Lee Merritt, Civil Rights Lawyer, Launches Bid for Texas AG Amid Voting Rights Fight

Civil Rights attorney Lee Merritt formally announced his Democratic bid for Texas attorney general Tuesday, challenging the current Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton. Merritt's campaign will focus on Texas' voting rights battle, as well as "fixing Texas' failing power grid, reigning in soaring property taxes, ending mass incarceration and challenging gubernatorial overreach," according to a statement released by Merritt.

Merritt said in the statement Paxton and other Texas Republicans have "launched an all-out assault on voter rights and civil liberties." He also accused the state GOP of "blatantly attempting to turn back progress in the Lone Star State using the familiar tactics of voter suppression, divisive rhetoric and corporate money."

The voting rights struggle came to a head Monday when Texas House Democrats left the state and flew to Washington, D.C. in an effort to delay a vote on a GOP bill. The proposed legislation would enact various voting restricts, such as banning drive-thru and 24-hour voting access, restrict voting-by-mail rules and implementing new ID requirements for absentee voters, the Texas Tribune reported.

"This campaign is a response from the people of Texas," Merritt said.

Merritt lives in the Dallas area and is most recognized for acting as a co-counsel for George Floyd's family and representing the families of Black people who were killed by police. This includes Botham Jean, a man who was shot and killed by an off-duty Dallas police officer in his Dallas apartment in 2018.

Lee Merritt
Civil Rights attorney Lee Merritt formally announced his Democratic bid for Texas attorney general on Tuesday. Merritt testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine issues involving race and policing practices in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd and the civil unrest that followed, in Washington, D.C. on June 16. Tom Williams/AFP via Getty Images

Merritt initially announced tentative plans to run for the attorney general seat in March 2021, but said a formal announcement would come later, the Associated Press reported.

Joe Jaworski, a Galveston lawyer and previous mayor of the Texas city, is also running as a Democrat for the attorney general seat on the platform of combating corruption in Texas' public service, according to his website. Additionally, other Republicans, including Land Commissioner George P. Bush and former Texas Supreme Court justice Eva Guzman, are challenging Paxton.

The Real Justice PAC, which seeks to elect prosecutors who can mend the "broken criminal justice system," announced their endorsement of Merritt on Twitter Tuesday.

"America has never had an Attorney General like Lee Merritt. Lee is a civil rights attorney who has worked for years on the frontlines of ending police violence by representing families killed by cops," the PAC said in a statement. "He knows the impacts of our injustice system firsthand and as AG, will fight to hold police accountable, reduce incarceration, support crime survivors, and invest in a non-violent approach to confronting mental health."

Newsweek has contacted Merritt's campaign site, but they were not available for comment by publication time.