Civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt, who rose to prominence by representing families who lost loved ones as a result of high-profile police killings including Atatiana Jefferson in Fort Worth and Botham Jean in Dallas, has announced his intent to run for Texas Attorney General next year.
Merritt tweeted Saturday that he was going to be a candidate to be the top law enforcement official in the Lone Star State in 2022. “Texas deserves an attorney general that will fight for the constitutional rights of all citizens,” he tweeted.
While a lot of attention has been placed on removing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, other statewide offices like the attorney general are powerful roles that voters can consider among down-ballot races.
Ken Paxton, the current Texas attorney general, was elected in 2014 with overwhelming support from Republican voters. Democrats closed the gap a bit in 2018, but Paxton still won by a few hundred thousand votes despite lingering controversies.
Former Galveston, Texas, Mayor Joe Jaworski, who announced his intent to run for attorney general last September, pointed to Paxton being under investigation for securities fraud. In November, the Texas Tribune reported some of Paxton’s top aides accused him of bribery and abusing his office.
A few weeks after that news broke, Paxton joined in efforts to undermine the 2020 election results. In support of Trump’s big lie, Paxton sued four states making vague allegations in support of a clearly partisan effort to overturn the election.
Paxton also recently threatened to sue Austin over its mask mandate after the Texas governor lifted all COVID-19 restrictions. The mandate continued as a part of Travis County’s public health authority.
Enter Merritt, who previously hinted at launching a campaign for attorney general.
“I said if he didn’t do his job, I would take his job,” Merritt said in an interview with NBC’s affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth. “ It’s clear he doesn’t want to do his job, so I decided to go ahead and take it.”
In an interview with KERA, Merritt said he needed to find a different approach to protect the civil rights of vulnerable Texans.
“Our community — and I don’t mean the Black community, I mean Texas — will die from this,” Merritt said. “It will rip up this state if we don’t address this, because they’re going to keep killing us. Law enforcement will keep killing people suffering from mental health crises and it will cause additional trauma to the community.”