SALADO — Experience matters for district judgeships.

Voters know that. The three Republicans vying to replace Fancy Jezek as judge of the 426th District Court certainly know that.

The trio of candidates — Belton lawyer Jeff Parker, Killeen lawyer Steve Duskie and Salado lawyer Wade Faulkner — touted their varied experiences at a Salado Area Republican Women-hosted forum Thursday at the Holiday Inn Express, 1991 N. Stagecoach Road.

The winner of the March 3 GOP primary will almost certainly go on to serve as judge. No Democrat is running for the seat. Jezek is retiring after serving 13 years on the bench.

Each candidate said they had a unique qualification that suited them for the judgeship.

“I’m the only candidate who has had actual trial judge experience, who’s presided over cases that are very similar to those that I would preside over as judge of the 426th Judicial District,” said Faulkner, who served as a military judge in the Army and oversaw cases involving civilians who committed crimes on military installations. “I think I’ve got the temperament. I think if you talk to any of my counsel, they’ll tell you that I’m patient, that I’m fair and my ability in law.”

Parker — who has ran for a district judgeship three times in the county — said he is the only candidate certified for death penalty trials.

“What that means is that I’ve handled everything up to and including capital murder cases — both as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney,” said Parker, an assistant district attorney in Coryell County. “That makes me uniquely qualified because I understand the needs and requirements of both sides so I can assure a fair trial for everyone involved. I’m also the only candidate with state prosecutor experience.”

Duskie — who, along with Parker, ran for the 264th District Court in 2018 — highlighted his more than two decades of legal experience in Bell County.

“I’ve already told you about my experience — 20 years right here in Bell County, doing the type of cases that are heard in the district court I’m asking you to elect me to,” Duskie, an Air Force veteran, said. “Our district courts here (hear) felony, state law cases and civil cases, which include family law as well — I’ve done those for over 20 years. You want someone who has done those for 20 years to be your judge.”

Parker pointed to the large breadth of cases in which he has been involved.

“I’ve done over 300 jury trials as lead counsel, resolved over 10,000 cases — that is substantial and substantive experience and that matters,” the former assistant Bell County attorney said. “Knowledge of the law is important. Judges have to know the law. They have to get it right the first time every time.”

Faulkner, who was in the Army for more than two decades, wants to see the creation of a veterans treatment court for felony cases in Bell County. A similar court, led by County Court at Law No. 3 Judge Rebecca, already exists for veterans with misdemeanor offenses.

“There are a lot of non-violent, primarily drug felony cases that we can handle in veterans treatment court. It’s going to take a judge who is willing to hear the cases,” Faulkner said. “It’s going to take the district attorney (to be) willing to participate. But there are many veterans treatment courts in the felony courts of Texas, and I would like to expand that program to include Bell county veterans as well.”

Duskie, a partner and owner of Lindley, Wiley & Duskie PC in Killeen, said voters often talk about wanting a person to have the proper judicial temperament — and he has that quality.

“What that really means is the personality or the personal qualities a judge has or doesn’t have,” he said. “I’m an excellent listener. I’m a communicator. A judge needs to be a good listener. A judge is the referee, not the star player in the courtroom.”

Feb. 3 is the final day to register to vote in the Texas primaries. Early voting starts Feb. 18 and ends Feb. 28.

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