The big news this past week in the campaign for Travis County District Attorney is that there is now one candidate in the race who publicly opposes the death penalty.
Rick Reed has said:
“I have decided to publicly support a moratorium on the death penalty in Travis County. If I am elected District Attorney of Travis County I will not authorize the office to seek the death penalty during my tenure.”
Rick Reed’s opposition to the death penalty makes him stand out as the most progressive candidate in a race with three other candidates who all support the death penalty. A stance against the death penalty in a race for District Attorney in Travis County is a perfect fit of issue, office and location.
The next district attorney can unilateraly end the use of the death penalty within Travis County by not seeking the death penalty and instead using life without parole as an alternative.
If Reed remains the only candidate in the race who will not seek the death penalty, then it is likely that one of the pro-death penalty candidates will miss the runoff because of their support for the death penalty.
A campaign is a two-way learning process. It is a way for the community to get to know the candidates and it is a way for the candidates to learn about the community. Most of the people who will vote in the Democratic primary in Travis County on March 4th either believe that the death penalty system in Texas is broken and should not be used until steps are taken to address the problems, or they oppose the death penalty on principle in all cases and believe it should be abolished. Either way, there is likely to be a large amount of support in Austin for candidates who take principled stands against the death penalty in a race where the winner has the power to unilaterally end the use of the death penalty within Travis County.
It is not too late for the other candidates to take postitions on the death penalty that reflect the values and priorities of the progressive community from which they are seeking votes. All the candidates for Travis County District Attorney should follow Rick Reed’s example and say that they will not seek the death penalty.