Three-way primary for district attorney heads into final stretch

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas early voting for the March primary election begins in 20 days.

The most intense race in Travis County is the race for District Attorney — the chief prosecutor in our area.

The Democratic primary candidates bring very different perspectives to the race.

Incumbent District Attorney Margaret Moore has years of experience in the courtroom but she’s being challenged by two outsiders, who claim she’s failed on prosecuting sexual assault cases and goes too far in going after drug charges.

BACKGROUND: Travis Co. District Attorney resigns from sex assault survivor’s task force

Erin Martinson was recruited to run by sexual assault victim advocates. Defense attorney and victim service advocate, Martinson chose to run after back-and-forth accusations and lawsuits surrounding DNA rape kit testing and law enforcement response.

“I think it’s really important that we have the DA’s voice at that table. I really want to bring the community into my office. People from underserved populations from Travis County. People from the criminal justice reform movement,” said Martinson.

Jose Garza is the executive director of the Workers Defense Project. Garza was a public defender and worked in the Obama Administration. He embraces a national reform movement that hopes to change what he calls an unfair criminal justice system. He says the current DA has led a department that too often works against low-income Texans and people of color.

“On any given day, over 70% of people sitting in our jail have not been convicted of a crime. The overwhelming majority of them are in our jail because they can’t afford to pay bail. That’s not only wrong but it makes us less safe,” said Garza.

Incumbent Margaret Moore is campaigning on her experience.

She’s increased the amount of jail diversion programs and says running a 200 person, $27 million-dollar office shouldn’t be left to a newcomer.

“I am the only candidate in this race who has actually prosecuted felony cases or criminal cases of any kind. I’m the only candidate who held office in Travis County and has a proven record,” said Moore.

This Democratic primary is expected to go to a May runoff. Whoever wins, will face Republican candidate Martin Harry in November.

The candidates are also picking up some big-name endorsements.

Earlier this week, Garza announced he has the support of the presidential candidate and Senator Elizabeth Warren. He’s also supported by the Austin EMS Association and the Liberal Austin Democrats.

Margaret Moore is backed by Congressman Lloyd Doggett, Senator Kirk Watson, and Mayor Steve Adler.

Erin Martinson is backed by Ed Scruggs, who’s on the Austin Public Safety Commission. Martinson also has the support of Shawn Colvin, Kelly Willis, and Bruce Robison. They’re local singer-songwriters.

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