TEXAS — A nationally known civil rights attorney has entered the race to try to unseat Republican incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Dallas-based Democrat Lee Merritt made it official Tuesday. Merritt has gained national attention for representing the families of Black people killed by police, including George Floyd. Among the Texans he’s advocated for are Botham Jean, the Dallas man shot and killed by an off-duty cop in his apartment in 2018 and Atatiana Jefferson, the woman who was killed by a Fort Worth police officer in her home. In an interview on Capital Tonight Wednesday, he said his experience with these cases will help in his role, if elected chief law enforcement officer of Texas.
“In a place like Texas, I’ve discovered it’s not enough to march and shout and protest about ‘defunding the police.’ But it’s necessary to speak with law enforcement, and when I speak with law enforcement I’ve discovered they are suffering as well. The retention rate is failing and part of the reason for that is we’re in a mental health crisis in Texas that law enforcement is being forced to respond to and they are not trained and don’t have the resources to respond,” Merritt said.
Merritt launched his campaign with an emphasis on the voting rights battle that prompted state House Democrats to flee Texas.
“Texas Republicans have launched an all-out assault on voter rights and civil liberties,” Merritt said in a statement. “General Paxton, Governor Abbott and the Republican dominated Texas legislature are blatantly attempting to turn back progress in the Lone Star State using the familiar tactics of voter suppression, divisive rhetoric and corporate money.”
Merritt also said he wants to focus on fixing the state’s power grid and property taxes. A Democrat hasn’t been elected to statewide office since 1994, but he says his campaign is focused on bridging political divides.
“I think if we continue to speak toward the issues that Texans really care about, then party affiliations begin to dissipate,” he explained.
Merritt is the second Democrat to join the race. Former Galveston Mayor and lawyer Joe Jaworski is also running. On the Republican side, Paxton is being challenged by Land Commissioner George P. Bush and former Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman.
Click the video link above to watch our full interview with Merritt.
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