Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Who's on TV?

Early voting starts today, so I'm curious, who has commercials on TV in the major criminal justice races where you live?

In recent elections, about half of voters cast their ballots early, and most of those are cast during the first three days or the last three days of the early voting period. So if you're not up on television when early voting starts, you've missed getting your message to what's become a significant chunk of the electorate who'll vote by the end of the week.

In the Travis County DA's race, so far I've only seen Rosemary Lehmberg on television with what I thought was an effective ad emphasizing her experience and the incumbent's endorsement. Her ad's running a lot, and she may win by default if nobody else goes on the air soon.

I'm curious if anybody's seen TV ads for any of the GOP candidates for DA in Harris County - who can afford TV advertising could easily decide that primary race, since voters don't know most of the candidates. If you live in Houston, do any of these candidates have TV ads running already?

Similarly, I'm curious whether there have been ads running in the Sheriff's race in either Dallas or Bexar Counties in either primary. I haven't heard of any, but that doesn't mean it's not happening. Ditto for the race to replace the late Sheriff Leo Samaniego out in El Paso. It's crunch time for all of these important races.

Let me know whose ads you've seen, if anybody's, in these or other crim-just races, and what you thought of them.


Anonymous said...

Rick Reed won the endorsement of The Daily Texan today for Travis County District Attorney, mainly for two reasons. They said "the district attorney is the sole prosecutor with the power to investigate state officials, and Reed has proven to be the toughest candidate to handle just that."

The newspaper also said "[Reed] has made himself a standout in this race by being the only candidate to publicly oppose the death penalty."

Rick Reed would win this election going away if more people in Travis County learn about him. I hope he gets an ad on TV to get his message out, but for that he needs some donations.

Anonymous said...

I've seen a lot of Mindy Montford ads running. The first one was laughable, as her only slogan was the trite, "It's for the children." The others I've seen have been better and more nuanced.

Michael said...

I rarely watch television, but I understand that Mindy Montford has a lot of ads too. I would expect the media advantage to tip to Montford, based on her advantage in fundraising.

Anonymous said...

Jail problems plague Stephens Co.

BRECKENRIDGE -- Stephens County is having a serious jail crunch. Jail conditions have deteriorated over the years and the facility is not able to house as many prisoners as it's designed for. That means the county often has to transport and pay other counties to house their inmates. Watch our story…


Murray Newman said...

No ads on TV for the Harris County D.A. race yet.

From the first report of campaign contributions, I don't think any of the candidates have the money.

John D. McLauchlan said...

I haven't noticed any TV ads at all for local races in Dallas County.

Anonymous said...

No ads for the Bexar County Sheriffs race on TV. Lots of print and McKnight has the banner on the Express-News website. Our Elections Administrator sent out an e-mail to the commissioners yesterday stating that in the first 45 minutes of early voting yesterday we had over three hundred and fifty ballots cast with 277 Dems and 77 Repubs.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I think McKnight hands down is the best candidate in the Bexar Sheriff's race, on either side. I was glad to see the Express News endorsed him in the R primary, and I hope he wins, though he's swimming upstream from national political trends, as your turnout numbers suggest. I expect big D turnout in Bexar in November.

elvez1975 said...

I've seen ads for all candidates but Rick Reed. Montford's definitely seem to air with greater frequency, and she seems dedicated to this "for the children" line. Maybe it's just how I feel about her (and her ties to big business), but she just seems so plastic.

Lehmberg's ads emphasize her strongest points: her experience and her connection with Ronnie Earle. (Anyone who has been around the criminal court system for a while (not me, but "old folks" I've spoken to...) will tell you that Rosemary has been the driving force behind the Travis County DA's office for some time and that makes this ad ironic, but in a positive way.)

I hated Gary Cobb's ad the one and only time I saw it. He doesn't come across well in it (walking around a playground) or in the debate that aired this weekend on News 8.

(FWIW, Rick Reed stinks to me. He tried to run for Dallas DA a few years back, lost, came down here, and is trying to do what he couldn't do in Dallas County. I've got a big problem with him burning bridges at the DA's office, and the death penalty thing reeks as a desperate push to gain office. His "misremebering" of the dialogue surrounding the decision to go after DeLay also give me pause....)

Anonymous said...

In the courtroom hearsay is not admissible. What really "stinks" is for someone to talk about Rick Reed's "misrembering" of dialogue concerning Delay when they're taking one person's word over another and they weren't even present for the conversation. I've known Rick for over 40 years and he has always been a person of integrity and honesty. I choose to believe his version of that conversation and encourage others to also.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a great day for Texas when someone (elvez1975) criticizes a candidate for coming out AGAINST the death penalty as a ploy to gain elected office. Usually people in Texas have campaigned to see who could be the most PRO-DEATH PENALTY.

