HOUSTON (KXAN) — Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt announced the suspension of his campaign for the Democratic nomination for Texas attorney general and the endorsement of one of his challengers moving onto the May runoff.
Merritt told reporters Thursday afternoon he will now support Rochelle Garza, another civil rights attorney, during the upcoming election, which will pit her against Joe Jaworski in the Democratic primary. He said he spoke on the phone Wednesday with Garza to talk about joining her on the campaign trail.
“She has demonstrated that she could run a campaign that could energize our base that reflects the diversity of our party,” Merritt said.
He also suggested that he may not have launched his campaign at all if he had known at that time that Garza would run.
“She represents a young, progressive, forward-thinking advocate that I wouldn’t have joined the race if I thought she was in,” Merritt said. “We see eye to eye on those things and so even if we were to come out ahead, I would encourage the party to get behind Rochelle Garza and actually focus on flipping that office. It’s an office that Democrats haven’t won in over 30 years.”
Garza tweeted her reaction to Merritt’s endorsement Thursday afternoon. She wrote, “People of color are the majority of the population of our state, and I look forward to working together with @MerrittForTexas to ensure we have representation at the state level and do the hard work of turning out the vote in Texas.”
Merritt ended his campaign more than a week after the primary happened. He waited to make that announcement so that the vote-counting process could continue because only about 1,400 votes ended up separating him from moving onto the runoff over Jaworski, the trial attorney and former mayor of Galveston.
Voting issues, particularly in Harris County, left Merritt and Jaworski waiting in limbo to see who would ultimately emerge as the second candidate in the runoff. Earlier this week, the Harris County election administration identified approximately 10,000 mail-in ballots that were not added into the original result count from election night. This led to the resignation of the Harris County elections administrator.
The election officials said they discovered the uncounted mail-in ballots after the Texas Secretary of State’s office informed them of a discrepancy on their election night reconciliation form. That form is a new requirement state lawmakers passed as part of the elections overhaul legislation, Senate Bill 1. It requires a written reconciliation of votes at the end of Election Day counting and again after processing late arriving mail and provisional ballots.
Merritt said an investigation is now needed in Harris County.
“I think it should be investigated. People should be held accountable,” he said Thursday, “but when holding them accountable, we must pay close attention to SB1 and the impact it had on their ability to do their job.”
The Democratic field for Texas attorney general included five candidates. Garza emerged as the top vote getter on March 1 by capturing more than 43%, which was not enough to avoid a runoff.
None of the Republican attorney general candidates secured enough of the vote either to become the GOP candidate. The two candidates moving onto the runoff are Attorney General Ken Paxton and Land Commissioner George P. Bush.
The runoff election will happen May 24.