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Creuzot leads in Democratic primary race for Dallas County District Attorney

Allison V. Smith
KERA News Special Contributor
Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot had a substantial lead over challenger Elizabeth Frizell early Wednesday.

Dallas County Criminal District Attorney John Creuzot had a substantial lead over challenger Elizabeth Frizell early Wednesday, although results in the majority of vote centers had not been reported.

Creuzot had about 59 percent of the vote and Frizell had just under 41 percent early Wednesday, with 97 of 440 vote centers reporting.

Creuzot beat Frizell in the 2018 Democratic primary by less than 600 votes.

A criminal district attorney is the chief law enforcement officer in the county, and the elected DA has a significant amount of discretion over how to administer justice. Lawyers under his direction negotiate with defense attorneys over punishments and prosecute accused lawbreakers at trial. They can also drop cases altogether. County commissioners must approve the office’s budget requests.

Creuzot has introduced both controversial and consensus policies with the aim of reducing mass incarceration - including not pursuing prosecutions of first-time misdemeanor marijuana violations. Creuzot also doesn’t pursue cases of thefts of essential items like food and diapers between $100 and $750 when there is no evidence the theft was for financial gain.

Frizell, a former judge, has taken issue with how Creuzot introduced those changes, particularly the theft policy.

“He didn’t sit down and make sure he had buy-in from all the different departments in the criminal justice system,” she told KERA.

Creuzot, who served as an assistant district attorney and judge before becoming DA, has also pushed programs to keep people from entering the criminal justice system in the first place, like the forthcoming Dallas Deflects center at the behavioral health nonprofit Homeward Bound in Southern Dallas.

If Creuzot's lead in the Democratic primary holds, that will set set up a rematch in the general election with Republican Faith Johnson, who was DA before Creuzot defeated her in 2018. Johnson said in a January press conference she will “absolutely” reverse Creuzot’s policy on low level misdemeanor thefts of essential items. (Johnson had no opponent in the Republican primary.)

If Johnson succeeds, it would be a major upset. Dallas County voters are overwhelmingly Democratic: in 2018, Creuzot beat Johnson with 60% of the vote to her almost 40%. President Joe Biden won about twice as many Dallas County voters as former President Donald Trump in 2020.

“The incumbent DA has certain advantages,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at SMU. “Name recognition and fundraising are likely to be stronger. And the DA can point to particular policies” that he says have been successful.

According to Creuzot’s most recent required campaign finance report, he had almost $200,000 on hand as of February 19. Johnson’s report was not on the county’s campaign finance website.

Yet Jillson said challengers also have tools to use against incumbents.

“They can criticize selectively some of the policies he has implemented and criticize the results of those policies,” he said.

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Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.