know about Democrats in the Texas attorney general’s runoff vow to uphold abortion rights
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Rochelle Garza joined hands with her mother and marched through Dallas in a reproductive rights rally this month to let voters know she could lead the fight for abortion services.
“Our mothers fought before and won. Now, it is our turn to continue the fight and win for OUR daughters and everyone’s access to abortion care”, Garza wrote to his Twitter base after the rally.
Reproductive care has always been central to Garza’s campaign as she competes to be the Democratic nominee for the Texas attorney general race in November. But with the recent leak of a US Supreme Court draft opinion suggesting that the constitutional protection of abortion established in Roe v. Wade could soon come to an end, both Garza and Joe Jaworski, her opponent for the Democratic nomination in the May 24 runoff primary. , are presented as the last line of defense for access to reproductive care in Texas.
“Really, the last resort for reproductive rights is the attorney general in each state,” Garza told The Texas Tribune in an interview. “So now more than ever, having an attorney general in the state of Texas will be critical to protecting reproductive rights.”
Garza is a former attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Brownsville. Jaworski is the former mayor of Galveston. Early voting began Monday and ends Friday.
The winner will face the winner of the Republican primary runoff in the general election, either Ken Paxton, the incumbent attorney general, or Texas land commissioner George P. Bush. Paxton is the favorite in that race, getting twice as many votes as Bush in the primary and the support of former President Donald Trump.
The fight for abortion rights gives Garza an advantage
Garza came out of the crowded March primary with 43% of the vote among Democratic voters. Jaworski came in second with 20%. Garza has since won the support of the candidates he defeated, civil rights attorney Lee Merritt and Michael R. Fields, a former Harris County judge.
Historically, primary runoff elections have had low voter turnout rates, and among those who usually show up to vote are progressive Democrats who are likely to vote for Garza, said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University.
As abortion takes center stage in the attorney general race, political analysts like Jillson say this is an opportunity for Garza to build on his current momentum.
“She is the favorite and she has a number of advantages, some of which she had before the Roe v. Wade and others that she now has as a result,” Jillson said.
Although they have never faced each other on the ballot, Garza and Paxton have been on opposite sides of an abortion case. Garza made a name for herself in 2017 when she sued the Trump administration, seeking access to an abortion for a detained undocumented teenager. After a federal appeals court ruled in Garza’s favor, Paxton filed a brief in response, arguing that immigrant women do not have a constitutional right to an abortion. Garza also testified in 2018 against the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, who ruled against the case as an appeals court judge.
The teenager was able to obtain an abortion while the case was litigated. The case was later dismissed after the federal government adopted a new policy that it would not interfere with immigrant minors’ access to abortion.
“Having this nuanced understanding of what it takes to build a case like that and fight for someone that the government thinks is not powerful, that’s what I bring to this race and I bring to this position,” Garza said.
Garza was nine weeks pregnant when the state’s controversial ban on abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy went into effect in September. At the time, she was concerned about her limited options for reproductive health care.
Garza, who held her newborn daughter in her arms while speaking to the Tribune, now argues that she is the right choice to defend reproductive rights in the state.
It is also a clear favorite among state and national abortion rights groups, earning endorsements from EMILY’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, and Avow.
Both Jaworski and Garza have declared that they will champion reproductive rights as the next Texas attorney general, who can play a major role in fighting abortion law in court. The state’s top attorney also determines how an abortion ban can be regulated and enforced.
But Jaworski has presented himself as the most experienced candidate. While Garza’s bid for attorney general will be his first political career, Jaworski is an established local politician. He served three terms on the Galveston City Council and one term as mayor.
And while Garza’s reproductive rights good faith is underpinned by his high-profile 2017 case, Jaworski points to his experience as a trial attorney for more than 31 years. Jaworski has said that he would use federal and state court channels to pursue litigation to preserve reproductive rights under the US and Texas constitutions.
“In fact, I have been in court and have been the first president in more than 250 civil lawsuits, some of which had enormous political implications,” Jaworski said. “I really appreciate Ms. Garza, a young attorney, for sure…but that kind of hands-on experience and leadership will come in handy.”
Whoever wins the second round, the Democratic candidate will face an uphill battle to defeat his Republican opponent. A Democrat has not held the position since 1994.
But Paxton’s critics from both parties believe that a host of controversies over the years have made him a vulnerable candidate, and that the time is right to challenge him. He has been charged since 2015 with felony securities fraud and is under investigation by the FBI for allegations that he abused his position to help a wealthy donor. Paxton has denied all wrongdoing.
An analysis from the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia he also characterized the Texas attorney general race as potentially competitive if Paxton is the GOP nominee.
Democrats are hopeful that recent attacks on abortion access will lead Texans to switch parties to vote blue in November. A majority of Texas voters think access to abortion should be allowed in some form, according to an April poll by the University of Texas at Austin. Among Republicans, 24% said abortions should never be allowed, and 42% said abortions should be allowed only in cases of rape or incest, or when a person’s life is in danger. A majority of Democratic respondents, 67%, said Texans should be allowed to have an abortion as a personal choice.
In her two terms as attorney general, Paxton has vigorously fought to restrict abortion access in the state. Paxton defended himself against challenges to the Texas abortion ban, which prohibits the medical procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy. He also has advocated against using state funds to cover abortions and worked to defund Planned Parenthood.
“This issue will be a major headache for Attorney General Paxton,” Emily Trifone, a spokeswoman for the national group the Democratic Association of Attorneys General, wrote in a statement. “We are confident that volunteers and voters will work very hard this year to defeat Attorney General Paxton and his anti-abortion regime.”
Disclosure: Planned Parenthood, Southern Methodist University, and the University of Texas at Austin have financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune‘journalism Find a complete list of them here.
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