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District Attorney Margaret Moore concedes after José Garza’s commanding early lead

Tuesday, July 14, 2020 by Andrew Weber, KUT

Incumbent District Attorney Margaret Moore has conceded after a commanding lead in early voting and mail-in votes in support of challenger José Garza.

The Democratic primary runoff for the office pitted the embattled incumbent against a self-described progressive who says he hopes to revamp criminal justice at the office.

With early voting numbers in, Garza was ahead of Moore 58,770 votes to 27,644 – a margin of more than 30,000 votes.

Shortly after the county released the numbers, Moore released a statement thanking voters for allowing her to serve in the post for a single term and wishing Garza well.

“I’m very proud of the progress we have made thus far,” the statement read. “Congratulations to my opponent for his victory tonight. I wish him well in the future.”

Garza, a former public defender and workers’ rights advocate, said he wanted to challenge Moore because he felt the office was “broken.” He ran on a platform of ending outright the office’s prosecutions of nonviolent drug charges and fast-tracking its prosecution of cases involving police misconduct.

Moore has argued her office already dismisses more than half of felony drug offenses. But she stood firm that ending prosecutions completely would be a failure of the office.

Recent protests over police violence against Black people has put the Travis County district attorney race at the forefront of this election, given its power within the criminal justice system. Garza has criticized Moore for her delay in responding to the high-profile police killings of Michael Ramos and Javier Ambler. Although Moore ultimately said she would present both cases before a grand jury, Ramos’ case took months and Ambler’s case took more than a year.

“It was a genuine question in the minds of everyone who lives in Travis County whether these cases would move forward,” Garza told KUT. “That’s unacceptable.”

Garza pledges that if he wins the general election in November, he will bring all cases involving police violence before a grand jury within 30 days. (Moore has argued it can often take longer than a month even to get information from a medical examiner.) He also promises that if a case does not lead to conviction, but there is still clear evidence of wrongdoing, the officer will be put on a public list of law enforcement officers the DA will not call to testify in cases.

Garza will face Republican Martin Harry, an Austin attorney, in November.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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