Home Nonviolent defense Gonzales leads Bexar County prosecutor’s race in early vote totals

Gonzales leads Bexar County prosecutor’s race in early vote totals

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SAN ANTONIO — Bexar County District Attorney Joe D. Gonzales held a sizable lead in his re-election race, passing challenger Marc LaHood in early vote totals reported Tuesday night.

Gonzales won 57% of the early votes, compared to 43% for LaHood.

Voters decide whether Gonzales, the Democratic incumbent, deserves a second term or if he should be replaced by LaHood, a criminal defense attorney and a Republican.

Gonzales, 63, earned a reputation as the face of reform during his first term by launching a “citation and release” program for minor criminal offenses and expanding the county’s pretrial diversion program. He called for reforms to prevent non-violent defendants charged with minor offenses from remaining in jail awaiting trial if they could not post bail.

But Gonzales also took swipes at critics who accused him of being too soft on crime and blamed him for what they saw as low bail amounts that got some defendants out of jail.

LaHood, 44, has waged a “tough on crime” campaign and has won endorsements from local law enforcement groups including the San Antonio Police Association, the County Deputy Sheriff’s Association of Bexar and the Bexar County Adult Probation Officers Association.

LaHood blamed Gonzales for an increase in crime and for the low morale and turnover of prosecutors in the district attorney’s office. From 2018 to 2021, murders in San Antonio increased by more than 50%, while violent crime overall jumped 13% over the same three-year period.

However, homicides have increased “in cities across the country and in jurisdictions of all types,” according to a July report from the Brennan Center for Justice. This report found that the pattern was about the same in Democratic-run cities as in Republican-run cities.

LaHood also strongly criticized President Joe Biden’s border policies, calling them a “disaster.” And he sought to work with law enforcement to crack down on illegal immigration and related crimes.

Gonzales focused on what he described as easy access to guns in Texas, saying it contributed to crime. In June, he said he thought everyone should focus on gun violence and support victims of crime.

Gonzales blamed pay and quality of life issues for the turnover of prosecutors in his office.

The two men also disagree on whether to enforce Texas’ new abortion law. Gonzales noted that he would not pursue charges against anyone who obtains or permits an abortion. But LaHood countered that district attorneys cannot decline to prosecute entire categories of crimes based on their personal beliefs.

Gonzales previously worked as a prosecutor in Bexar and Harris counties in the 1990s. He then worked as a criminal defense attorney in private practice for more than 20 years. He was first elected district attorney in 2018 and took office in January 2019. He has also worked as a magistrate and as a municipal judge.

LaHood has been a criminal defense attorney for 15 years, defending clients in state and federal cases, but has never served as a prosecutor. He has advocated for clients in more than 50 Texas counties, according to his campaign website.

Gonzales was born and raised on the West Side of San Antonio by a single mother, who worked night shifts at Kelly AFB to support her five children. A third-generation Mexican American, Gonzales grew up speaking English and Spanish. He earned a bachelor’s degree and law degree from St. Mary’s University. He is married and has a daughter.

LaHood was born and raised in San Antonio. He is a graduate of Texas Military Institute, Trinity University and received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law in 2007, according to his campaign website. He is married and the father of four children. He is a devout Catholic.

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