For which the Chron has an overview.
A political newcomer with a famous family name, Houston attorney Zack Fertitta, 36, hopes to succeed Lykos – if, that is, he gets past a perennial candidate in the Democratic primary and if he bolsters his name recognition among Harris County voters.
His opponent, Houston lawyer Lloyd Oliver, 68, may be better known than Fertitta, not for his accomplishments, but simply for having run so often in races he had little chance of winning. A Lubbock native who grew up in Dallas, Oliver worked in the district attorney’s office in the mid-1970s, “but that didn’t work out.”
He has practiced criminal law in Harris County for more than 35 years and first ran for state district judge in 1994 as a Democrat. Two years later, he ran for the same office as a Republican. In 2010, he ran as a Democrat while under indictment for barratry, a charge that later was dropped. He lost the race.
Interviewed recently on the public-access TV show “Reasonable Doubt,” he said he has been indicted two or three times by the district attorney’s office, but has never been convicted.
Oliver was indicted on the barratry charge without appearing before the grand jury, but that indictment was dismissed. A second grand jury asked to hear his side of the allegations.
“After hearing my side of the story, the grand jury no-billed me. There was no merit to it.” he said. “I was a victim of the system.”
Accustomed to being asked about his well-known second cousin, Landry’s Restaurant founder and River Oaks billionaire Tilman Fertitta, he often explains the family connection before being asked. He concedes he has not been that active in Democratic Party politics, but as a former assistant district attorney and now a criminal defense lawyer, he insists he is well qualified to repair what he considers a broken district attorney’s office.
“The D.A.’s office is the hub of law enforcement in Harris County,” he said. “Now, you have an environment where law enforcement doesn’t trust the D.A.’s office. Seven thousand untested rape kits. One hundred two prosecutors out of 234 have left in 36 months. Imagine if 102 lawyers walked out of Baker Botts in 36 months. What kind of questions would the management committee be asking themselves?”
Fertitta, who worked in the district attorney’s office three years, is 20 years younger than Republican candidate Mike Anderson and more than three decades younger than Lykos. He insists the office is mired in the past, that it’s time for a change and that he is the person to bring that change about.
“I think I’m more in touch with modern investigation techniques and Fourth Amendment trends, and I’m the only candidate in the race who’s tried a case in the past decade,” he said last week. “I think you need an active trial attorney leading that office. You’d see a 180-degree change in terms of morale.”
Fertitta said a district attorney’s office under his leadership would establish a forensic science division, modeled in part on the state-of-the-art unit in Los Angeles. Priority No. 2, he said, would be to set up a special unit of prosecutors and Houston Police Department investigators, “and their sole purpose in life is to reduce and eliminate that 7,000 rape kit backlog. … If you’re the head law-enforcement official of Harris County, it’s your job to make sure that property room doesn’t have rape kits stacking up.”
As a reminder, my interview with Zack Fertitta is here. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: Zack Fertitta is the clear choice in this race. Oliver’s own words make that case even better than I did. It’s simple: A vote for Zack Fertitta is a vote for a young, well-qualified candidate who will give the Democrats their best chance to win, and will give Harris County a genuinely new perspective and direction in the District Attorney’s office. A vote for Lloyd Oliver is a vote for not contesting the race in November. I don’t know what else there is to say.