AUSTIN (KXAN) — Laurie Eiserloh and Delia Garza will face off for the Democratic nomination for Travis County Attorney in the July 14 runoff election.
No one is running as a Republican candidate, so the winner of the runoff will presumably replace long-time county attorney David Escamilla.
Eiserloh is endorsed by Escamilla. She currently works in his office as an assistant county attorney.
“I’ve practiced law for a long time,” Eiserloh said in an interview with KXAN. “And it doesn’t hurt to be an attorney, an experienced attorney, if you want to be, well, the county attorney.”
With 27 years of experience in law, Eiserloh and her supporters have been critical of Garza’s lack of experience litigating. Both women served as assistant attorneys general in Texas, but after three years of doing so, Garza ran for Austin City Council.
The current Mayor Pro-Tem says her experience as an Austin firefighter before getting her law degree and her time on city council are what make her a well-rounded candidate.
“This office has been defined for decades by somebody in the office running from the office,” Garza said, adding that she feels change would be good for the office.
“It’s important to have people who have good relationships with the criminal justice advocates, with the policy makers, who have been in different roles in their life,” Garza said, explaining that as a Latina, she didn’t have the opportunity to go to law school as early as some people. “I think voters are less concerned with who has been practicing law more and more concerned with who has been a leader, who has shown that we can reform systems and who has shown deep understanding of the obstacles that our working families face.”
Eiserloh says while she’s had a long career in law, she also has important life experience fighting for reform. She says as an out gay person, she’s led efforts advocating for LGBTQ rights for years.
“I know what it’s like to have the system that’s supposed to help you turn against you,” Eiserloh said. “I know what it’s like to be harassed by the police. I know what it’s like to be out protesting for basic health care rights and for the police to come after you on horseback. I have lived those experiences. But, on the upside, I also know what a big difference little reforms can make in peoples lives.”
Both candidates are running on a criminal justice reform platform, promising to change the way the county attorney’s office handles misdemeanor cases.
“I would like to change that process a little bit and put an experienced prosecutor between the police and the door of the jail to push back and reject charges where there’s evidence of police bias or just a poor case,” Eiserloh said, explaining one point in her “13-point plan for criminal justice reform.”
Eiserloh says under her plan, she would focus on helping people accused of misdemeanor crimes get back on track, rather than falling into a cycle of incarceration.
Garza says while serving as a city council member, she’s already helped with reform in a number of areas, such as when council established the city’s cite and release policy, created an equity office and decriminalized homelessness.
“We have a homeless issue,” Garza said. “We have a public health issue. We have a mental health issue. We have used the criminal justice system to try to solve those issues and it is not working, and there’s got to be a change.”
The person elected as county attorney works closely with other attorneys who help with court work.