Margaret Moore defeats Gary Cobb in Travis DA primary

Updated March 01, 2016

Four months ago, Margaret Moore was settling into retirement after decades of working in state and county government and politics.

But after deciding at the last minute to run for Travis County district attorney and diving into a sometimes ugly three-way primary, Moore on Tuesday won the Democratic nomination without a runoff.

Moore, who finished with just under 60 percent of the vote, defeated prosecutor Gary Cobb, who took 34 percent, and defense attorney Rick Reed, who had 6 percent.

She will face civil litigator Maura Phelan, who ran unopposed for the Republican nomination, in the November election. Democrats generally win in deep-blue Travis County.

On the campaign trail, Moore often spoke of the need to “restore integrity” to the office after departing District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s 2013 DWI arrest made national headlines.

“My message was that we need new leadership, that we need a person that the community can have confidence in,” Moore said Tuesday night at her election night party at Threadgill’s. “I’m going to work really hard to live up to what (voters) want, which is integrity and hard work and professionalism.”

As his watch party at El Sol y La Luna was clearing up, Cobb acknowledged Moore had won and said, “I only wish her the best.”

In the 1970s, Moore and Lehmberg worked together in the district attorney’s office. A 1978 case they tried together was the first time the county put forward an all-female prosecution team, according to a news release in Moore’s personnel file.

Moore left the district attorney’s office to run for county attorney. She has twice been appointed to fill vacancies as a Travis County commissioner. She retired in 2014 from the state attorney general’s office, where she litigated civil Medicaid fraud cases.

Moore’s victory is a shocking reversal of fortunes for Cobb, who for months seemed to be a lock to win the race to replace Lehmberg without facing an opponent. But Moore, Reed and Phelan joined the race after an American-Statesman story in November revealed that Cobb had a court-ordered $163,000 debt to his ex-wife related to their 1994 divorce and that he had made conflicting statements in sworn depositions. Cobb settled the debt in December for $60,000.

In the whirlwind campaign, Reed relentlessly attacked Cobb while Moore mostly steered clear of the mudslinging. In a twist, Reed revealed Tuesday that he voted for Moore and urged his supporters to do the same, leading Cobb’s campaign to suggest they had been coordinating. Moore denied that at her Tuesday night party, which Reed attended.