The DWI Dude Runs for A.G.
Jamie Balagia wants marijuana law reform, greater police accountability
It's not often that the race for Texas Attorney General gets a campaign song written to the tune of "Davy Crockett" – then again it's not too often there's a candidate quite like Libertarian Party nominee Jamie Balagia.
The local defense attorney (aka "The DWI Dude"), formerly a longtime cop now known throughout Austin and San Antonio (where he keeps a second office) as a staunch defender of those facing DWIs and marijuana charges, has mounted his campaign for A.G. on two prime principles: marijuana legalization and improved police accountability.
"It's a horrible failure," he says of Texas' current batch of marijuana laws, which list all degrees of possession and sale of the plant as either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on amount. "It's caused the destruction of families – not the use of marijuana, but the use of the laws against marijuana. It's caused horrible relations between the citizens who favor marijuana and law enforcement. When they're flash-banging your house in the middle of the night over marijuana, that's a travesty."
In Balagia's corner is a new political action committee – the Medical and Personal Freedom PAC – bent on legalizing the drug. Assembled by Allan Vogel and David Hutzelman, the Houston group has engaged in full-on Balagia fandom, commissioning the aforementioned campaign anthem (says Balagia: "They've gone the extra mile there, but what right do I have to dampen their spirit?") and introducing a DIY "reeferendum" implying that a vote for Balagia doubles as support for legalization.
"I didn't start it," Balagia says of the initiative for immediate law reform, "but I didn't tell them to stop it. I like it, and I gladly accept the support."
His supporters are not necessarily confident Balagia can win. He's up against Houston-based attorney Sam Houston, a Democrat, and Republican state Sen. Ken Paxton, who each have a bit more campaign cash. (Green Party candidate Jamar Osborne is also on the ballot). The office hasn't strayed from the two-party system in nearly 140 years. Current A.G. Greg Abbott has held the post since December 2002. Additionally, the Texas Bar is currently suing Balagia for misconduct in a civil case, although he's said that he believes he'll "be exonerated." Considering the odds, both Balagia and the MPFPAC would consider any substantial support for Balagia as a swing in the right direction.
"If I could use this election just to show the powerful block of voters that support [police accountability and the legalization of marijuana], we could send a message to Democrats and Republicans that they better start addressing these issues or we'll run you out of office," says Balagia.