Earle may make run for governor
He recently designated himself as campaign treasurer so he can solicit campaign cash.
Earle’s filing didn’t specify the office he might seek, but in an interview, he said, “What I’m really thinking about is a race for governor. The state’s got lots of problems, and we can do better than this.
“We’re approaching a situation where there are very few people with great wealth, and a lot living in poverty,” said Earle, 67.
“That is a recipe for disaster to democracy.”
Earle, known for a cosmic view of society, said he’ll wait to develop specific proposals until he decides whether to run.
Earle was an innovative district attorney, seeking to deal with the causes of crime as well as putting bad guys in prison. Earle said he found that many criminals had been abused as children, and made child abuse cases a priority.
Trying to cope with prosecuting the same people over and over, talks with crime victims made him decide to try new ways to deal with repeat offenders.
He established a team approach for appropriate punishment, made up of agencies that deal with lawbreakers: Police, jailers, counselors representing victims and others.
Punishment, usually including jail, also sought to fit the person – possibly including remedial education, job training, or counseling on anger management.
He also set up a child advocacy center, to have agencies that had to interview children do so in one gentle, non-threatening place, rather than carting them around from agency to agency.
Earle’s biggest attention-getter, however, was probably as the overseer of the Travis DA’s state-funded Public Integrity Unit, created at his request.
Over the years, Earle has indicted several elected officials, including former Democratic Atty. Gen. Jim Mattox (who was acquitted), and then-House Speaker Gib Lewis (plea-bargained away the speaker’s office to avoid an embarrassing trial).
Earle won an indictment of former Republican U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land for funneling corporate money into state legislative races. That sidelined DeLay from the leadership job pending trial. He wound up resigning from Congress.
Should he become the Democratic nominee for governor, Earle could wind up running against another indictee: Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Hutchison plans to challenge Gov. Rick Perry in the March 2 GOP primary.
Earle served with her in the Texas House of Representatives from 1973 until elected DA in 1976 -- as he did with Mattox and Lewis.
In September of 1993, Earle won a grand jury indictment of Hutchison, on charges she ordered Treasury workers to use state equipment to help her special election campaign for the U.S. Senate.
By the time of the trial in February, 1994, Hutchison had already won the 1993 special election runoff over Democrat Bob Krueger, who had been appointed interim senator by then-Gov. Ann Richards.
Hutchison easily won the Republican nomination for the remainder of the term in 1994, and won the general election with almost 61 percent.
Judge John F. Onion, Jr., the former presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, denied Earle’s pre-trial effort to allow into evidence all records seized from the treasurer’s office, in a raid five days after Hutchison won the special election.
Onion said he would rule on each piece of evidence as it was introduced.
Earle, unsure he could put his evidence before a jury, tried to drop the prosecution, hoping for a more agreeable judge in a second trial.
But Onion refused to allow it. He swore in the jurors and instructed them to find Hutchison not guilty. That kept her from being tried again.
Earle has eyed statewide office before. He considered running for attorney general in the 1990 election, but didn’t. And he was among those who talked with Gov. Richards about appointment to the Senate seat Hutchison eventually won.
Earle said he kept seeking re-election because his elections, in presidential election years, “always came up when some big thing was going on, that I didn’t feel like I could turn loose of.”
Sometimes, he ran because he was afraid of who might replace him.
“I wanted to be sure that anybody who wanted that job wanted it for the right reasons,” Earle said.
He said he almost got now-state Sen. Kirk Watson, Austin’s former mayor, to run in 1996. But Watson decided not to.
Watson, ironically, also is pondering a race for governor.