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José Garza pushes aside Jeremy Sylestine in Democratic primary for Travis County district attorney

A person in a suit holding paper and talking into a microphone, in front of a backdrop of Jose Garza signs. Another person stands at left.
Michael Minasi
KUT News
Travis County District Attorney José Garza gives a victory speech at an election night party Tuesday. At left is his wife, Kate Garza.

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Incumbent District Attorney José Garza claimed victory Tuesday in the race to keep his job as Travis County district attorney.

As of early Wednesday, Garza had a more than 30-point lead over Jeremy Sylestine, picking up 64,779 votes to Sylestine's 32,113, according to the Travis County Clerk.

The Democratic primary race between Garza and Sylestine got messy ahead of Election Day.

Sylestine outraised Garza by a staggering amount: $1.2 million compared to just $204,000 for the incumbent.

The bulk of that support came from high-dollar GOP donors. The race has more or less become a proxy war for Republicans who've railed against Garza since he took office in 2021. A group in Irving, Texas, also accused the DA of "filling Austin's streets with pedophiles and killers" in a mailer.

In a speech on election night, Garza said the effort was an attempt by would-be Republican spoilers to "scare voters into turning their backs on progress."

"The truth is Republicans tried to infiltrate our primary," he said. "How did that work out for them?"

Garza ran on a progressive platform to divert more people accused of crimes from jail, prosecute police misconduct and investigate more sexual assault cases than his predecessor. While he has done that, the number of inmates booked into Travis County jails has increased steadily throughout Garza's tenure, according to county data.

Garza has called Sylestine "the MAGA candidate." Sylestine argues he's received more financial support within Travis County than Garza.

Two people sitting on benches face each other, with a person looking at his phone in the foreground and a blur of people in the back.
Patricia Lim
KUT News
Travis County district attorney candidate Jeremy Sylestine, back right, is interviewed by a reporter during an election night party on Tuesday.

Sylestine said he was running "straight down the middle," with a goal of addressing perceived gaps in public safety that have cropped up during Garza's first term. Overall, crime in Austin has dropped since 2020, according to the Austin Police Department.

Sylestine conceded the race around 10 p.m. He told KUT he wanted to continue hammering the message that "things need to change."

"It's grueling to get into a campaign but I am proud of what we said, I'm proud of the way we said it and I’m proud that we are bringing people together," he said. "That is what that has been about — community and unity — and this means something.”

Garza will face Republican Daniel Betts in the November general election. The traditionally blue county typically elects Democrats.

Luz Moreno-Lozano contributed to this report.

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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.
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