This report is part of a series of profile stories Nexstar is doing on the Republican and Democratic candidates for Texas Attorney General.
AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texans have eight days left to make their pick for nominees for both parties in the Attorney General race, an office Democrats feel the most optimistic about flipping blue in November.
Any candidate needs more than 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff. Recently polling from the University of Texas/Texas Politics Project shows that a runoff is a likely outcome of both the Republican and Democratic primaries for AG. Civil rights attorney Rochelle Garza is leading Democrats with 41% of primary voters. Trial lawyer Joe Jaworski comes in second with 24% of Democratic primary voters, civil rights attorney Lee Merritt has 15% and former judge Mike Fields polls at 11%. One other candidate, attorney S. “Tbone” Raynor polls at 6%.
Similar to the Republicans running to unseat incumbent Ken Paxton, all Democrats have listed Paxton’s legal troubles as reasons for disqualification from office. Aside from his ongoing indictment on securities fraud charges, seven of Paxton’s top aides reported him to the FBI with allegations of bribery and abuse of office.
Former ACLU attorney Garza says she is the only one whose experience makes her qualified to take on Paxton, assuming he still gets nominated for Republicans.
“He is clearly unfit for office. We should not reelect him, he should not be there,” she said. “But there is a real opportunity to restore integrity to the office.”
Garza pointed to a case she won before the U.S. Supreme Court as evidence she can have success in major legal battles. In Azar v. Garza, she represented a teenage, undocumented immigrant in U.S. custody who was denied access to abortion.
“I’m the only one that has been able to reinforce reproductive rights,” Garza said. “With Roe [Roe v. Wade] at risk this summer, we’re going to need someone like that. We’re going to need someone like me, a champion who knows how to fight these cases…knows how to ensure that we protect civil rights.”
Her case before the high court resulted in the “Garza notice,” a requirement that teenagers in immigration custody must be informed of their right to access abortion.
The Brownsville native highlights herself as someone who “deeply understands” Texas working families and the issues they care about — especially when it comes to Texans’ grievances with the healthcare system.
Her campaign video highlights her younger brother Robby, who grew up with disabilities resulting from a brain injury, as something that made her passionate about affordable healthcare access. Garza points to this as a driving force behind her decision in pursuing civil rights law and championing the underdog.
“I just saw how important it was to advocate for each person in my family and to make sure that my family was well, and that’s how I look at the law,” she said. “That’s why I focused on civil rights law, practicing immigration, criminal defense, family, constitutional law, and ensuring that we’re protecting every single person and every single person’s civil rights.”
While the border remains a dominant issue in the Republican races, Garza said the GOP’s talking points around immigration are harmful and incorrect.
“What we’re seeing is a bunch of counties that are having to prosecute folks and then they’re not receiving the resources that they need in order to do so, or reimbursement,” she said. “…That is the job of the federal government, to manage the immigration issues. Operation Lonestar, building a border wall — these are all things that are just wasteful and they’re detrimental to Texans really.”
Garza says not only would she fight to make sure all Texans rights are protected, but be overall more representative of a state that’s rapidly changing in demographics. She would be the first Latina attorney general in Texas.
“I think it’s time that we have someone that is reflective of our communities that understands our experiences to take on this position,” she said.
The last day of early voting is Feb. 25 and the primary itself is on Tuesday, March 1.