The Democrats’ primary campaign for the Travis County district attorney’s office is taking shape. Charlie Baird (pictured, left), a former judge, announced yesterday he has created an exploratory committee to determine whether to run against incumbent DA Rosemary Lehmberg (pictured, right). Lehmberg formally announced on July 13 she would run for a second term, and she says she’s already raised more than $60,000 for her campaign. Baird says between now and Labor Day he will explore “if there is widespread support out there for change of the current administration and if I’m the one to be the agent of that change.” Baird served one term as judge of the 299th District Court in Austin. Before that he was a Court of Criminal Appeals judge for two terms. “I have a unique perspective, having viewed the system from both the trial bench and the appellate bench,” he says. He says if he were district attorney, he would staff the office around the clock to screen arrests to ensure that they’re “worthy of prosecution” and that cases include enough evidence for successful prosecution. Baird says he would step up prosecution of career criminals and defendants accused of violent crimes. But he would increase rehabilitation programs for low-level offenders accused of nonviolent crimes. He would also make DNA testing more freely available to offenders with “colorable” claims of innocence, Baird says. Lehmberg joined the staff of the Travis County DA’s office in 1976, and she has worked in many departments in the office, including the high-profile Public Integrity Unit. She won election as DA, and she took office in 2009. Lehmberg says she doesn’t have a response to Baird launching the exploratory committee. “I think I’m the right person to continue to lead, and I have a lot of things I still want to do. So I’m looking forward to a second term,” Lehmberg says. Lehmberg says her office focuses on prosecuting violent crime, and she also administers a deferred-prosecution program and other programs that help defendants with drug problems or mental health issues. During her first term, Lehmberg created a full-time environmental prosecutor and she says she hopes to expand that work if elected for a second term. Lehmberg says she’s participating in a pilot program to test a computer-assisted method of eyewitness-identification photo lineups. “I have a strong record of new programs and initiatives during my first term,” Lehmberg says.
-- Angela Morris