I’m saddened to read that our Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman has submitted her resignation effective end of May. She cites health concerns, her age, and how COVID-19 could threaten her and her family’s health in this regard.
Dr. Trautman has changed the way elections are run in Harris County. She has opened up access to voters. She has worked to make voting easier. And she finally started the process of replacing those outdated E-slates that should have been long-replaced during the republican years. Recently, she even stood up to the Attorney General to make the COVID-19 epidemic a good enough reason to order a ballot by mail in order to avoid election day crowds and the COVID spit clouds within them. She thought of making changes for the benefit of the people before she resigned for her own health. That counts for a lot.
I met Diane in 2004. I and my sister had opened up our Democratic Primary election day polling location in our neighborhood school. It still wasn’t cool for Democrats to challenge each other, or even stand up and run for a chance to take on the local republicans. So, it wasn’t all that busy in our republican Kingwood precinct. Out of nowhere, Diane shows up to volunteer for a few hours. While waiting for voters to trickle in, we talked process, resumes, and Democratic politics. I thought, this woman wants to run for something. Obviously, that was a good thing.
Soon, she’d make a run against Joe Crabb, the long-time right-wing state representative. Given her suburban living and suburban teaching and education administration experience, she had a lot of cross-party friends who supported her. Still, it’s tough to take on a republican in a republican district. It was a learning experience for Diane, but also for the rest of us who were trying to organize suburban Democrats–even if it was to provide a bottom line to our countywide numbers.
Diane did get elected to the Harris County Dept of Education Board, though. Because of her, many of us learned more about this taxing entity and how it helped school districts around the county, as well as students in need of specialized programs. And she fought valiantly against efforts by republicans to do away with the agency. It earned her more visibility to challenge a republican incumbent for County Clerk. And she won! And she worked.
Thanks, Dr. Trautman, for your service and friendship.
Back to central casting. The process calls for the County Commissioner’s court to name an interim County Clerk, and then the precinct chairs of each party will pick a candidate to run in November, 2020 with the winner completing the term and having to run for re-election in 2022.
I’m of the opinion that the Democratic majority on the Commissioner’s Court should make a strong appointment of someone who will be the incumbent, making it clear that there is no need for a possible free-for-all at the precinct chair level.
We elected our County Judge and our Commissioners, while most of us cannot even find a link on the Party website to find our own precinct chair so that we can lobby for whom we want them to vote. Either process is hardly democratic as the voters are left out of the process. I’d rather go with whom our top leaders choose and have the precinct chairs basically ratify it so we can move forward. Wishful thinking? Maybe.
Some may opine that appointing as interim one of the professionals already in the County Clerk’s office to run the 2020 election and be a placeholder while allowing a candidate chosen by the precinct chairs to run full-time is the solution. And that’s a good argument. But I think we should have a candidate who can show that they can do the professional and the political work, simultaneously. I think it’s more of a confidence builder for us voters when we see that our candidates can walk and chew gum at the same time.
Either way, we’ll see what happens. I already see suggestions on my Facebook feeds about who should run and about diversity on the ballot. There’s nothing wrong with healthy debate, but these things can take a turn for the ugly real quick. And that’s another reason why I’d like to see the Judge and Commissioners lead on this one.