Outgoing Travis County DA Ronnie Earle has made an endorsement in the Democratic primary to replace him.
Saying he has a duty after more than 30 years in office to tell the public what he thinks, departing Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle announced Monday that he is endorsing his top deputy, Rosemary Lehmberg, in the race to replace him.
The decision came as no surprise to courthouse watchers and the three other Democratic candidates for Earle's job, they said. Assistant District Attorney Gary Cobb, 46, one of those candidates, said it would have been "a slap in the face" if Earle had not supported Lehmberg, who has worked for him since shortly after Earle became district attorney, the past 10 years as his top deputy.
Courthouse insiders say the move gives Lehmberg an early advantage in the March 4 primary. There is no Republican candidate, so the Democratic primary probably will determine who will be Travis County's next top prosecutor, barring a surprise third party or independent candidate.
Earle's endorsement, announced at a news conference outside the downtown Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center, "will be very helpful for (Lehmberg) in getting votes and raising money," said First Assistant County Attorney Randy Leavitt, who had considered running for district attorney. "But I don't think (the endorsement) is the death knell of any of the other candidates in the race."
On a side note, the Chron tells us about what's next for Earle: Helping raise money online for groups that promote "democracy and the rule of law."
Earle, 65, didn't mention any specific groups he would help in fundraising. He said that if he doesn't find an organization that represents the principles he stands for, he will work on his own. He didn't offer specifics.
"If I decide to do Internet fundraising, I would have to be comfortable and confident that the money would be used for those three purposes: for the promotion of justice, democracy and the rule of law. Otherwise I wouldn't do it. And I would not do it if the money was only going to used for purely partisan politics. I don't believe in that. I don't think most Americans believe in that," he said.
Glenn Smith, director of the Democratic-run Texas Progress Council, said Earle has initiated conversations for years about raising money online for causes that promote justice.
Internet fundraising allows organizations and candidates to tap into a national audience of donors without having to host a series of in-person events, and Earle would presumably attract attention because of his involvement with the DeLay case.
Smith said Earle would appeal to donors because he has run his office with integrity.
[GOP spokesman Hans] Klingler said the GOP welcomes the idea of Earle using his name in political fundraising.
"That stokes the Republican fires even more," he said. "We hope that he splashes his name liberally -- both figuratively and literally -- across the United States."