Merritt, running as a Democrat, is also an activist who has played instrumental roles in seeking justice for victims of gun and police violence by notably representing the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean and Atatiana Jefferson, said he is confident he can beat the incumbent Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — whom he has called “associate of white supremacy and tool of voter suppression” — in a general election.
Merritt is basing his campaign on several urgent pillars, including protecting the right to vote, energy, education, and criminal justice and policing.
A campaign toolkit sent to members of the media made it a point to remind of Paxton’s role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and supporting Donald Trump’s widely debunked claims that he was a victim of election fraud.
“We are up against the worst of the worst,” the toolkit says in part. “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has aligned himself with the most conspiratorial, most Trumpian wing of the Republican party. He refused to join his peers in condemning the January 6th riots, sued to prevent the results of the 2020 presidential election from being certified, and has continued to push the Big Lie in an attempt to strip millions of Texans of their right to vote. He is a threat not only to our democracy but also to the lives of everyday Texans. Instead of cracking down on the energy giants that control power in our state after the power failure of 2020, he did nothing. That’s probably because he takes millions of dollars from energy lobbyists to ensure he stays in power.”
Merritt first indicated he planned to run for state attorney general back in March when he tweeted, “Texas deserves an attorney general that will fight for the constitutional rights of all citizens.”
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.
“I said if he didn’t do his job, I would take his job,” Merritt at the time 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 a separate 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.”
Of course, there is a chance that Merritt may not actually face Paxton in a general election since the incumbent will first be facing several challengers in the Republican primary, including Land Commissioner George P. Bush — the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush — and Eva Guzman, a former Texas Supreme Court justice.
Merritt joins Joe Jaworski, the former mayor of Galveston, in the Democratic primary.
People wishing to donate to Merritt’s campaign can click here.
A date for the primary elections was not set as of July 14, but the general election has been scheduled for Nov. 8, 2022.