In the past, candidates have been afraid to do what Reed is doing. I hope Rick Reed wins and that in the future we have more candidates who follow his example by standing up and saying the death penalty system in Texas is broken and executions need to stop.

I trust Rick Reed more than any of the other candidates. He has my vote.

elvez1975 said...

I'll go out on a limb and say that in Austin, coming out against the death penalty could be considered a political ploy, given our lefty leanings.

I oppose the death penalty and personally think it should be abolished. However, I think a few questions are in order: Did Rick work on any capital cases here or in Dallas? If so, why did he wait until now to quit working for a DA who does so? Or is this a recent epiphany? What does this position really mean in light of subsequent statements that he doesn't want to put his beliefs in the way of the rights of a victim's family? Doesn't opposing the death penalty require you to really oppose it and not just do so in a way that is fundamentally immaterial? Will he continue to ask juries to consider the death penalty, but under a heavy heart? Is this supposed to make a difference to someone who gets the death sentence?

You're right. I wasn't present for any of the deliberations about how to proceed on Delay's case. I am relying completely on hearsay to form my conclusions. But I'll take Ronnie Earle's version of that conversation over Mr. Reed's. Unless, of course, you were present for this conversation. Or are you just relying on hearsay?

Anonymous said...

From his statements in the press and on his website, I would say, he really opposes it and not in a way that is immaterial, but in a genuine heartfelt way that means that if he is elected, there will be no more death sentences in Travis County as long as he is DA.

From the Statesman:
Candidate Rick Reed, who resigned from Earle's office last week, said he would not seek the death penalty under any circumstances. Reed also said he wouldn't seek death warrants for the five condemned killers already on death row from Travis County. Death warrants, issued by a trial court at a prosecutor's request when the killer's appeals have run out, set dates of execution.

"I believe it is a mistake ... to seek the death penalty," said Reed, citing his moral opposition and the cost of prosecuting such cases.

"If I am elected District Attorney of Travis County I will not authorize the office to seek the death penalty during my tenure."

From his website:
Travis County Democrats will either opt to continue the barbaric practice of the death penalty ... or they will elect Rick Reed as Travis County's next District Attorney.

I can not wait to finally live in a community that does not use the death penalty and where I will not be excluded from juries because I could never vote to sentence anyone to death.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Elvez - fwiw, at the ACLU forum Reed said he informed the Dallas DA when he was first hired he opposed the death penalty and would inform his supervisor and remove himself in cases where it was in play. He was surprised, he said, when they hired him anyway.

He also talks a lot about resources, how an expensive DP trial means there's no money for extra prosecutors to do diversion, drug court, etc. Whether one agrees with him, I don't think this is a knee jerk decision or one made solely on political calculations.

elvez1975 said...

According to the Burnt Orange Report: "Mr. Reed stated that while he feels it is time to seriously consider taking capital punishment out of our laws, he does not want to put himself in a position to deny a victim's family their legal right to have the death penalty considered."

I point you to a Fox 7 news story posted 1/18/2008 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqjQoRmIpfc) where Rick Reed said: "[I oppose it but will still consider it because] [i]f I was presented with a victim's next of kin and they came in my office, I would be in a very difficult position if I said upfront, I'm not going to consider that."

He seems to say he opposes the death penalty but won't stop using it. Doesn't this make this plank of his platform a distinction without a difference? Those are his own words, it's a complete waffle, I question what his "real" position is, and it seems to me it was made for the purposes of political expediency.

Again, FWIW, I want to see the DP abolished. But even in Austin, that would likely mean a one-and-done term as DA, so I am exceedingly suspicious of someone who is claiming that they will enact this sort of policy.

Anonymous said...

Rick Reed has a long history of being against the death penalty and people who have worked with him in Dallas and in Austin have long known his views.

Reed has said many times since that FOX 7 news story that he would not seek the death penalty in any cases. Even in that interview, he said "we ought to seriously consider whether this is a law we should keep on the books".

I don't see why an anti-death penalty DA would be a "one and done". People are not going to become more pro-death penalty four years from now, they will be less so after seeing that it is possible to seek justice without using death.

If you are against the death penalty, vote for Rick Reed.

If you are for another candidate, because you have some special relationship with them, then you should get that candidate to take the same position as Reed. Whoever is elected should reflect the progressive values of the majority of the people of Travis County.

elvez1975 said...

You are either against the death penalty or your are not. You will either ask juries to give certain defendants the death penalty or you will not.

