Democrats Vie to Be Travis DA
Tomorrow is primary day in Texas. Polls are open from 7 AM to 7 PM. Among the races being decided tomorrow is a heated contest between two Democrats for Travis County District Attorney.
Travis County is one of the fastest growing counties in the US. Some argue that the population boom is bringing growing pains. Things like crowded roads, stretched schools, an over extended police department.
“Yes we are having some big city growth issues,” said incumbent Travis DA Rosemary Lehmberg. She says her office has been working with police to target things that directly affect the quality of life in Austin. Things like burglaries. “People should be safe in their homes,” said Lehmberg. “They shouldn’t go home and find their door busted in and their goods gone, their televisions and electronics. I hate that. And so the police and I have been working on targeting chronic professional burglars.”
Lehmberg has worked in the DA’s office for more than 35 years. Her opponent in the primary, former District Court Judge Charlie Baird, says that’s the problem.
“We’re doing things here in Travis County as we did in the 1970s. And Travis County is now a county of over a million people,” said Baird. “And we need to look at other areas like Dallas and Houston and San Antonio and see how they’re resolving issues in the criminal justice system.”
Both candidates agree that Travis County needs to free up courts with a successful pretrial diversion program. Those programs give some felony defendants the chance to escape their charges without a criminal record. Lehmberg says that she helped initiate the current program that works directly with the drug court.
“Our drug court is a very successful program that allows a total diversion to get out of the system if they complete the program,” said Lehmberg. “And so many defense attorneys said we also need a program like that for people who aren’t addicted, for people who just made a mistake. And so I’ve put that together as well.”
Baird says Lehmberg’s office hasn’t done enough.
“The current diversion program clearly benefits people who are white and people who are affluent. But the people in the criminal justice system are predominately poor and minorities. And so we need to expand that program and alter it so that it fits the needs of the community,” said Baird.
There is no one running for the office from any other party. The winner of the primary will be the next Travis County District Attorney.