Tag Archives: Harris County

Dems Sweep Harris County

donkickWith a little help from a 12-point Hillary Clinton “victory,” the rest of the Democrats on the Harris County ballot managed to defeat every county-wide Republican in office or challenging a Democratic incumbent.

Of note from the point of view of this blogger is my once-client, still-friend Julia Maldonado who defeated her Republican opponent by over 60,000 votes in the race for the 507th Family District Court. I’m so proud of Julia, who was chosen from among several candidates in a “primary” decided by the local Dem precinct chairs. After squeaking by, she campaigned relentlessly. I mean, was that a plane with a Julia banner in the sky? Congrats Julia Maldonado!!!

Also of note was our Sheriff-elect Ed Gonzalez’s resounding defeat of right-winger Ron Hickman. What came to mind was Hickman’s and equally defeated DA Devon Anderson’s anti-Black Lives Matter rally-slash-press conference after the murder of a local deputy. Congrats to Ed Gonzalez and DA-elect Kim Ogg on running some great campaigns.

Of course, there was also a squeaker of a race for Tax Assessor-Collector which saw Ann Harris Bennett defeat the incumbent Mike Sullivan by a little over 7,000 votes. After a contentious primary, I have a feeling that a few Dems supported Sullivan; nonetheless, Clinton’s tide, and an active campaign by Bennett, was enough to seal the deal. Congrats to Ann.

Of course, many old friends were re-elected, such as Judge Larry Weiman. And other friends were elected, such as Judges-elect Fredericka Phillips and Ursula Hall. The list is  long, obviously. Congrats to all of them.

Then there were the “so-close” ones, which weren’t countywide, just as my friend Sherrie Matula in the race for county school board pct 2 who came up short, or Jesse Ybanez in HD-135 who garnered 45% of the vote. Or even Bill McCleod who was everywhere in his race for JP-5 and came up 4000 votes short. And I’ll also give a shout out to former client and good friend Jim Cargas in CD7 who earned a respectable 43%.

And kudos to Anne Sung who will be in a run-off for Houston ISD District VII, and to Mary Ann Perez who returns to the Texas House out of Pasadena.

It’s obvious Harris County can trend blue, even in some of the districts drawn specifically for Republicans. It also seems like Latinos in Harris County made themselves known. A quick look showed turn-out percentage increases in Latino state rep districts of anywhere from a few to 6 points. Of course, Latinos live everywhere in Harris County, so, I’m looking forward to hearing what the ultimate turnout was for Latinos.

One thing is for sure, Latinos did provide much of that margin of victory countywide. And that’s why I’m glad I got to congratulate Mario Salinas and Carlos Duarte and their team at Mi Familia Vota for their voter registration and outreach work, as well as Oscar Hernandez and Carolina Ramirez at United We Dream whose team was working hard knocking on doors. There were so many others, like the great team at Texas Organizing Project whose full-throttle campaign did what needed to be done to cause some huge victories. So, congrats to all who did the GOTV work in and for Harris County.

Obviously, I took a couple of years off from campaigns and even from blogging. I can’t say the top of the ticket excited me, but I knew it would be a catalyst locally. And Democrats winning the straight-ticket race shows more than half of Dem voters still enjoy straight-ticket voting. With Trump in office, I’m not sure how involved I’ll get, but I’m pretty sure I’ll keep blogging. The bottom line, liberals and progressives need to look inward and determine which course to take, at least nationally.

Oh, and with a bluer Harris County, there will be more challenges at the Primary level. I guess that’s healthy as long as we all don’t get crazy like some other parties.

 

SATURDAY 10/29: Tacos and Vote!

Early voting has been steady all week. After four days, over 293,000 have already voted in-person, while another 73,000+ have returned their ballots by mail. To put things in perspective, that’s about 47% of the total number of early voters in 2012. In only four days. (Did I get that right?)

Some locations are busier than others, but the bottom line is that during early voting, one may vote at any of the early voting locations. As is usually the case, Saturday will be very busy, but it’s a great day to vote. And there are some good folks that want to make sure you get to vote and enjoy some culture. Nothing says culture like TACOS and MARIACHIS! So, here’s a listing of Tacos and Vote polling locations.

Go get you some! And Vote!

