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District Attorney race heads to runoff election

Wednesday, March 4, 2020 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT

José Garza celebrated his early lead against incumbent Margaret Moore at a campaign watch party at Mi Madre’s Restaurant in East Austin. With his early voting numbers showing a slight lead over Moore, he said he anticipated the race going to a runoff.

Tuesday’s final numbers confirmed that suspicion. In the end, José Garza won 44.11 percent of the vote, Margaret Moore had 41.67 percent, and 14.22 percent of voters cast ballots for Erin Martinson. The winner of the runoff will face Republican challenger Martin Harry.

“And when we do, we are going to win,” Garza, the executive director of the Workers Defense Project, told supporters as he stood on a chair.

Garza is one of two Democratic candidates vying to replace Moore, who was elected in 2016. The responsibilities of the district attorney include prosecuting felony crimes and assisting law enforcement with investigations.

Garza has run a campaign promising to rebuild trust between sexual assault survivors and the DA’s Office as well as end cash bail in Travis County.

When Moore came into office, she created a Civil Rights Division tasked with handling officer use-of-force cases. She also diverged from past practices by announcing that not every police shooting would go before a grand jury.

Moore and her office have been defendants in two lawsuits brought by survivors of sexual assault, both accusing the District Attorney’s Office of poorly handling sexual assault cases. One of these lawsuits, which also accused the Austin Police Department of mishandling cases, was dismissed by a federal judge last month.

But on primary election night, Moore called Garza’s promises “red meat” – ideas meant to tantalize voters that have no real plan behind them.

“What he is saying to voters that he can do, he cannot do,” she said. “I know this job. I know this county. I know Texas law. I’m an experienced prosecutor.”

Congressman Lloyd Doggett and Austin Mayor Steve Adler have endorsed Moore in her run for reelection, while Garza has garnered endorsements from Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo of District Attorney Margaret Moore talking with supporters at Shoal Creek Saloon on election night by Michael Minasi/KUT.

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