This report is part of a series of profile stories Nexstar is doing on the Republican and Democratic candidates for Texas Attorney General. Tune in Wednesday evening for the report on Democratic candidate Joe Jaworski.
GALVESTON, Texas (Nexstar) — Former Galveston mayor Joe Jaworski said his three decades of experience as a trial lawyer makes him the most qualified in the crowded field of Democrats vying for the position of Texas’ attorney general.
Recent polling shows him trailing behind Democratic rival Rochelle Garza, a civil rights attorney. But Jaworski said his 31 years as a member of the Texas State Bar doubles the years of experience of his competitors, when combined.
“Experience matters in the Office of the Texas Attorney General,” he said. “Because if you’re going to be the people’s attorney … you’re going to go up against some powerful interests. So you better have had a lot of experience in court.”
In the 2018 election, incumbent Ken Paxton won the race by a little over three percentage points. Jaworski believes with Paxton’s ongoing legal issues, Democrats could have a real chance at flipping the AG’s office blue in November.
“Ken Paxton is not a lawyer; he is a culture warrior. He is a politician posing as a lawyer,” he said. “And it’s a real shame, because the Texas Attorney General’s Office … ought to be about consumer protection for all voters, regardless of what stripe politically you are.”
Jaworski said if elected, he’ll take a different approach to the office, with less emphasis on suing the federal government — an anti-Washington tactic made popular by Texas AG predecessors. Incumbent Paxton has sued the Biden administration more than 20 times since President Joe Biden took office.
“Would [I] be an antagonist of perhaps an executive in the White House from a different party? No, not necessarily. It just depends on how they behave and whether they are hurting Texas interests,” he said.
Instead, Jaworski emphasized wanting to refocus the office toward consumer protection, specifically working to hold private health care insurance companies to account.
“This is a way that we can help Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike,” he said. “We let the private health insurance companies know that there’s a new sheriff in town, who will use the attorney general’s investigation powers as well as litigation to make them pay health care claims reasonably and on time.”
Immigration and border security remains a top issue for Texas voters in both parties, regardless of where they stand on the issue. Jaworski said he believes Texas needs a “firm immigration partnership” with the federal government and look at the issue from a legal standpoint. His policy proposal on such includes the following:
- Using part of the OAG budget for funding up to eight attorneys and placing them in the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute cartel members
- Enlist third-year law students at Texas universities to offer legal advice to immigrants seeking asylum to help address the backlog of cases
- Work with the Texas State bar to recruit under-purposed attorneys to work as judges and magistrate more asylum claims to also aid the backlog
“When we do that, we will clear out the backlog, and the border will be ours again,” he said.
Any candidate needs more than 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff. Recently polling from the University of Texas/Texas Politics Project shows 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. 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%.
The last day of early voting is Feb. 25, and the primary itself is Tuesday, March 1.