Candidates vying for 114th District Court seat face off in public forum after Kennedy announces retirement

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SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KETK) – Judge Christi Kennedy currently presides as the judge over the 114th District in Smith County, but she’s leaving the bench at the end of this year. Today two of the candidates running to replace her faced off in Tyler.

Austin Reeve Jackson is a third-generation attorney in Smith County.

“I’m the only candidate in the race (who is) board-certified in criminal law. I’m also board-certified in criminal appellate law.”


Jarad Kent’s mother held the seat he is running for before Kennedy took over in 2009.

“Service has been something that has been in my family for a long time, my family having served Smith County for decades.”


The candidates went head to head in a room full of voters in the midst of the March 3rd primary.

“I was shocked to find that having made a million dollars as a court appointed attorney, that 68 percent of time, he’s late with the work that he’s required to do by that contract,” said Kent of Jackson.

“I’ve handled over 700 appeals, criminal appeals, and I know my opponent hasn’t handled any, so I don’t fault him for the accusations he’s making, he doesn’t understand the process,” Jackson retorted.

Jackson says his experience makes him the right man for the job.

“I’ve handled over a thousand cases, I’ve seen everything from capital murders on down, so we feel like we can do the job on day one without having to learn on the tax-payers dime,” said Jackson.

Kent says passion and drive are enough to be successful in the seat.

“We’d never have had judges like my mom, we’d never have had judges like Judge Kennedy, who took the bench and became excellent judges on criminal matters,” said Kent.

The race is on, with early voting in full swing for the March 3rd primary that will decide who will take the coveted judicial seat.

The third candidate running for Kennedy’s court is criminal defense lawyer Mitch Adams. He wasn’t present at the forum sponsored by the Smith County Republican Women’s Club.

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