• For the Democratic ticket, contact Cris Gonzalez at 361-594-8668 or visit VictoriaDemocraticParty.org. His email is crisg@victoriademocraticparty.org.

• For the GOP ticket, contact Michael Cloud at 361-578-9334 or visit VictoriaGOP.com. His email is info@VictoriaGOP.com.

Two men who work in the Victoria County criminal justice system announced Tuesday that they will seek a return to office.

Criminal District Attorney Stephen Tyler said he's ready for another four-year term while County Court-at-Law 1 Judge Travis Ernst is also asking for voters' support.

Both men are seeking the Republican Party nomination and plan to formally file later this week.

Tyler, 53, won the office a second time in 2010 when he beat Democratic challenger Deborah Branch with 53 percent of the vote.

No one has announced they will seek the Democratic Party nomination for district attorney as of Tuesday.

Tyler said his office has a 93 percent felony trial conviction rate, including 26 sentences of life or the equivalent.

If elected, Tyler said he would continue to focus on gangs, violent crimes and crimes against children. He said he is proud of how First Assistant District Attorney Eli Garza, Assistant District Attorney Johna Stallings, nurses and local nonprofits handle sexual assault cases involving adults and children.

"We really have a good team that works tirelessly for children," he said.

The relationship between his office and the police department and sheriff's office has also improved. Everyone is using creative investigative techniques, he said.

"I think all the parties decided to do a little outreach. ... I've learned that you don't write when you can talk, and you don't talk (on the phone) when can you talk face to face," Tyler said.

He said he's not looking for anyone to love him, but he works hard.

Before Tyler became an attorney, he worked in the construction industry and served 111/2 years in the Army.

Most recently, commissioners gave Tyler's office $53,076 to add an additional position, a misdemeanor investigator.

Robert Bianchi, who was the office manager/investigator, will move to that position, while Ernest Guterrez, a former Texas Department of Criminal Justice warden, is the new office manager.

Tyler is married to Heather, a fifth-grade Torres Elementary School teacher. They have a 9-year-old daughter, Hannah.

Ernst, meanwhile, was appointed by the county commissioners court after former County Court-at-Law 1 Judge Laura Weiser retired.

He has served on the bench since March.

County courts-at-law handle misdemeanor crimes and juvenile cases along with mental commitments, guardianships, civil cases and probates.

"While the whole job is fulfilling, working with juveniles is probably where you get the greatest sense of making a difference," Ernst said.

Ernst, 42, earned his law degree in 1997 from Texas Southern University. Since then, he prosecuted capital murder, robbery, drug and DWI cases as an assistant district attorney and worked on a variety of other legal issues at a private practice.

He ran for County Court-at-Law 2 judge in 2010 but was defeated by Judge Dan Gilliam in the Republican primary.

Ernst said his diverse experience qualifies him to be County Court-at-Law 1 judge, and he hopes to carry on the legacy left behind by Weiser and her husband, former County Court-at-Law 2 Judge Juan Velasquez III.

"I feel like I've stepped in and took over right where she (Weiser) left off. It's been hard work, yet it's been very fulfilling, and I've enjoyed every minute of it," he said.

Ernst has been married for more than 13 years to his wife, Jennifer, a former third-grade teacher for Victoria school district. They have two sons, Ryan and Evan.

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