A new challenger has entered the Democrat primary for Texas’ U.S. Senate race in the hopes of defeating incumbent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

Former Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez announced his run on Tuesday, saying, “Texans are looking for a leader as tough as they are. Right now, that isn’t Ted Cruz.” 

In a press release sent to Texas Scorecard, Gonzalez said he promises to be the senator who prioritizes Texans.

“The hyper-partisan efforts are meant to divide us and undermine our Democracy, and I won’t be part of any attempt to harm our state,” said Gonzalez. “Bullies don’t scare me, what does is how we treat our neighbors and those who can afford hardship the least. I’ll be a Senator who prioritizes people, finding solutions with a focus on what’s best for Texans.”

During his announcement video, Gonzalez took a jab at Cruz, saying that when Cruz left during the 2021 winter storm, Gonzalez was on the front lines protecting citizens from price gouges.

Gonzalez became DA in 2016, where he campaigned on eliminating jail time for minor offenses and pledged to be more transparent about evidence and the district attorney’s relationship with law enforcement.

Gonzalez claims to support “progressive” criminal justice reform and representing the people.

In January, Colby Wiltse, a Nueces County resident and Texas State Director for County Citizens Defending Freedom, filed a civil lawsuit against Gonzalez. Wilste asked for Gonzalez to be permanently removed from office, citing “incompetency, official misconduct, and failure to give bond.”

According to the petition, Wiltse alleged Gonzalez has mishandled several high-profile cases, including cases of capital murder.

In the case of the murder of Brenna Wood, the court found credible evidence of “gross incompetence, negligence and/or carelessness on the part of the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office in the prosecution and investigation of the cases.”

The petition also asserted Gonzalez “failed to enact policies for the handling or accountability of evidence in high profile cases often leading to significant delay in the administration of justice.”

Additionally, in a case involving Dr. Juan Villarreal, who allegedly assaulted 14 victims, Gonzalez’ “failure to establish proper procedures for the handling of evidence resulted in a loss of evidence.” The mishandling of evidence led defense attorneys for Villarreal to seek a dismissal of the indictment, alleging that “the District Attorney’s office acted with gross incompetence and negligence in maintaining evidence.”

Jason Edward Lara—who Gonzalez previously dismissed an aggravated robbery case against—was allowed to roam free, leading to a capital murder charge when Lara allegedly murdered two women.

Also included in Wiltse’s petition, between March 2021 and March 2022, approximately 865 felony-level cases were dismissed by Gonzalez. The cases included aggravated assault, attempted murder, sexual assault, family violence, aggravated robbery, burglary, theft, drug sales or manufacturing, and felony driving under the influence. Additionally, his office dismissed nearly two thousand misdemeanor cases, including DUI, theft, drug offenses, family violence, and assault.

Furthermore, Gonzalez is among five Texas DAs who signed a letter declaring that their offices would not prosecute individuals seeking to obtain or perform an abortion. The other four signers were: John Creuzot of Dallas County, José Garza of Travis County, Joe Gonzales of Bexar County, and Brian Middleton of Fort Bend County.

Gonzalez told the Rolling Stone he believes no one should be prosecuted for seeking an abortion, adding that he doesn’t think men should have a say or get involved when it comes to a woman choosing to get an abortion.

Cruz has not yet commented on Gonzalez’ candidacy.

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.