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Ed Gonzalez Calls on HCSO to Reinstate Inspectors, Diversify Staff

cafeed2Ed Gonzalez, Democratic candidate for Harris County Sheriff, challenged current Sheriff Hickman to reinstate jail inspectors and diversify the staff if any criminal justice reform plan is to succeed.

Here’s the press release from Gonzalez:

Ed Gonzalez, the leading Democratic candidate for Sheriff, called on Sheriff Ron Hickman today to join the county’s push for criminal justice reform by reinstating jail inspectors and replacing his command staff with a more diverse leadership team

Gonzalez applauded yesterday’s action by county commissioners to accept a $2 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation and spend millions more on reforms that include expanding pre-trial diversion programs, implementing a new bail system and improving relationships with minority communities.

“Commissioners are moving in the right direction with their new reform plan, but it won’t be enough until real reform comes to the Sheriff’s office,” said Gonzalez.

“Sheriff Hickman must immediately reinstate the jail inspectors and the investigative unit he dismantled and replace his command staff with a leadership team that is more reflective of the communities served by the sheriff’s office,” said Gonzalez.

Hickman’s first act after being appointed sheriff was to replace the existing diverse command staff with all white men. After intense pressure, Hickman later made some additional appointments, but the command staff is nowhere near reflective of the communities that make up Harris County. Gonzalez expressed concern that, until the sheriff truly diversified his command staff, the county’s new racial and ethnic diversity coordinator would continue to face barriers in rebuilding the trust of minority communities in the criminal justice system.

“If the county’s law enforcement leader fails to recognize the need for real diversity,” said Gonzalez, “what chance will the county’s new criminal justice diversity coordinator have to succeed?”

Gonzalez also expressed serious concerns about the ability of the county’s new jail coordinator to speed up the release of inmates awaiting bail, a key element of the new reform plan, given existing management problems at the jail.

Earlier this month, a suspect awaiting bail on a charge of stealing a guitar was beaten to death by inmates in his holding cell – continuing a pattern of violence, abuse and neglect at the jail that was exposed in a 2015 Houston Chronicle investigation. Hickman’s response was to reduce oversight at the jail, including dismantling the investigative unit that had uncovered some of the worst cases of abuse and neglect.

“For the county’s new reform plan to succeed, we must incease oversight, transparency and accountability at the county jail,” said Gonzalez. “That’s why I’m calling on Sheriff Hickman to live up to the values of this new plan by diversifying his command staff and reinstating the jail inspectors he cut earlier this year.”

Ed Gonzalez is a leading candidate in the May 24 Democratic Party primary runoff election for Harris County Sheriff. He is a veteran Houston Police officer who rose to the rank of Sergeant, led murder investigations and served on the elite hostage negotiating team. He served two terms on the City Council, chairing the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and becoming mayor pro-tem. On the Houston City Council, Gonzalez led efforts at criminal justice reform – including creating the Houston Center for Sobriety, which keeps people who need help out of the criminal justice system and allows police officers to spend more time on patrol, catching criminals.

 

2016: Brandon Dudley for Tax Assessor-Collector

dudley.jpgAnother friend of mine, Brandon Dudley, has also filed for the Democratic nomination for Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector. I’ve known Brandon since his 2010 run for a judicial post here in Harris County, and I appreciate his work on the Wendy Davis campaign in 2014.

He has served my own State Senator Rodney Ellis for a decade as Chief of Staff and General Counsel, and his work in criminal justice reform is very impressive.

Here’s more on Brandon:

Brandon’s commitment to public service began at an early age, working in programs for at-risk youth while attending the University of Texas at Austin. Brandon worked as a juvenile counselor after earning his degree, and went on to the Graduate School for Social Work at UT-Austin to further develop his administrative skills in the field of public service. After graduate school Brandon came to Houston to create and direct outreach, crime prevention, and community economic development programs for at-risk youth.

These experiences inspired Brandon to attend the University of Houston Law Center, where he twice received the Public Interest Fellowship Award. This also led him to pursue legal and policy advocacy work in the areas of criminal justice reform, economic fairness and voting rights.

After graduating from UH Law School and being licensed to practice, Brandon worked for the Innocence Project, which works to secure the freedom for those wrongfully convicted and advance criminal justice reforms. He later served as managing consultant for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition’s Harris County Project to advance “smart on crime” reforms to improve public safety, increase fairness and justice, and save taxpayer dollars.

Read more on Brandon here and his platform is here.

