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Garza, Eiserloh in runoff for Travis County Attorney

Wednesday, March 4, 2020 by Jo Clifton

Longtime county and city lawyer Laurie Eiserloh will face Council Member Delia Garza in a runoff in May to determine who will become Travis County Attorney when David Escamilla retires from the job next January.

In the end, Eiserloh had 43.63 percent of the vote compared to Garza’s 38.15 percent. The other candidates in the race, former Judge Mike Denton and defense attorney Dominic Selvera, were far behind. Denton had nearly 11 percent of the vote and Selvera had about 7 percent.

Eiserloh, 56, has spent the last 27 years practicing law, primarily in the office she wishes to lead and to a lesser extent in the city of Austin’s law department. Garza, 43, is a former firefighter and union leader with four years of legal experience as an assistant attorney general and five years on City Council. She was the first Latina elected to the Austin City Council and serves as mayor pro tem.

Even though Eiserloh had not previously run for an elective office, she won the endorsements of the Austin American-Statesman and The Austin Chronicle, as well as the majority of Democratic clubs.

Both Garza and Eiserloh have stressed the need for change in the County Attorney’s Office, focusing in particular on reducing the number of people charged with minor offenses.

Garza said Tuesday night that she would continue to stress the need for change, characterizing herself as an agent of change and her opponent as the “status quo.”

She said, “I think Travis County can decide between somebody in the office who has been part of the system or somebody that has a proven record of reform. So we will continue to spread our positive message of reform and changing the status quo and working on the racial disparities that exist in the criminal justice system. We’ll see what the voters decide.”

Eiserloh told the Austin Monitor that she was very pleased with the results and grateful to all of her supporters. Asked what she would do if she ultimately wins the office, Eiserloh said her first task would be to take some steps to end what is called “direct file,” in which police file charges against people without input from the county attorney or the district attorney. She said Harris County has an intake system within the County Attorney’s Office to screen cases before they are filed.

Harris County also has “true mental health diversion,” so that the county jail does not become the “mental hospital of last resort” for the county. Eiserloh is currently the team leader on employment law in the office.

Garza easily defeated three opponents in her first try for office in 2014, garnering nearly 66 percent of the vote in the District 2 Council race. In 2016, she had no trouble beating two opponents with 65 percent of the vote.

Several of her colleagues, with Council Member Greg Casar in the lead, formed a committee last summer to urge Garza to run for the county attorney’s job. In order to keep her Council seat, she did not announce her plans until December.

Denton’s campaign adviser, David DeAngelo, told the Monitor the former judge was still absorbing the election results and may or may not endorse one of the runoff candidates in the coming days or weeks. Selvera could not be reached for comment.

Photo by Jo Clifton.

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