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Elaine Palmer

Endorsement watch: Civil incumbents, part 2

The Chron continues a theme.

HarrisCounty

151st Civil District Court: Mike Engelhart

If you commute along the Southwest Freeway, then you probably know Judge Mike Engelhart from his big red billboard at Greenbriar Drive, which informs drivers that the two-term Democratic incumbent was voted trial judge of the year by the Texas Association of Civil Trial and Appellate Specialists. But billboards cost money, and in their meeting with the editorial board, Engelhart’s Republican opponent Jeff Hastings bopped the sitting judge for his prolific fundraising – even from lawyers who practice in his court.

Engelhart’s response? “I fundraise for this position because I want to win this election.”

And he should win. Engelhart has developed a reputation as a terrific judge with an impressive work ethic.

152nd Civil District Court: Robert K. Schaffer

Over his two terms on the bench, Judge Robert Schaffer has been elected by his colleagues to important leadership positions such as local administrative judge, and voters should follow their lead by electing Schaffer to another term.

164th Civil District Court: Alexandra Smoots-Hogan

Many judicial challengers pick their races just to ensure that their preferred party has a candidate on the ballot. Republican Bruce Bain picked this court specifically to remedy the perceived inefficiencies and failings of Democratic incumbent Alexandra Smoots-Hogan.

In a meeting with the editorial board, Smoots-Hogan admitted that she could be more perceptive to lawyers’ hurt feelings, but wasn’t sure whether that actually impacted the real work of her court.

165th Civil District Court: Debra Ibarra Mayfield

Debra Ibarra Mayfield came up through the ranks of the judiciary, proudly proclaiming that she served as the first Latina judge in the Harris County civil courts at law before being appointed to this post by Gov. Greg Abbott last year. The Houston College of Law graduate began her legal career as a briefing attorney for the Fourteenth Court of Appeals. Mayfield, the first in her family to attend college, brings a refreshing openness to the bench. She’s also an adjunct professor at University of Houston College of Law.

215th Civil District Court: Fred Shuchart

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Judge Elaine Palmer needs to be removed from her seat.

333rd Civil District Court: Joseph “Tad” Halbach

Republican Joseph “Tad” Halbach, 60, who took the bench more than two decades ago, says he still has a “fire in his belly” for the judiciary and should continue to serve. Board certified in civil trial law, Halbach is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Law Center and consistently gets high ratings from his peers on Houston Bar Association polls.

334th Civil District Court: Grant Dorfman

In this race between two highly qualified and experienced candidates, we urge voters to keep incumbent Judge Grant Dorfman on the bench in the 334th civil district court.

So all incumbents except for one, with the one exception being what I predicted last time. The only close call was Judge Smoots-Hogan, who is apparently on notice. We’ll see how the Criminal Court judges do.

Democratic primary runoff results

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Harris County results

Fort Bend County results

Statewide results

Trib liveblog

Just for the record, we didn’t get any precinct results until 8:34, at which time only 8% of precincts had reported. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because of overwhelming turnout this time. We did get a big batch just after 9, but thanks to some close races, Harris County results will be the last ones I write about in this post.

Grady Yarbrough cements his position as this generation’s Gene Kelly by winning the Railroad Commissioner runoff. I’ll say again, you want a decent candidate to win these downballot primaries, especially against a perennial candidate, you’re going to need some investment in those races.

On a more interesting note, first-time candidate Vicente Gonzalez won the runoff in CD15 to succeed retiring Rep. Ruben Hinojosa. Gonzalez drew support from a bunch of Congressional incumbents, including the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Someone at least thinks he has a bright future, so keep an eye on him.

In Bexar County, Barbara Gervin-Hawkins will succeed retiring Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon in HD120.

In fairness to Stan Stanart, the Fort Bend County result reporting was even worse. They posted some precinct results a few minutes before Harris did, then bizarrely went back to showing early votes with zero precincts in. That was still the case as of 9:45 PM, then finally at 10 PM all the results came in at once. The deservedly maligned Rep. Ron Reynolds led 59-41 after early voting, then held on for a 53-47 margin. I wonder if voters were changing their minds, or if it was just the nature of Reynolds supporters to vote early. Whatever the case, he won.

And from Harris County:

– Dakota Carter wins in SBOE6.
– Ed Gonzalez will be the nominee for Sheriff.
– Judge Elaine Palmer easily held off JoAnn Storey for the 215th Civil District Court. Kristin Hawkins had an easy win for the 11th. The closest race of the evening was in the 61st, where Fredericka Phillips nosed out Julie Countiss by 210 votes after overcoming a small early lead by Countiss.
– Eric William Carter won in JP Precinct 1, while Hilary Green held on in JP Precinct 7.
– Chris Diaz romped in Constable Precinct 2, while Sherman Eagleton cruised in Constable Precinct 3.

And finally, Jarvis Johnson won in HD139, entirely on the strength of absentee ballots. Kimberly Willis won the early in-person vote as well as the Runoff Day vote, but not by a large enough margin given the modest number of people who turned out. Johnson will have the seniority advantage over his fellow freshmen thanks to his win in the special election, but this is not the kind of result that will scare anyone off for the next cycle.

Roundup of runoff candidate interviews and Q&As

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As we know, early voting for the primary runoffs begins in a week. I did my usual series of interviews and judicial Q&As for the primary, but there were a few candidates I didn’t get to for one reason or another. So, to refresh everyone’s memory and to give another chance to get acquainted with who will be on the Democratic runoff ballot, here are links to all those interviews and Q&As for your convenience. Remember that turnout in this election is likely to be quite low, so your vote really matters.

SBOE 6

Dakota Carter
Jasmine Jenkins

HD27

Rep. Ron Reynolds
Angelique Brtholomew

(Note: Rep. Reynolds declined a request for an interview.)