I’m running because the right to vote is an essential component of our democracy, and ensuring that freedom is protected for all eligible voters is key to holding our government accountable.

But right now too many citizens’ freedom to make their voices heard in Harris County is under attack by intentional barriers making it harder to vote, tactics that wrongfully deny eligible voters their freedom to vote, and antiquated voting systems that are prone to mistakes, cause long lines, and increase taxpayer costs.

I’m running because the people of Harris County deserve a Tax Assessor that’s standing up for all us, not working against us.  A Tax Assessor that will fight for a fair and equal tax system and protect our freedom to vote, so we can have the Harris County we deserve.

We deserve better schools for our children, an economy that works for all of us, fair and equal justice, and a Harris County that treats all people equally and fairly.

But we have to stand up for it. We have to fight for it.  And we have to vote for it.

Stay informed, folks!

2016: Ann Harris Bennett for Tax Assessor-Collector

annbennettI’m glad to see that our family friend Ann Harris Bennett has filed to seek the Democratic nomination for Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar in 2016.

“I am honored to announce my candidacy for Harris County Tax Assessor Collector & Voter Registrar on the March 2016 Democratic Primary ballot.  I am dedicated to serving all citizens of Harris County with the integrity, transparency, and efficiency they deserve from this office.  My focus is to make the necessary changes to upgrade the office and bring it into the 21st century.  I intend to serve the people free of political cronyism and dysfunction.”

Bennett has been a strong candidate over three countywide races, but in 2012, she came less than 2400 votes short against Mike Sullivan in the race for Tax Assessor-Collector, despite being largely outspent by the well-funded Republican. That’s .2%, folks.

No doubt, Bennett has built up some name recognition and strong connections with Democrats, as well as voters, in general.

Here is her press release announcing her 2016 run. You can follow her on Facebook, or on her website.

 

 

Ed Gonzalez Files for Harris County Sheriff

cafeed2Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez announced through Facebook that he had filed to seek the Dem nomination for Harris County Sheriff.

This afternoon I officially filed for a place on the ballot to serve as your next Harris County Sheriff!

I’m a proud life-long Houstonian and have spent the last 24 years as a public servant. As our city’s Mayor Pro-Tem and as an 18-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, I’ve dedicated my career to: crafting innovative and effective solutions to modern-day crime issues, transforming government through the use of innovation and technology, improving mobility and infrastructure, and ensuring that our city’s future leaders have access to world-class educational opportunities.

As your next Sheriff, I’ll keep our families safe, the budget balanced, and criminals off our streets. I’ll ensure that the Harris County Sheriff’s Office is transparent, efficient, and responsive to the needs of every neighborhood. Thank you for your support as we embark on this campaign!

With Gonzalez’s entry into the 2016 political scene, we have an exciting candidate with a record of effective service to the community. As Mayor Pro-Tem, his reach has gone beyond the District H he serves. And, as he finishes his third term, he’s kept on working hard for Houston as was noticed this past weekend with the opening of CafeCollege Houston–a service for all Houstonians who want to go to college or find information on how to change careers and earn workforce certifications in which Gonzalez played a major role in developing. Obviously, his service as a local police officer gives him an edge in regards to political viability and the ability to manage HCSO.

I couldn’t think of anyone better to lead our countywide slate in 2016.

 

There’s Some Buzz Going Around about 2016

donkey-fightOne of the best sources for local political news, especially if you’re not an insider, is the Facebook. Whether it’s an actual announcement or someone putting out feelers with the hope of getting some attention, you find out what’s going on. Here are some of my observations, thus far.

President:  Looks like former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley will be joining Sanders and Clinton in the race for the Dem nomination on May 30. I’m a fan of O’Malley’s, actually. He would be the only one of the three to have made a strong statement in support of the Central American kids–or, at least nothing hateful that called for jailing and deporting them; at least not without legal representation and due process. I haven’t seen any policy pronouncements about Latin America, but at least Maryland wasn’t involved in the Honduran coup. All this said, I’m leaning O’Malley at this point.

