Since Ronnie Earle has decided not to seek re-election after holding the seat for 31 years, a new district attorney is something many Travis County voters will see for the first time this year. Four qualified Democratic candidates, all assistant district attorneys, are vying for the seat, and because no Republican bothered to file, the primary election is the real deal - that is, unless there's a runoff.
Rick Reed, a UT alum, has made himself a standout in this race by being the only candidate to publicly oppose the death penalty (something a district attorney in Texas has never done before). Travis County residents would see at least a temporary abolishment of the death penalty if they elect him to office. While his opponent Rosemary Lehnmerg - who seems to have garnered the most endorsements, including that of Earle - has said "we should not perform any executions," she hasn't taken the initiative to officially oppose the death penalty, which we see as a weakness in authority.
Reed has also brought attention to himself by revealing to the Texas Observer last month that there was "bitter dissention" in the district attorney's office leading up to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's indictment for campaign finance violations, claiming that Lehmberg and other prosecuters were intimidated by DeLay's political stature. Reed, who is credited with building a large part of the case against DeLay, said he was the only person pushing to present the case to a grand jury.
Meanwhile, UT alum Mindy Montford, who has earned the endorsement of the University Democrats, seems to think becoming friends with the political sector is a good way of fighting corruption of state officials; she told the Observer, "We've got to educate the Legislature and the lobby that, 'Look, you've got nothing to be afraid of if you're following the law.'" And no wonder she's been the most popular in gaining cash and endorsements from politicians, such as former Texas Governors Dolph Briscoe and Mark W. White. The financial assistance she's gotten from her father, John Montford, who is a head lobbyist for AT&T Inc. and a former state senator, has put her in the lead of the money race.
On the topic of the death penalty, Montford said at a recent candidate forum that the district attorney must set aside personal feelings because "you can't necessarily dictate how you feel the law should be; it's what's on the books." We'd rather have a district attorney whose heart and mind are behind his or her actions, no matter how intimidating or difficult the circumstances may be.
Given the difficulty in choosing from four candidates of such high qualifications, we must rule out an endorsement of 46-year-old Gary Cobb, who has worked under Earle for 17 years, solely on the fact that he's the only one who hasn't worked in the state-watchdog Public Integrity Unit. We'd also be quite happy to see Lehmberg win the seat. But the district attorney is the sole prosecutor with the power to investigate state officials, and Reed has proven to be the toughest candidate to handle just that. We're a bit set back his finger-pointing in his interview with the Observer, but that only shows his aptitude and fearlessness in pointing the finger at public officials if need be.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Daily Texan endorses Rick Reed
On Wednesday the Daily Texan endorsed Rick Reed for the Travis County District Attorney. Here is what they had to say about him.