As a prosecutor for 23 years in the Nueces County District Attorney's office, Democratic challenger Mark Skurka is hoping his record and experience will give him the advantage with voters over his Republican opponent.
Skurka served as first assistant district attorney for the last 10 years under former District Attorney Carlos Valdez, who resigned his position to become city attorney for the City of Corpus Christi. He has an Associate's Degree from Del Mar College, as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
Skurka is also a graduate of the University of Houston Law Center and is board certified in criminal law. He is currently an adjunct professor at TAMUCC, where he teaches forensic science in criminal law.
Skurka said he opted to seek the office of district attorney because he wants to serve the public and provide justice for those wronged by crime.
"The reason I'm running is because I think that I can do the position of district attorney because I've worked for more than 23 years and have the experience to do that," he said. "I pretty much managed the office on a day-to-day basis, helped set policies and implement those polices under Carlos Valdez."
Skurka said he helped to implement a number of new programs and policies while first assistant that have proven to be beneficial to the office and community, including no refusal weekends for drunk drivers, maximum penalties for graffiti offenders, and diversion for mentally ill and low level offenders.
His dismissal from the district attorney's office came as a surprise, Skurka said, particularly since he had already been demoted and hit with a 40 percent cut in pay after Jimenez took office. The grounds for his firing were based on a policy Valdez had implemented that did not allow for DA employees to be employed while seeking public office, a decision and policy Skurka said he feels is "unconstitutional."
Skurka said he also took issue with Jimenez's statements that he had tried very few cases over the past decade, which was about one or two per year. He said she ignored the fact that although he had been relegated to an administrative role, the cases he tried were more high-profile and required more time to prepare and present at trial, some of which lasted weeks or months at a time.
"When I was a trial prosecutor, which is the position she was at, I tried 30 or 40 cases per year, because that was my only job - to try cases," Skurka said. "As a first assistant, you do a lot more administrative stuff than you do trial work. In fact, Carlos (Valdez) was always telling me, 'You need to get out of court because I need you here in the office.'"
Skurka said if allowed to serve as district attorney, he would make every effort to ensure the office is run efficiently, as well as expanding the programs he helped to begin as first assistant. The idea, he said, is not to run the office solely based on the number of convictions received, but the justice that is given to victims and their families.
"The duty of a district attorney is not to seek convictions - it's to seek justice," Skurka said.