Denton endorses Eiserloh for county attorney

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Retired Senator Gonazalo Barrientos, County Commissioner Margaret Gomez, Laurie Eiserloh, former Judge Mike Denton, and Austin NAACP President Nelson Linder.

Denton backing gives Eislerloh a leg up in May 26th runoff against Delia Garza

County Attorney candidate Mike Denton, a judge who resigned to run for the office, placed third in the March 3 Democratic Party primary election, today endorsed fellow candidate Laurie Eiserloh. She is currently an assistant county attorney and formerly served as an assistant City of Austin attorney and as an assistant attorney general.

Eiserloh led Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza 77,655 to 71,716 on election day, March 3. Denton placed third place with 20,886 votes.

In addition to Judge Denton, Eiserloh’s afternoon press conference drew support from former State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, County Commissioner Margaret Gomez, and Austin NAACP President Nelson Linder.

All stepped in front of the cameras to deliver ringing praise of Eiserloh’s performance and plans to make changes in the county attorney’s office.

Denton said Eislerloh was the only runoff candidate with experience in leading attorneys within the county attorney’s office and “the vision to take the office to the next level.” He urged his friends and supporters to support her.

Barrientos praised Eislerloh for her experience, compassion and leadership. This is “no time for on the job training,” he said, a direct reference to Delia Garza’s narrow legal experience.

From April 2012 through August 2014 Garza was as an assistant attorney general involved in child support enforcement. Garza has not practiced law since then and in fact let her law license lapse until June 2019, when she used city funds from her office account to pay for reinstatement. Since then she has done volunteer work providing pro bono legal advice to women preparing for asylum hearings.

Commissioner Gomez also directly addressed Garza’s qualifications. She said, “Delia has described the county attorney’s office as political.” Not so, Gomez said. Rather it’s a post established by the Texas Constitution. “We (on the commissioners court) rely on the county attorney 24-seven for legal counsel—not political advice. The county attorney must have deep knowledge of the law to advise us.”

“In the runoff there’s only one candidate with the necessary experience and skills and it’s Laurie Eiserloh,” Gomez concluded.

Linder said Eiserloh’s platform is “constitutional and enforceable.” He told The Austin Bulldog that while Garza talks about racial disparities in the jails that’s not something the county attorney controls. The county attorney must take up the criminal cases filed by the sheriff’s department and Austin police.

As for complaints about bail, frequently criticized by Garza in stump speeches, bail amounts are established by municipal judges who act as magistrates. “Direct charges by police, that’s where it starts,” Linder said.

Qualifications more important than ethnicity

Garza on the campaign trail never fails to note that she was the first Latina elected to the Austin City Council as well as the first Latina mayor pro tem. So it seems significant that both Barrientos and Gomez—themselves Hispanics who broke color barriers—firmly endorsed Eiserloh.

Gomez was the first Latina to win a seat on the county commissioners court. She served as constable from 1980 to 1993. She resigned that position to seek the a county commissioner’s seat. She won that job in 1994 and has served since January 1995 as the Precinct 4 commissioner.

Barrientos was one of the first Mexican Americans to represent Travis County in the Texas House of Representatives after winning that seat in 1974 and serving there for a decade. He then succeeded Lloyd Doggett, now a U.S. representative, in the Texas Senate where he served from 1985 until he retired in 2007. Barrientos twice filibustered against bills that would’ve harmed the environment and he was among a group of senators who traveled to Oklahoma to prevent a quorum for enacting redistricting legislation.

Fourth place candidate not commenting on endorsement

Dominic Selvera

Dominic Selvera, the only other candidate for county attorney, placed fourth and netted 13,877 votes in the primary. He did not return calls asking if he was endorsing a candidate in the runoff.

The Republican Party did not field a candidate for this office, so the winner of the May 26, 2020, Democratic Primary will become the next county attorney.

Related Bulldog coverage:

Garza’s office expenditures questioned, January 29, 2020

Garza for county attorney draws flak, December 9, 2019

Trust indicators:

Photo of Ken MartinKen Martin has been covering local government and politics in the Austin area since 1981.  See more on Ken on the About page.

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