Harding Eyes 2018 A.G. Race

Outgoing Travis County Democratic Party chair would be a longshot

Harding (center)
Harding (center) (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Attorney General Vincent Harding? Well, not quite, but the outgoing Travis County Demo­cratic Party chair has recently expressed interest in running for the role in 2018, as first reported by the Texas Tribune. Harding, who's run the TCDP since 2015, confirms to the Chronicle he is in fact eyeing a possible run for the state's leading legal officer.

"My desire to pursue elected office is to help usher in a new kind of politics based on people and principle over power and money," Harding said via a Tuesday email. "As the top law enforcement official in the state, there is an amazing opportunity to use the bully pulpit of the office to provide a voice to the voiceless and pursue criminal justice reform that seeks to reduce and eliminate disproportionalities."

Current A.G. Ken Paxton's tenure has been marked by ideological – and pricey – legal battles against the feds (when Obama was president) and local governments like Austin over immigration rights. Harding calls Paxton and previous A.G. Greg Abbott's reign "disappointing" and motivated "more by political ambition" that has resulted in money-wasting lawsuits rather than caring for the people they were elected to serve. Paxton's time as A.G. has also been mired in a tangled mess of securities fraud charges, which Harding says has "impacted" his ability to lead.

Harding, an attorney, got his start volunteering for Mobile Loaves & Fishes, and he's spent years working on local, state, and national Democratic campaigns. He's billing himself as a principled advocate of justice, no matter the costs. "My commitment to principle caused me to fight against not only Republicans but also the Democratic establishment at times," he said. "Politics should be about what is right and not who is right. If I run for A.G., then I would take the same approach and do what is right regardless of the consequences."

While he's clearly excited at the prospect, the decision isn't yet official; Harding says a handful of factors still need to be considered in order for him to make the run a reality. If he or any other Dem makes a bid, they've got an uphill battle: No Democrat has held the A.G. position in Texas since 1999. So far, no candidates from either party have announced a challenge to Paxton. Any hopefuls can start the process on Nov. 11 (when filing begins) and have until Dec. 11 to make up their minds.

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Vincent Harding, Ken Paxton

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