The Local Judges:  When I emceed the Kingwood Area Dems brunch the other day, 151st District Judge Mike Engelhart was hard at work collecting signatures for his re-election campaign. I noticed thru FB that 127th District Judge Ravi Sandill was back on the trail for his re-election campaign. Former 165th District Judge Josefina Rendon FB-announced a run for her former seat. Immediately after Judge Al Bennett was confirmed as a Federal Judge, former District Judge Dion Ramos announced he would be running for Bennett’s old 61st District bench. Kristen Hawkins announced for the 11th District Court. Out in Precinct 3, Galena Park ISD trustee Joe Stephens, whom I met at the Kingwood shindig, seems to be running hard to replace retiring Judge Mike Parrott as Justice of the Peace.

There are also some exploratory campaigns that I’ve noticed, including Ursula Hall for the 165th District; Shawn Thierry for the 333rd District. Joe Montemayor has been putting out feelers for a possible JP3 run, too.

And given that there has been some stepped up activity by others who have run for something in the past (patriotic and partisan meme sharing and attending all sorts of events), there may be others. No doubt, we may see some Democratic Primary battles, and that’s probably good thing, even though some of the candidates may not want to be in these battles.

Sheriff:  It is becoming more and more obvious that a Democrat needs to announce for Sheriff–and soon. Given the Republican new guy’s hiring practices, it seems we need a Democrat. Anyone? Anyone?

If you’re actually running in 2016, let me know at my contact page.

The Price of Ramen Noodles Is Too Damn High!

Update After the Oberg Story: Did you know that it would take 6.8 million packages (at 25 cents each commissary price) of ramen noodles to pay the Harris County consultant who has saved the Jail money? No, this info was not in Oberg’s report, not that there was much of anything else.


ABC13’s Ted Oberg is doing a story on a no-bid contract that the Sheriff has given to a consulting firm. According to the Sheriff in one of ABC13s ads promoting the report, the consultant has saved the county a lot of money.

One thing I noticed from ABC13’s teaser is that the money paid to the consultant comes from profits from the jail commissary. So, that means that the overpriced ramen noodles, cupcakes, sodas, and other items bought by the inmates is paying for it. That’s a lot of ramen noodles eaten and no tax dollars wasted, at least at first glance.

I have to wonder if there’s a story to this. I would think the bigger story is that the price of ramen noodles is too damn high. Either that, or it’s sweeps week for the local news.

We shall see.

UPDATE:  The HCSO/Sheriff Adrian Garcia released this statement on the savings to taxpayers over the years.

When Sheriff Adrian Garcia took office in 2009, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office was overspending its budget by about $58 million annually. In fact the agency had balanced its yearly budget only once in a decade.

In 2015, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office has come in under the budget allocated by Commissioners Court for the fourth consecutive fiscal year.

Fiscal Year 2015, as it was known in county government, ended Feb. 28. After allowing for all accounts to settle from the previous budget year, the HCSO is celebrating another year of successful budget discipline.

“Keeping the people of Harris County safe is our top job,” Sheriff Adrian Garcia said. “Safeguarding public funds and protecting the pocket books of tax payers is a close second.”

“We are keeping the lid on crime for the 1.7 million people in the unincorporated areas of the county while keeping the door shut against monstrous budget deficits,” the sheriff added. “We accomplish this on the front lines with deputies on patrol and in the back offices where employees with business backgrounds eliminate financial waste.”

Some of the biggest savings have come from drastic reductions in overtime pay to staff the county jail, inmate rehabilitation programs that reduce repeat crimes, management of supply contracts and wider use of generic medications for ill inmates.

In the previous three years, budget savings allowed the Sheriff’s Office to put more deputies on patrol. About 90% of the $422 million budget for FY15 was allocated for law enforcement payroll.

“We’ll continue to work with Commissioners Court and other stakeholders to make sure we have the resources to preserve Harris County as a safe place that people choose every day as the place where they want to live, work and raise a family.”

Kim Ogg for DA ~ Let’s Make Justice Work

As I was eating a delicious breakfast at Alfreda’s Soulfood Cafe on Almeda this morning (you need to check it out!), this ad popped up on the TV. I must say it’s one of the best responses to an attack ad. The current DA (Anderson) attacked Kim Ogg as “dangerous” without any explanation. Kim Ogg’s response is perfect. Check it out.

Kuff Features David Rosen for County Treasurer

Kuff is back at it with interviews of some of our November candidates. Today, he featured my friend David Rosen, Democrat for County Treasurer.

David is young, energetic, and wants to bring some transparency to the way business is conducted in Harris County. Give his interview a listen and then vote for him in November.