I realize that Mr. Reed's official position now is that he will not ask for the death penalty for any death-eligible defendants. I think it's fair game to take him to task for making statements which are ambiguous at best about how he will administer the law. It's not as if January 18th was that long ago. Why did he make that statement on January 18th (or whenever the original Fox broadcast date was) if he really is and was against the death penalty? Why make this statement, if, as many anonymous posters have asserted, he has always been against the death penalty? Why waiver, why pause? Especially if this is the defining element of his campaign?

I think many of your assumptions about the inevitability of the abolishment of the death penalty are not necessarily true. What happened after September 11, 2001? Do you think there were more or less people who would support executions of convicted terrorists? Just because we may believe that we inhabit the moral high ground on this debate does not automatically make the result we both want a certainty.

A DA's job is to prosecute people who break the laws of the State of Texas. A DA who refuses to do this is going to be ripe for the plucking when victims' families and police associations can easily point to defendants he helped to dodge that bullet. They will be able to point to his Jan. 18th interview in which he said the exact opposite of what he is saying now. And this is doubly true if any of those folks commit subsequent violent offenses while in prison.

I have no personal relationship with any candidate in this race, but there's a pragmatic dilemma here. Assuming for a second he could do an effective job as DA and would actually not ask for the death penalty, does Reed really have a chance to win this thing or enough votes to get into a runoff? Or is the likely outcome that any bump his candidacy gets will enable a Republican in Democrat's clothing like Montford to win the election.

Anonymous said...

The Nation magazine has an article on Rick Reed.

Read it here.

Here is part of it:

"Beyond Reed's brave disavowal of capital punishment in Texas, which leads the nation in state executions, the longtime criminal prosecutor supports the increased use of drug courts and an increased diversion of drug possession cases into treatment programs rather than incarceration".

Anonymous said...

As for the statement below. Reed has not said he would not prosecute people who break the law. He has just said he would not seek the death penalty in capital cases, instead seeking life without parole, which is a position consistent with the local values of the community he is seeking to be elected by.

"A DA's job is to prosecute people who break the laws of the State of Texas. A DA who refuses to do this is going to be ripe for the plucking when victims' families and police associations can easily point to defendants he helped to dodge that bullet."

elvez1975 said...

I wouldn't say that if he does not seek the DP it wouldn't be consistent, just that he is going to take a ton of heat for it if he did pursue that policy. I don't think Travis County is so overwhelmingly against the DP that Reed or any other DA could withstand the barrage that will likely come out of such a policy choice.

I still ask, can he actually win? If not, is he doing more harm than good?

Anonymous said...

Reed can definitely come in the top two on March 4. One way he might miss the runoff is if one of the other candidates would modify their own positions on the death penalty and take the same position as Reed.

Montford is not going to do as well as you expect. There have been other well-financed candidates who on election day flamed out, like Ben Bentzin a few years ago.

The big loser in this is Gary Cobb, whose views on the death penalty seem most out of step with Travis County voters. If he were more progressive on the death penalty, he would do much better than he will.

At any rate, no matter what happens, it is going to be very close on March 4 between all four candidates.

elvez1975 said...

I think you overestimate the anti-DP support in Travis County. It may well be leaps and bounds above the rest of the State, but it is by no means a groundswell (given the influx of new residents over the last decade and a half).

Reed has now taken his stand (except for January 18th, I guess) and is betting that there will be enough support on this one issue to make him the winner. Because of my doubts about his sincerity on that issue, I think you have to consider the rest of his resume (which even if I thought he was sincere, this is something every responsible voter should do). I don't like how he handled the issue (trying to take credit for DeLay prosecution), and I think he lacks the other candidates' experience outside the PI unit. Plus, it will be hard for him to come back into that office the way he left.

elvez1975 said...

Just to give you a general idea, there are 12 active capital cases (not including those that the DA could have filed as capital cases but will not or has not) against individual defendants in Travis County versus about 6,520 other felonies. That means that these cases would be about .18% of the DA's total cases (obviously they take these a lot more seriously), but it's still worth thinking about that the DA has to do work beyond capital cases.

Anonymous said...

A Harris County Lawyer said...
No ads on TV for the Harris County D.A. race yet.

From the first report of campaign contributions, I don't think any of the candidates have the money.

2/20/2008 07:06:00 AM

Well, that's not totally true. Lykos has money, and even more, the endorsement of "the" Republican party in Houston and of the Houston Chronicle.

AHCL's website started out as a great examination of the Houston DA's office, but quickly lapsed into a "Kelly Rosenthal for DA" paid political advertisement, so much so that it has become a parody of itself.

Bradford or Lykos will be the winner in November.