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Victoria prosecutor Eli Garza to run for 377th district judge (video)

By Jessica Priest
Aug. 2, 2013 at 3:02 a.m.

Eli Garza

About Eli Garza

Education:

• Graduated from Texas A&M University-Kingsville with a Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1994

• Graduated from the Creighton University School of Law in 1999

Career:

• Victoria County first assistant criminal district attorney, 2007-present

• Owned a private practice, where he represented people from Victoria to the Rio Grande Valley in state, federal and appellate courts, 2001-06

• Victoria County assistant criminal district attorney under former Criminal District Attorney Dexter Eaves, 2000

Family:

• Jennifer Ortiz, wife

• 11-year-old son

Volunteerism:

• Member, State Bar of Texas

• Member, Victoria County Bar Association

• Member, branch board of the Victoria YMCA

• Basketball coach

• Parishioner at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church

Election schedule

Nov. 9-Dec. 9 - Filing period for a place on Democratic or Republican primary ballot

Feb. 18-28 - Early voting

March 4 - Primary elections

Source: Secretary of State

A state prosecutor is seeking a different role in the courtroom.

Eli Garza, the first assistant criminal district attorney in Victoria County, announced Friday his candidacy for judge of the 377th District Court.

Judge Robert C. Cheshire currently holds the position but announced in May that he would not seek re-election.

Garza, a Republican, had a scaled back announcement party out of respect for his mother, Celia Garza, 69, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack in July.

His mother was a teacher and a source of inspiration to him, as is the rest of his family, but he has long dreamed of serving on the bench. His sister serves as a judge in Starr County, where Garza grew up.

"Her (my mother's) memory is still strong," Garza said while surrounded by friends and family Friday afternoon.

Garza, 41, believes his 12 years of criminal and civil experience qualify him for the position. He knows how to both build up and identify the holes in a case. He and Steve Tyler, the criminal district attorney, do not have a "win at all costs" attitude, he said.

As the first assistant, he has prosecuted more than 55 cases ranging from capital murder, murder and aggravated sexual assault, none of which have been reversed by an appellate court. That is important, he said, especially because a Williamson County district attorney's ethics are being scrutinized in light of the exoneration of Michael Morton, who was convicted of murder.

If elected, Garza would lighten the docket and work with the sheriff's office to ensure that no photos were taken of witnesses to be distributed on the Internet or through text messaging, a security issue his office has dealt with in the past.

While Garza's caseload will not lighten during the campaign, Assistant District Attorney Eddie Wilkinson will take on a larger role in the office, Tyler said.

Tyler attributed his office's successes to Garza and Assistant District Attorney Johna Stallings, who deal with cases involving sexual assault of children.

He said Garza will judge based on the strength of an argument, not on their long-time friendship.

"He will always do what is right," Tyler said. "I might also add that it (being a judge) is in his blood."

As a bailiff, Daniel Villarreal watched Garza in action and thought he was the best at what he does.

"He is professional and has respect for everyone," said Villarreal, who is now an investigator.

Tali Villafranca, although a Democrat, also shared his support.

"I feel he will be very tough but fair minded," Villafranca said.

Garza is pro-life, believes in the right to bear arms, states' rights, the death penalty and interpreting the Constitution as it was written.

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