As a former Republican judge in Harris County, Mike Fields hopes to cater to a broader swath of voters than his more progressive competitors in the race for the Democratic nomination for Texas attorney general.
“I really do think the center is where most Texans are,” Fields said. “I think the majority of citizens, who are not hard partisans, want their leadership to adhere to those things that unite us, not focus on those wedge issues that divide us.”
Fields served as a criminal court-at-law judge for 20 years before he was unseated in 2018 in a Democratic sweep that flipped all remaining judicial seats in the county. Earlier that year, he had split with his fellow Republicans to side with poor defendants advocating for affordable or cash-free bond for low-level offenders.
After his re-election loss, no longer in a career in which he was expected to be politically neutral, Fields said the bail issue helped him to see that his views better aligned with the Democratic party than the GOP.
“When I joined the party to run (in 1997), it was a different party, led by different people who saw the value in compromise,” Fields said. “And now it seems that things have just gotten so polarized and some of the issues have become such hot button issues that it’s hard to recognize this Republican Party.”
He offered the example of how he describes himself as “100 percent pro-life and 100 percent pro-choice,” saying he thinks a free and fair society depends on the government staying out of personal decisions like abortion.
“There’s not a whole lot of room for that kind of nuance right now in the Republican Party,” he said.
Fields joins four other Democrats vying to oust Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton: Rochelle Garza, a former ACLU attorney from Brownsville; Joe Jaworski, a mediator and former Galveston mayor; Lee Merritt, a nationally known civil rights lawyer; and Stephen “T-Bone” Raynor, a Dallas attorney. (Raynor did not respond to a request for comment.)
The 56-year-old U.S. Army veteran said the AG’s office has become over-politicized, and he wants to refocus it on its core missions, such as collecting unpaid child support payments and protecting water rights.
“I’m an unabashed centrist. That’s not exciting,” he said. “But I think that kind of practical approach to this position is what Texas has needed for quite a while now. Just somebody who wants to get down and do the work.”
Unlike the other candidates, Fields noted that he has first-hand experience in the office: He spent about a year and a half working in the attorney general’s prosecution assistance division starting in 1995.
“The first thing I do is dismiss all of those frivolous lawsuits against the Biden administration and others that tied up Texas resources, tilting at windmills, and rescind a lot of the memos that have been sent out in support of far-right issues that really have nothing to do with the attorney general’s office,” he said.
Also unlike other candidates, Fields said he won’t be making Paxton’s legal troubles a highlight of his campaign. Paxton has been under indictment since 2015 for felony securities fraud charges and is facing an FBI investigation after being accused of corruption by his top aides last October; he’s denied any wrongdoing.
“I have spent my life in this judicial process affording people the benefit of their presumption of innocence — I don’t want to stop now,” he said.
He acknowledged, however, that for his own campaign, “not being under criminal indictment is certainly a plus.”