Complete but unofficial election results show attorney Jason Ellis defeated Mike Patterson in a runoff on Tuesday night for County Court at Law Judge.
Because there is no Democrat running in the general election, Ellis will replace retiring County Court at Law Judge Thomas Dunn in January.
Ellis, 32, was ele-cted with 6,337 votes or 62.4 percent, compared to Patterson’s 3,821 votes or 37.6 percent.
Ellis worked misdemeanor cases, including DWIs and domestic abuse, in the Smith County district attorney’s office for 18 months and has run his own law practice since.
The top priority for Ellis is to put residents first, whether as jurors or by staying abreast of new laws and rulings that will allow him to preside fairly, he said.
“I’m grateful to the voters,” he said. “I’m grateful for the responsibility and understand how serious it is. It’s an important job and I want to serve Smith County well.”
Ellis said he would educate himself with the court’s inner workings and process, and by visiting with retired and current judges and attending state courses between now and January.
He hopes to speed up the court’s case process to clear up its docket. Expediting cases is better for victims, the accused, taxpayers and law enforcement, he said.
Ellis also wants to aid law enforcement by making himself available to sign warrants at all hours. He said cases are weakened without blood or breath samples in DWI stops, and that warrants for a 2 a.m. stop could mean the difference in a conviction.
He said he wants to continue Smith County’s move toward updating its justice system, such as ongoing efforts to cut paper reports with electronic filing.
“I’ve got the energy and willingness to put new ideas in action,” he said.
Patterson, a 64-year-old attorney and mediator, said he called to congratulate Ellis when early voting totals showed a 20 percent gap to overcome. He then visited supporters downtown to thank them.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by all the new friends we’ve made and love we’ve received,” he said. “Ultimately, this has been a positive experience for (my wife and I).”
Patterson said he would continue to serve Smith County with his law practice and through civic organizations.
Ellis expressed relief and gratitude after besting three opponents in the GOP primary and runoff for a seat held by Dunn since the mid-1990s.
“It’s been a long haul (because of the runoff),” he said. “We’re going to take a moment to celebrate and then prepare for the job.”