Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle in Austin, who has led that office since 1977, will not seek re-election, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Earle, a Democrat, might not be done with politics. By retiring, he would be available for a gubernatorial bid in 2010. That would give Earle, who has a populist streak, the opportunity to speak out on issues other than criminal justice. In court, he once accused corporations of trying to buy state elections, likening them to robber barons and fascists.
Earle created the first victims assistance program in the state and gained a national reputation for launching community programs aimed at addressing the causes of crime. He investigated and prosecuted – with mixed results – public officials of both political parties. At a 1994 trial, Earle abruptly abandoned his prosecution of Kay Bailey Hutchison on charges that she misused her office of state treasurer before she was elected U.S. senator. His 2005 indictment of then-U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as part of a broader investigation into corporate spending in Texas political campaigns raised Earle’s profile, but that money-laundering case is tied up in pre-trial appeals and might not be resolved before Earle leaves.