Incumbent Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg fended off her progressive challengers to win the Democratic primary on Super Tuesday. She will face the Republican nominee, Mary Nan Huffman, in the general election this fall.
Ogg has been criticized for failing to live up to the promises of reform that she ran on in 2016, when she called cash bail “a tool to oppress the poor” and pledged to create more robust diversion programs for drug possession and for people with mental health issues.
In office, however, she has made repeated requests for more prosecutors, sought high bond amounts for minor offenses like marijuana possession, and opposed a settlement that would reform the bail system in Harris County, which includes Houston, for defendants charged with misdemeanors. (The Justice Collaborative maintained a blog opposing Ogg’s re-election campaign. The Appeal is an editorially independent project of The Justice Collaborative and is not involved in The Justice Collaborative’s advocacy.)
With 54 percent of the vote, Ogg defeated two of her former assistant district attorneys, Audia Jones and Carvana Cloud, and defense attorney Todd Overstreet. Jones, who picked up the endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders last month, voiced her support for reforming the county’s misdemeanor and felony bail systems, said she wouldn’t seek the death penalty, and committed to moving several low-level, nonviolent offenses to a “cite-and-release” list. Similarly, Cloud said she wouldn’t prosecute offenses like trespass, marijuana possession, and graffiti if elected, and promised to expand access to restorative justice programs.
Travis County, which includes Austin, went in a different direction Tuesday night. In a tight Democratic primary race for district attorney, neither one-term incumbent Margaret Moore nor challenger José Garza secured a majority of ballots cast, taking 41 percent and 44 percent respectively. The two will compete in a runoff in May; the winner will face Republican Martin Harry in November.
Garza, a former public defender who earned endorsements from Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and the Working Families Party, ran on a reform agenda that includes ending money bail, declining to prosecute nonviolent drug offenses, and creating a restorative justice program.
Drug policy emerged as a major issue in this race, as advocates criticized Moore’s office for continuing to prosecute possession of less than a gram of controlled substances—in Texas, a felony that carries a penalty of up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Erin Martinson, a former family court prosecutor who criticized Moore’s alleged mishandling of sexual assault cases in the county, finished with less than 15 percent of the vote.