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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It took until the early morning hours on Wednesday, but Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins conceded defeat to his Republican challenger Susan Hawk.

In a 1:00 a.m. news conference, Watkins thanked Dallas County voters for allowing him to serve the past eight years. He gained national attention by spearheading efforts to release prison inmates who were wrongfully convicted. Watkins was also the first African American to hold the position in Dallas County.

Hours earlier, Hawk proclaimed victory before jubilant supporters. “I feel fantastic. We’ve worked really hard this past year and we’ve gotten our message across the county and we feel really good,” said Hawk, shortly before the final numbers were announced.

With all precincts reporting, Hawk garnered just three thousand votes more than Watkins, winning 50.42 percent to 49.58 percent. Top supporters for Watkins blamed low voter turnout for his loss.

The Dallas Police Association supported her and credited Hawk’s nearly 20 years experience inside of the courtroom as a criminal judge and felony prosecutor as one reason why.

“She came from the system all ready, a system that wasn’t broke,” said one Hawk supporter. “She’s done very well for PD, as far as cases that have been filed, cases where convictions were 100 percent. We’ve seen her work style.”

With her victory, Hawk will be be the first female district attorney in Dallas County. “It’s not just about being the first female DA, but the criminal justice system. It’s important, and means a lot to me, and to be able to stand in this position and represent Dallas County and the State of Texas would be an honor,” Hawk said.

Now that she is elected, Hawk said that transparency and accountability will be her first priority.

“When you don’t have trust, there’s no foundation, and that’s what I saw as a judge,” Hawk said. “There’s no trust in the community, no trust in the jury system, and no trust in the criminal justice system. And what I plan, first and foremost, is to regain that trust within Dallas Couny again.”

Watkins has promised a smooth transition between now and January, when Hawk is sworn in.

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