Friday, October 31, 2014

Last minute oppo dumps in Harris DA race, y otras historias

Here are several items which haven't made it into independent posts this week but which merit readers' attention:

Blog vs. blog in Harris DA race
The gloves are coming off as the blogosphere dukes it out over the Harris County District Attorney race. Read Big Jolly on Devon Anderson and Murray Newman on Kim Ogg. Murray's complaint seems to be that Ogg complied with a court order rather than defy a judge and go to jail for contempt of court. And here's Jolly's cheapest shot:
Prostitute Court – Ms. Anderson wants to create a special court for prostitutes because “they are victims”. Yeah, right. [Ed. note: Yeah, really.]

Teachers – Ms. Anderson is going to help HISD crack down on cheating because teachers can’t be trusted. But hey, prostitutes, ya know?
Unfair? Perhaps. But it's also really funny. What this tells me is that the campaigns are dumping the kitchen sink on one another and the stuff that couldn't get placed on TV news or in the Chronicle is now being handed to folks at the Houston Press, second-tier media and bloggers to disseminate as widely as they can before election day. Nothing wrong with that. If campaigns didn't raise the issues, it's not like the media would lay out the strongest cases against candidates or dig up dirty laundry at the DA's office on their own. Some stories only ever get told if somebody has an interest in telling them.

That said, when I worked professionally as an opposition researcher I loathed these end-of-race mud-fests, which (to me) usually are the mark of a statistically close and strategically sloppy campaign. Anyone can go ballistic. The art to oppo work is to find the Big Theme that will both defeat an opponent and simultaneously elevate your candidate, not to hit the other side with everything you've got and hope for the best. ("Those who win every battle are not really skillful," the ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu opined, while "those who render others' armies helpless without fighting are the best of all.") Such kitchen-sink tactics reek of desperation by both sides. But then, there's a lot at stake. I will say it's much more fun to watch the process as a non-participant.

Is Craig Watkins in electoral trouble?
The Dallas News has a detailed analysis of the DA's race in that county. There, Republican Susan Hawk has run a more disciplined campaign than we've seen in Houston, in part because incumbent Craig Watkins seems to have barely taken the field, raising little money, using family members as campaign staff, and relying on the Wendy Davis campaign to drive turnout. So Hawk can control her own message more effectively, attacking on broad themes and letting the media and her opponent's own tone-deaf responses to their stories do most of the dirty work for her. Meanwhile, Watkins doesn't have money to frame his own message on TV, which leaves his image in the hands of his opponent and his attacks in the hands of the local press, which has not lately been kind to him. A couple of weeks ago I thought he was still the betting favorite; today I think it's a coin flip, at best. Hot race.

Human rights panel reviews hot Texas prisons
Speaking of hot, the Houston Chronicle reported that "The head of an international human rights panel recommended Monday that the federal government intercede in a legal dispute over excessive heat in Texas prisons." Texas officials say the group shouldn't be reviewing the matter until pending federal litigation is complete. See related recent coverage from The Atlantic.

A primer on approved interrogation tactics at Dallas PD
Texas Monthly's Skip Hollandsworth has a long-form piece based on the civil suit by Olivia Lord, a Dallas woman who was falsely accused by police of her husband's death (he committed suicide, see prior Grits coverage) and subjected to bullying interrogation tactics by a Dallas detective who moonlighted for the TV show The First 48.

The strange detention of Cheryl Irvin
Check out this strange story of Judge Denise Collins in Houston ordering the (probably illegal) detention of a criminal defense lawyer in her courtroom to prevent her from conferring with her client. (Probably another example of a last-minute oppo dump.)

Rod Ponton vs. Reason on synthetic drugs
West Texas DA Rod Ponton got angry with Reason magazine and fired off a 10-point rebuttal to a  of story about a synthetic drug case he's prosecuting. The magazine published his letter and addressed his points in detail, standing by their original story. Go see their back and forth along with the original article that got Ponton riled up.

'How will a small town in Arizona manage an ICE facility in Texas?'
A story from NPR with the same title as this subhed relays bizarre news regarding the management structure of what's about to become the largest immigrant detention center in the country in South Texas.

'Cops need to obey Facebook's rules'
You can't create fake profiles on Facebook, but law enforcement feels free to do so. Facebook wants them to stop.

Should the Fourth Amendment keep hotels from providing guest info to police without a warrant?
The Supreme Court will answer the question in a case they've agreed to hear from the Ninth Circuit. Here's an academic paper arguing that "the expectation of privacy in hotels should be measured in the same way that the Fourth Amendment deals with other types of residences."


Dr Hilarius said...

I was faintly hoping "The Daily Show", which was broadcast from Austin this week, would touch on some of the Texas justice issues mentioned here. But aside from last night's jerrymandered Austin story, nothing really.

Anonymous said...

Posting a link to Newman's blog? The same Murray Newman who worked for Cluck Rosenthal, and supported him even after revelations he had been a pillhead the entire time he served as the district attorney, and sent the most atrocious, racist emails to every ADA in the office? The same Murray Newman who supported the alcoholic Michael Anderson for DA in the previous election?

Anonymous said...

Michael Anderson "the alcoholic"? Shame on you Anonymous@11:48. Let the man rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

Jolly has made it clear over the years that he considers himself a far right republican who would sooner chop off his arm than vote for a democrat. That makes his support of Ogg curious, the lady calling for all voters to support a straight democratic judicial ticket rather than select the best from both parties. It is my understanding that this is payback for Anderson's husband kicking Lykos to the curb, Jolly long a blind follower of the woman. That Ogg is set to hire numerous staffers from the former Lykos camp, likely to include those who engaged in those drug cases mentioned in another article, is just the icing on the cake.

Given how many billions of our tax dollars are spent on education in this state, it is refreshing that Anderson is willing to assist local school districts in prosecuting teachers that violate the law too. I know that doesn't sit well with Gayle Fallon, a woman who has never seen a teacher break the law apparently, but we deserve better than to ignore such matters.

Waco fan said...

The race for DA is McLennan County (Waco) has gotten more interesting. The Waco Trib is quoting DA Albel Reyna's former first assistant as saying "First, I lost all confidence in Abel Reyna’s leadership, And secondly, I wanted no part of a two-tiered justice system in which a favored few received special, preferential treatment. It’s wrong and contrary to the basic belief that I’ve always held as a prosecutor that a person’s connections and status in the community should not determine how they’re treated in the criminal justice system.”

The write in candidate in this race, Robert Callahan, is well respected and may be able to pull off a win.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I wish folks like Mr. Callahan or Mark Bennett (running for the CCA as a Libertarian) would suck up and run as a major party candidate, R or D. A write-in or Libertarian candidate cannot win and IMO is a waste of time - he likely won't get within 40 points of Reyna. A D could win in Waco when the R falters as badly as Reyna. Or he could have been challenged in the R primary. (I think Bennett could have won an R nomination for CCA this year if he'd bothered.)

Running as a write-in or third party candidate means your goal is to make a statement, not win the election, and there's already too much statement-making and not enough focus on accomplishment in Texas' political life.

Anonymous said...

This post shows up in its entirety and without attribution at

Nice of a law firm to steal your blog.