Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Results from selected criminal-justice related TX elections

What an election night! I don't know about y'all, but the precinct convention where I vote was a complete zoo. I left just before midnight, after convincing the group that remained to support the Grits resolutions on TYC and prison diversion, and they were still considering more resolutions when we left.

When turnout is so high, there's no telling what will happen in an election (because pollsters typically only ask opinions in campaign surveys of those who voted in the past, so new voters' opinions aren't measured). You can get your Clinton/Obama news elsewhere, but lets look around the state to see how the important criminal justice races turned out:

Court of Criminal Appeals: GOP voters returned incumbent Paul Womack to the bench over veteran District Judge Robert Francis from Dallas who said he was running because the court is no longer nationally respected. I've said for years this court represents an opportunity for Democrats, since GOP voters have placed their stamp of approval on the Sharon Keller court, which nationally has become a legal embarrassment. Clearly Republicans aren't going to get their own house in order. Womack's primary win gives him a free pass for the next six years, since he has no Democratic opponent. In the other two CCA seats up this year, Democrat Susan Strawn will face off against CCA Judge Tom Price, while J.R. Molina will be on the ballot against GOP incumbent Cathy Cochran.

Jerry Madden Returns: As important to the justice system, IMO, as any court race, House Corrections Chairman Jerry Madden survived a primary challenge from an opponent who's main campaign message was to label prison and jail diversion programs and Madden's legislation to strengthen probation "soft on crime." Perhaps it's a hopeful sign that even in a GOP primary, that message did not prove decisive.

Pat Haggerty Out: Former House Corrections Chair Pat Haggerty lost his seat in El Paso to Dee Margo, who was recruited and financed to punish the long-time rep for opposing Tom Craddick in last year's Speaker's fight. This reminds us, after all the calls for ousting Craddick last year, that opposing a sitting Speaker is serious business when you've got you're own skin in the game. Haggerty knew that and did it anyway. He also understood the prison system thoroughly, tolerated little bullshit, and with Jerry Madden and Ray Allen (the last three House Corrections Committee chairs), he helped pass a great deal of important reform legislation during the last few of sessions. I don't know much about Dee Margo, the Republican who beat him, but it will take him many years to learn as much about the Texas criminal justice system as Pat Haggerty as forgotten.

Travis County District Attorney: TV rules, is the lesson from this race: First Assistant Rosemary Lehmberg and Mindy Montford will face off against one another in what's likely to be an expensive runoff contest. Both had large TV buys compared to their opponents, including Rick Reed, who I supported. Rosemary was my second choice, and I think she's the superior choice of the two in the runoff, but Montford is a strong candidate who's been talking a good game about reform.

Harris County District Attorney: Kelly Siegler and Pat Lykos will face off in the GOP primary runoff, which should leave our pal over at Life at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center in an absolute tizzy for the next month. The winner will face off against former Houston police chief C.O. Bradley in the highest profile local race in Houston this year.

Bexar Sheriff: Congrats to Grits reader Dennis McKnight, who handily won his GOP primary race, while Democrats Amadeo Ortiz and Andy Lopez will face off in a runoff. McKnight's the best candidate here from a reformer's standpoint, by a longshot. He was Bexar's jail administrator for years, an ADA before that, and few people in the state IMO understand the dynamics and possible solutions for local jail overcrowding better than he does.

Dallas Sheriff: Incumbent Lupe Valdez prevailed easily over three primary challengers, while two septuagenarian Republicans are headed into a runoff, including former Sheriff Jim Bowles who left under a cloud of commissary-related corruption charges. The big issue in the race: "Dallas County residents have had two recent tax rate increases to help pay for the millions of dollars worth of jail guard positions, jail medical facilities, and maintenance and construction costs that commissioners have approved."

Dallas Judge John Creuzot: One of the pioneers of the drug court movement in Texas, Judge Creuzot took a big risk in the primary switching parties from an R to a D, but it paid off. He won his race going away with 69% of the vote. I was worried about that one, that in such a partisan year his terrific merit might be overlooked because of his past GOP affiliation; thankfully Dems in Dallas embraced him. I don't really care what party he's in, I'm just glad he'll remain on the court. Congrats, Judge Creuzot!

Those are the main criminal justice races I was watching, excluding the ones - and there were a lot of them - where incumbents comfortably won. What happened in the important criminal justice races in your area? (Also be sure to let me know in the comments or by email if you got either of Grits' precinct resolutions passed, and where.)

1 comment:

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Yep, my full-fledged tizzy has already begun!
I'm just excited to know that I've achieved "Pal" status with you!