AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Two republican candidates are headed into a runoff race on Tuesday, May 24 for the position of 47th District Court Judge.

That court includes Potter, Randall, and Armstrong Counties.

In the March 1, 2022 primary election, local lawyers Dee Johnson and Joe Marr Wilson received 45% and 35% of the vote, respectively, taking them to a runoff.

No Democrats were running for that spot in the primary.

MyHighPlains.com spoke with both candidates on Tuesday, less than a month before election day in the runoff.

Joe Marr Wilson said he has been practicing law for the past 33 years, which he believes makes him the most qualified for the job.

“I’ve practiced mainly family and criminal law and a small amount of probate and civil law,” he said. “District Courts, while they can hear a whole lot of different things, these days they only hear pretty much criminal and family law cases. That’s what they spend 95% of their time doing.”

Marr Wilson said he is board certified by the State of Texas in criminal and family law and has represented more than 6,500 clients in those types of cases.

“My relationship with the prosecutors, law enforcement, and other lawyers, that would be litigating those family law cases, and criminal cases, I believe is excellent,” he said. “And I believe it would go a long way toward efficiently moving the court and really giving people the type of justice they deserve in this court.”

Joe Marr Wilson said his philosophy, if elected, would be to give lawyers with large caseloads room to work and represent their clients while still moving the justice system along.

“You need to be able to balance those things and give people a considered judgment, exercise compassion when compassion is needed, exercise toughness when toughness as needed,” he continued. “And then with family law cases to try to help people get to a position they can go on with their life after they’ve had, you know, a very serious, legal sort of hiatus in their life with regard to divorce custody, things of that nature.”

When asked why he thought he would be the right person to preside over the court, Joe Marr Wilson said, “I think this what this court needs someone that knows how to deal with family and criminal matters, because that’s what it’s going to do, nine-tenths of the time.”

He continued, “I have that experience and that expertise. My opponent just simply does not has never tried a family or criminal law case as far as I know, and would be a fine judge in a civil court somewhere but that’s not what this court is going to do.”

Click here to visit Joe Marr Wilson’s campaign website.

Given the chance to respond, his opponent Dee Johnson said, “This is a court of general jurisdiction. There are over 400 civil cases pending in this court, so civil litigation experience matters a lot. But I also do have experience in family and criminal law.”

Johnson said she has 32 years of experience as a lawyer who has tried cases all over the Texas Panhandle.

“I’m a true conservative who believes in enforcing the law as written not legislating from the bench and applying the law neutrally to everyone with no favoritism towards anyone,” said Johnson.

If elected, Johnson said she would work to clear the backlog of cases in the court.

“I would like to have scheduling orders in place. I would like to have extensive pretrial hearings before our jury arrives so that we can frame those issues for trial and we know what’s coming,” said Johnson. “I also would like to point out that about 10% of the cases that are filed actually proceed to trial. The other 90% just need somebody who has energy and strong management skills to get those things pushed through the system. And I have very strong management skills.”

Johnson encouraged voters to do their research before heading to the polls because it is an important election that will affect many people.

“I believe that character and integrity matter a great deal. I think they matter more than experience even,” Johnson added. “So, I think that when voters are looking at us at candidates, they need to be sure that we have the values that they want in a judge and they need to be sure that we have the character and integrity to be trusted with a position that will affect more than 250,000 people.”

Click here to visit Dee Johnson’s campaign website.

Election day is Tuesday, May 24 and early voting is from May 16 through May 20.

This runoff election is separate from the May 7 special election, which will include four Amarillo ISD bond proposals for voters in the district.