2020 Primary Election Results: Travis County

11 hours ago

These are the races we're watching in Travis County as primary election results come in Tuesday: district attorney, county attorney, county sheriff and county commissioner for Precinct 3.

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.

Travis County District Attorney

Democratic Candidates: José Garza (44.11%), Margaret Moore* (41.67%), Erin Martinson (14.22%)

Republican Candidate: Martin Harry

Results: At 11:40 p.m. Tuesday, unofficial results show José Garza leads incumbent Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore by more than 3,000 votes. This race is too early to call.

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

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 (43.63%), Delia Garza (38.15%), Mike Denton (11.21%), Dominic Selvera (7.01%)

Republican Candidates: None

Results: At 11:40 p.m. Tuesday, unofficial results show Laurie Eiserloh slightly leading Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza in the race for Travis County Attorney by nearly 7,000 votes. This race is too early to call.

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. Eiserloh held a slight lead over Garza as early voting and Election Day returns came in.

Candidates in the crowded field 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 are all vying to replace Escamilla. 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 that, if there's a runoff, 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.

"I would anticipate those issues would would still be strong in a runoff," she said, "but if I win it outright, then I'm ready to start implementing that agenda as soon as I can and start laying the groundwork for when David Escamilla retires."

Denton, who served as a county court-at-law judge for 22 years before resigning late last year, also served in the county attorney's office, but has been criticized for a backlog of cases he left behind in County Court at Law 4.

Selvera has campaigned on a progressive platform and his outsider status in his pitch to take the office.

Travis County Sheriff

Democratic Candidates: Sally Hernandez* (78.16%), Liz Donegan (14.57%), John Loughran (7.28%)

Republican Candidate: Raul Vargas

Results: At 11:40 p.m. Tuesday, unofficial results show incumbent Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez has a commanding lead over her challengers, Liz Donegan and John Loughran. This race is too early to call.

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 (48.70%) Valinda Bolton (30.76%), Sheri Soltes (13.92%), Shiloh Newman (6.61%)

Republican Candidate: Becky Bray

Results: At 11:25 p.m. Tuesday, unofficial results show Ann Howard leading Valinda Bolton by roughly 5,100 votes. This race is too early to call, though Shiloh Newman has conceded.

A Travis County commissioner drafts and passes policies for the county, much like a city council member does for the city. There are four county commissioners in Travis County, plus the county judge, who is elected countywide. 

Precinct 3 includes much of western Travis County from Lost Creek to the edge of Burnet County.

Five candidates hope to replace longtime Place 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, who has often touted that he's the only local elected Republican representing Travis County. Engineer Becky Bray hopes to take up his mantle on the court, running unopposed in the Republican primary.

Four Democrats are vying for the nomination for the precinct that includes much of Travis County's most western reaches – former state Rep. Valinda Bolton, Shiloh Newman, former attorney and nonprofit leader Sheri Soltes and Ann Howard, the former head of the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition.

* incumbent

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