AUSTIN (KXAN) — After winning Tuesday’s Democratic runoff for Travis County Attorney, current Austin Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza is set to become the new Travis County Attorney. No one is running as a Republican candidate, so Garza’s name will be the only one listed on the ballot for that office in November.
Garza was runnning against Laurie Eiserloh, who boasted more years of experience practicing law and big-name endorsements, including one from current Travis County Attorney, David Escamilla.
Eiserloh currently works in the Travis County Attorney’s office as an assistant county attorney. She led in the Democratic primary for the position, with 42% of votes, while Garza received 39%.
However, in the runoff election, Garza won with a larger lead. She had 67,063 votes (56.8%), while Eiserloh had 51,053 (43.2%).
Garza said even she was shocked by the runoff results.
“It’s been an amazing evolution, this campaign,” she said. “When the election was moved from May to July, I saw from March in forums and talking to people how the conversation had shifted dramatically to now.
“There was discussion for criminal justice reform in the March time frame for that election, but it really wasn’t as much on the forefront, and I think the incredibly important uprisings and protests that we have seen have a lot to do with these results.”
Garza says as a person of color herself, she’s familiar with inequities in the current system. She voted to divert some police funding and restructure public safety as an Austin City Council member, and now, she wants to tackle the idea of reimagining public safety head on in her new office.
“We’re not going to prosecute low level drug offenses. We’re not going to prosecute crimes that are an extension of someone being in poverty, basically. You know, we’re going to look at the way that we prosecute crimes like prostitution, because so many times those things, those kinds of crimes are related to poverty in some kind of way.”
Austin’s police union president, Ken Casaday says in some cases, he could see trouble with that.
“That’s totally her prerogative, and she can handle those things how she deems fit. I think Mothers Against Drunk Driving would probably have a problem with her not prosecuting DWI cases,” Casaday told KXAN.
He says Austin Police officers will continue to write citations and make arrests as they see fit, but ultimately, the County Attorney’s office will have the ultimate say in whether misdemeanor cases are prosecuted.
“She’s responsible to the voters and the citizens, and if that’s the direction they want her to go, then whatever the outcome is, the voters will have to live with that,” Casaday said.
In cases of prostitution, however, Casaday agrees with Garza that men and women should be given resources rather than jail time, in an effort to help overcome their circumstances.
“We’re going to have to have tough conversations and hard conversations, and that’s important,” Garza said. “That’s where you see growth and change.”