Monty Murry mounted a vigorous defense to a political mailer from his opponent that criticized his candidacy.
The local lawyer, who served as a church music and youth director while attending law school at Baylor, said he intends to "remain positive" throughout the campaign.
Murry is one of two candidates for the Republican nomination for judge of the 5th District Judicial Court of Texas. His opponent is incumbent Judge Bill Miller.
Judge Miller's mailer warned voters that Murry had never been a judge and that his legal focus has been tort litigation for the last several years.
Monty Murry said he was surprised by this criticism.
"I am not sure why he would criticize me or attack me," Murry said.
"I had more experience in criminal law and family law than my opponent before he became judge," Murry said. "He was appointed to fill a vacancy."
Murry said he began his career handling criminal law and that this experience has shaped his candidacy.
"I am very interested in the specialty courts for drugs and veterans," Murry said. "These courts do all they can to support citizens to help them seek treatment and change their lives."
Murry said that his opponent did not seem interested in the drug court. "But I am," he said.
Murry, an Ironman triathlon and marathon runner who participated in the New York City Marathon in November 2019, said he also wanted to positively affect the local juvenile justice system through the 5th District judge's membership on the juvenile board.
In Judge Bill Miller's political mailer opposing Murry, he listed the number of years in which he has sentenced criminal defendants to prison since 2015. While Monty Murry was careful not to criticize Miller directly for adding up the years in jail, the lawyer said he was uncomfortable with a judge publicly discussing this.
"I think it is improper for a judge to brag about long sentences he or she imposes," Murry said.
Murry was a member of Beech Street Baptist Church in Texarkana, while former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was pastor.
Huckabee tapped Murry to be the parliamentarian of the Arkansas Baptist Convention while he was president of the organization. Murry continued in the position after Rex Horne took over the job as president.
"One night after the convention, Mike [Huckabee] and I went to some grill — just the two of us," Murry said. "He told me that he had not told many people but that he had always wanted to run for political office."
Soon after this, Huckabee ran for US Senate against Dale Bumpers.
Huckabee's political success and upbeat demeanor may have impacted Murry's candidacy.
"I care about people and issues," Murry said. "I want to remain positive. I don't want to attack my opponent."
Murry said one of the top distinguishing features of his candidacy is that he will not accept political donations.
"I am funding my own campaign," he said. " I don't believe a judge should owe favors."
Murry said he wanted to dispel the myth that he is a wealthy lawyer.
"My wife retired from Texas High as a teacher and is in her sixth year teaching senior English in Ashdown. We live in a modest home in Nash," he added.
Murry said the race is important enough for him to spend his own money to run.
"I don't like the fact that a judge is asking everyone for money because people expect favors."
In fact, Murry said he is running every facet of the campaign himself, along with help from his wife.
He said that he has had a hand in distributing every yard sign for his campaign, including putting them in the ground. Murry also produces his own radio commercials and creates his own Facebook ads.
Monty Murry is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
However, he said he is not your typical personal injury attorney.
"I tell a lot of people they do not need a personal injury attorney at all," he said.
Murry said other attorneys cringe when they hear he turns away potential clients.
But the lawyer said he does not approve of personal injury lawyers promising large sums of money on TV or radio.
"I tell people they are not going to get rich," said the attorney, who currently handles product liability, asbestos, and accident cases.
According to Murry, winning the judicial race would change his life, but he said he wants to serve the community.
"First of all, I am going to have to shut my practice down - which will be a nightmare," he said.
Murry acknowledged there would be things to learn when he assumed office. But he said there is a learning curve for any new judge.
"First and foremost, you have got to be humble in spirit," Murry said.
He said you cannot have a judge who is proud and arrogant and lacks humility.
"I'm not a politician," Murry said. "This was a huge decision, and I knew I would be spending my own money."
But Monty Murry said the race was something he felt like he was supposed to do.
Editor's note: Opponent Bill Miller has discussed the political advertisement, and his response can be read by clicking here for the news story.
1. News story about Bill Miller's re-election announcement
2. Article about political mailer from Miller campaign about Monty Murry
3. Monty Murry defends himself and pledges no negative campaign
4. Miller makes no apologies
NEWS POLL RESULTS: From 6 am to 4 pm on Saturday, February 22, 2020, we conducted a 10-hour news poll. Almost 4,000 votes were cast. The screenshot of the results are below. The lead in the poll changed several times during the day. In the end, there was a tie with 43% of the vote for Monty Murry and 43% of the vote for Bill Miller. An unusually high (with early voting already begun) 14% of voters were undecided. Voting results over 1,000 were reported by Zigpoll rounded to the nearest 100 votes.