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2020 Primary Election Results: Travis County DA, County Attorney Races Heading To Runoff

Julia Reihs
Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore is running for re-election. Two other Democrats are competing against her in the primary.

We followed four key Travis County races on election night: district attorney, county attorney, county sheriff and county commissioner for Precinct 3. Of the four, only one avoided a runoff on May 26: the Travis County sheriff's race.

District Attorney | County Attorney | Sheriff | County Commissioner, Precinct 3


For a full list of county seats that are up for election this year, go here.
Note: * Incumbent.

Travis County District Attorney

Democratic Candidates: José Garza (44.3%), Margaret Moore* (41.1%), Erin Martinson (14.7%)

Republican Candidate: Martin Harry

Results: José Garza leads incumbent Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore by more than 5,000 votes. With all votes counted, the race will be heading to a runoff between Garza and Moore.

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

“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 end cash bail in Travis County and to rebuild trust between sexual assault survivors in the DA's office.

District Attorney Margaret Moore talks with supporters at Shoal Creek Saloon on election night.
Credit Michael Minasi / KUT
District Attorney Margaret Moore talks with supporters at Shoal Creek Saloon on election night.

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, but with 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 re-election, while Garza has garnered endorsements from Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Travis County Attorney

Democratic Candidates: Laurie Eiserloh (42.2%), Delia Garza (39.0%), Mike Denton (11.3%), Dominic Selvera (7.5%)

Republican Candidates: None

Results: With all votes counted, results show Laurie Eiserloh leading Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza in the race for Travis County Attorney by nearly 6,000 votes. The race will be heading to a runoff between Eiserloh and Garza.

For the first time in more than a decade, the race for Travis County Attorney will be a competitive one, with a possible runoff between longtime attorney Laurie Eiserloh and Austin Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza.

The candidates hope to replace longtime County Attorney David Escamilla, who was elected to the office in 2004 and has never faced a challenger in the Democratic primary (or a Republican challenger in the general election).

Escamilla is retiring after three decades in the office that handles criminal misdemeanor cases, along with duties that include representing the county in civil matters.

In addition to Eiserloh and Garza, Democrats Nic Selvera, an attorney, and former County Judge Mike Denton ran for the seat, garnering roughly a fifth of the vote collectively. Republicans didn't field a candidate.

Garza arguably has the most name recognition in the race, though critics have argued the District 2 council member doesn't have the courtroom experience of other candidates. Garza says her support of the city's rollback of laws governing behavior related to homelessness and its expansion of the Austin Police Department's cite-and-release policy qualifies her for the position.

Eiserloh, who works in the county attorney's office, has touted her experience at the county and at the City of Austin's Law Department, as well as her time as the head of what is now Equality Texas, in the lead up to the primary. She's also racked up the most endorsements.

Eiserloh told KUT on Election Night that, she looks forward to continuing the discussion of criminal justice reform and the backlog of cases at County Court at Law 4, an issue which has dogged Mike Denton, who presided over the court before he resigned to run for county attorney, in the runoff. He left a backlog behind that dogged his campaign and became a focal point for the race for that judgeship.

"I would look at it as an opportunity to discuss issues that have been key in this race – criminal justice reform, climate change litigation and supporting Court 4 in whatever way we can to end that backlog," she said.

In a text to KUT Wednesday morning, Garza said she was proud of her campaign, given her relatively late entrance into the race, and that she hopes the runoff will be focused on the issues surrounding the office, not issues surrounding her experience or a campaign finance missteps.

"I look forward to continuing to spread our message of actual criminal justice reform and I’m used to having to fight my way into positions of power," she said, "but I know that is what it takes to get a seat at the table for women that look like me."

Travis County Sheriff

Democratic Candidates: Sally Hernandez* (77.3%), Liz Donegan (15.0%), John Loughran (7.8%)

Republican Candidate: Raul Vargas

Results: With all votes counted, results show incumbent Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez won the race with a commanding lead over her challengers, Liz Donegan and John Loughran.

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who is seeking a second term, held a commanding lead over her challengers in the Democratic primary. On the Republican side, Raul Vargas ran unopposed.

The Travis County Sheriff manages the Travis County jail population, including the Travis County Correctional Complex in Del Valle. The sheriff is a peace officer who is elected every four years.

Hernandez won the seat in 2016, after running on a campaign that she would not honor most requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain people booked into Travis County jails. The new policy resulted in a significant drop in the number of people turned over to the federal immigration agency.

But it also made her the target of Gov. Greg Abbott, who cut $1.5 million in funding to the county once Hernandez’s policy went into effect.

This spat came to a resolution of sorts when Abbott signed into law SB 4 in 2017, which requires that county sheriffs and other law enforcement agencies comply with federal immigration requests or face jail or fines. In response, Hernandez said the county would honor all ICE detention requests.

Hernandez has two challengers in the Democratic primary. Liz Donegan spent more than two decades with the Austin Police Department, including APD’s Sex Crimes Unit. John Loughran is a former sergeant with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office.

Travis County Commissioner, Precinct 3

Democratic Candidates: Ann Howard (48.0%) Valinda Bolton (30.0%), Sheri Soltes (14.7%), Shiloh Newman (7.4%)

Republican Candidate: Becky Bray

Results: With all votes counted, Ann Howard leads Valinda Bolton by roughly 9,000 votes. The race is heading to a runoff between Howard and Bolton.

Former head of Ending Community Homelessness Coalition Ann Howard and former state Rep. Valinda Bolton will face off for the Democratic nomination for Precinct 3, which includes much of Travis County's most western reaches.

Either will face lone Republican Becky Bray in November, and the candidates are hoping to fill the vacancy of longtime Republican Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, who's often touted that he's the only local elected Republican representing Travis County.

Find other election results here:

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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