AUSTIN, Texas — Travis County will soon have a new district attorney, as José Garza has officially secured the Democratic nomination for Travis County DA. He will now face Republican Martin Harry in the November election.
Travis County DA Margaret Moore conceded to her opponent just before 8 p.m. Tuesday night, releasing the following statement:
"I want to thank the voters of Travis County for giving me the opportunity to serve our community over the last three years. The District Attorney's Office has made significant improvements to ensure police officers are being held accountable, to prioritize the prosecution of sexual assault cases, and establish new diversion programs for first-time offenders. I'm very proud of the progress we have made thus far. Congratulations to my opponent for his victory tonight. I wish him well in the future."
Harry is running unopposed. Garza or Harry will inherit a seat that has not been free of controversy over the past few years.
Since Moore was elected in 2016, several women have come forward with lawsuits against the Travis County District Attorney’s Office and the Austin Police Department over how they handled sexual assault cases. However, a federal judge dismissed their suit in February.
In August 2019, Moore’s office released statistics on its track record against sexual assault cases. The office said the data proves it has presented more cases every year to grand juries and the number of cases resolved by a plea or a finding of guilt has also increased every year.
Garza is a former federal public defender and immigrant rights activist who attended law school at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., where he worked for Judge Richard W. Roberts in federal district court for the District of Columbia. He eventually returned to Texas to work on the border as an assistant public defender at Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid. Garza has also served as an assistant federal public defender in the Western District of Texas.
In 2010, Garza headed back to D.C. to serve as the deputy general counsel for the House Committee on Education and Labor. Then, he went on to work for the National Labor Relations Board as special counsel. He later found himself working for Secretary Tom Perez as senior policy official at the U.S. Department of Labor.
Garza currently serves as the executive director of the Workers Defense Project, which has worked for criminal justice reform in Travis County, paid sick leave policies and advocated for the creation of a public defender office.
He now lives in Austin with his wife, Kate, and two young children.
Harry earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Missouri – St. Louis and a Juris Doctor degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Illinois. In law school, he also served as an articles editor for the SIU Law Journal.
Now a licensed Texas attorney, Harry has been representing clients in private practice with claims for benefits before state and federal agencies for the past two decades. Before starting his own law firm, Harry served as a staff attorney for the Social Security Administration and as a judge advocate in the U.S. Navy.
After completing his initial three-year commitment of active duty, he volunteered to serve two more overseas. He was then assigned as a staff judge advocate for the U.S. Naval Base in Sasebo, Japan.
Additionally, Harry volunteered to serve at the legislative liaison for the Texas Convention of States Project, a nonprofit that promotes a constitutional process to protect individual liberties and limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, between 2013 and 2017.
In the March 2020 election, Moore received 41% of the vote, while Garza earned 44%. Fellow Democrat Erin Martinson only earned 15% and did not advance to the runoff.
After Tuesday's results, Harry said in a press release that he is challenging Garza to three debates.
“Voters deserve to hear directly from both of us, unfiltered, before voting for the most powerful law enforcement official in Travis County,” Harry said.
He said voters have a "stark choice" this November, stating the choice between his reform "that will make Austin safer" and Garza's "anti-law enforcement agenda that will make the community less safe." Harry also calls Garza "an extreme ideologue who will subvert the DA office to promote a radical agenda."