Local progressives really want Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza to run for Travis County Attorney. So much so, in fact, that Garza’s Council colleague Greg Casar announced today that he and writer/activist Martha Cotera are co-chairing a campaign to draft Garza into the race to succeed the retiring David Escamilla.
In response, Garza, who’s currently in Mexico on a trade mission with the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement that she’s “grateful and humbled” by the support and is “seriously considering” entering the March 2020 primary. “I am interested in continuing to pursue public service where I can have the biggest positive impact for the community. Fighting for reforms and improvements to the justice system would be a natural transition for me.” (Garza’s full statement is below.)
Garza’s interest in moving from City Hall to the county courthouse at her next election was no secret, whether as CA or a judge. Under the Texas Constitution, Garza would automatically resign her District 2 Council seat if she announces for another office before December (one year plus 30 days before the end of her term in 2020), triggering a special election. The “draft” workaround, which is used regularly by Texas electeds in these situations, allows supporters to organize and to raise money for a future campaign.
For Garza, that effort is led by a group called Progressive Justice Now,which cites Garza’s previous work on child support cases for the Texas Attorney General’s office, as well as her support for criminal justice reforms at the local level, including a push on Council in 2016 to instruct judges at the Austin Municipal Court to divert people who might serve jail time for unpaid fines into community service.
Garza’s supporters say she can make similar moves as county attorney, whose office prosecutes most misdemeanor criminal cases. "Delia and I have worked together to reduce needless jailings for things like marijuana possession and driving with a bad license," Casar said in his announcement. "Instead of spending countless dollars incarcerating people for small offenses, we can dedicate resources to providing housing, mental health services, and jobs to those who need them. We can focus limited dollars on stopping serious crimes like sexual assault."
Escamilla’s impending retirement – he’s served since 2003 – played a role in proposals to merge the C.A.’s prosecutors with the Travis County District Attorney’s office, an option ultimately declined by Commissioners Court earlier this year. The Progressive Justice Now announcement and filing, with local civil rights attorney Brian McGiverin as campaign treasurer, comes with an all-star list of endorsements: Mayor Steve Adler and most of Garza’s fellow council members (Natasha Harper-Madison, Pio Renteria, Ann Kitchen, Jimmy Flannigan, Paige Ellis); state Reps. Sheryl Cole, Gina Hinojosa, Eddie Rodriguez, Celia Israel; and leaders of the Austin Firefighters Association and the EMS Employees Association.
The full statement issued Thursday, July 18 by Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza:
I’m grateful and humbled that a coalition of community leaders have come together to encourage me to run. Right now, my focus is serving my constituents and the City as Mayor Pro Tem, but I am seriously considering running for Travis County Attorney. My passion for social justice, advocacy, and equity, and my experience as an attorney and in the courtroom would help me be a strong asset to the residents of Travis County, and I am interested in continuing to pursue public service where I can have the biggest positive impact for the community. Fighting for reforms and improvements to the justice system would be a natural transition for me after my work to reform most of the systems I’ve been a part of, including fighting for collective bargaining for firefighters and advocating for the 10-1 Council structure for the City. I greatly appreciate the encouragement, and will weigh what’s best for my family and the residents of Travis County as I make a decision about my next chapter in public service.
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