HD139

Kimberly Willis
Jarvis Johnson

District Judge, 11th Judicial District

Kristen Hawkins
Rabeea Collier

District Judge, 61st Judicial District

Julie Countiss
Fredericka Phillips

District Judge, 215th Judicial District

Judge Elaine Palmer
JoAnn Storey

Sheriff

Ed Gonzalez
Jerome Moore

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, Place 1

Eric William Carter
Tanya Makany-Rivera

Runoff watch: Judicial races

There are three District Court race runoffs on the Democratic side, and two Court of Criminal Appeals runoffs for the Republicans. There are also a few Justice of the Peace runoffs, but I’ll deal with them in another post.

11th Civil District Court – Democratic

Kristen Hawkins

Kristen Hawkins

Kristem Hawkins led this three-candidate race by a wide margin, coming within 1000 votes of an outright win. Runnerup Rabeea Collier finished just 170 votes ahead of third-place candidate Jim Lewis. Given the narrowness of that margin, I’m actually a bit surprised there hasn’t been a call for a recount, but as far as I know there hasn’t been one.

Hawkins’ Q&A is here, and Collier’s is here. This race is fascinating because there’s no clear reason why it went the way it did. All three candidates were busy campaigners, and all three won endorsements from various groups, with Lewis getting the nod from the Chron. Hawkins was first on the ballot, but doesn’t appear to have been a major factor overall. Hawkins would seem to be a clear favorite in the runoff based on her near-win in March and commanding lead in vote total, but as we know this runoff is going to be a low-turnout affair. Anything can happen.

61st Civil District Court – Democratic

This three-way race saw a much more even split of the vote than the 11th did. Frontrunner Fredericka Phillips had 38%, with second-place finisher Julie Countiss scoring 35%. In third was Dion Ramos, who won a partial term for the 55th District Court in 2008, but lost it in the 2010 wipeout.

Countiss’ Q&A is here; Phillips did not send me a response. Countiss’ campaign was by far the most visible, at least to me, and she collected most of the group endorsements. Phillips is the Vice Chair of the Texas Democratic Party as well as a past candidate for the 387th District Court in 2012 in Fort Bend, under her maiden name of Petry. The Chron endorsed Ramos for March, so they’ll have to revisit this one; the same is true for the 11th, where Lewis was their initial choice. I see this race as a tossup.

215th Civil District Court – Democratic

Easily the most interesting of the judicial runoffs, and the one with the most backstory. In 2012, District Court Judge Steve Kirkland was the only incumbent judge to face a primary challenge, from attorney Elaine Palmer. Palmer’s campaign was lavishly funded by attorney George Fleming, who bore a grudge against Kirkland, and that animus made this an ugly, divisive race that Palmer ultimately won. Palmer went on to win in November, and now in 2016 she is the only incumbent judge facing a primary challenge. Three candidates filed against her, with JoAnn Storey leading the pack into overtime.

Judge Palmer’s Q&A is here, and Storey’s is here. Palmer led all the way but was never close to a majority, ending up with 43% to Storey’s 27%. If there’s a judicial race that will draw out voters, it will be this one, as Kirkland supporters, in particular the HGLBT Political Caucus, have a shot at avenging that 2012 race. Storey got most of the group endorsements for March, which in itself is remarkable given that she was challenging an incumbent, though the Caucus went with Josh Verde in Round One. I expect that will be handled for the runoff, and that I’ll be hearing from them as attention turns towards the vote. As for Palmer, if Fleming is still financing her it’s not apparent – the only report I can find for her is the January filing, for which she reported no contributions for the period. Again, this one could go either way, but I feel like Storey has a slight edge.

Court of Criminal Appeals – Republican

There are two Republican runoffs for the CCA. I’m just going to quote Grits for Breakfast about them.

Grits suggested before the primary that I’d “be watching the Sid Harle/Steve Smith race on the Court of Criminal Appeals to see if Texas GOP voters have flat-out lost their minds.”

Short answer: They have.

Judge Harle, who arguably was the most qualified and well-respected jurist on the ballot, didn’t even make the runoff to replace Cheryl Johnson on the court. Instead, a lawyer named Scott Walker who according to press accounts had “chosen not to campaign,” led the field with 41%. He’ll face Brent Webster, who ran on an anti-abortion platform unrelated to the activities of the Court of Criminal Appeals and garnered 20.45% of the vote.

Steve Smith ran third with 19.6%, with Harle trailing at 4th with 18.5%

Walker was popular because he shares a name with the Wisconsin governor who at one point appeared to be a presidential frontrunner before the Trump phenomenon erupted. Webster, presumably, benefited from his (irrelevant) pro-life bona fides, though so little is spent on these elections I suspect most people who voted for him knew nothing at all about him.

In the race between Mary Lou Keel, Chris Oldner, and Tea Partier Ray Wheless, Keel and Wheless made the runoff. Keel led, barely, but Wheless’ base is more likely to turn out in the runoff. Keel and Oldner have disparaged Wheless, whose background is mostly in civil law, as unqualified, although Rick Perry appointed him to a district court seat.

Voters in the GOP primary clearly didn’t have a clue about these CCA races. They may as well have drawn lots for Johnson’s seat. These races are so underfunded for a state the size of Texas that candidates can’t meaningfully get their messages out and voters have no way to know anything about them.

The Walker/Webster runoff is the strongest argument in my adult lifetime for appointing judges instead of electing them. What an embarrassment.

So there you have it. As a reminder, there are Democratic candidates in each of these races. I admit, that’s unlikely to matter, but I thought I’d put it out there anyway.

2016 primaries: Harris County

Though this will be the first entry published in the morning, it was the last one I wrote last night, and I’m super tired. So, I’m going to make this brief.

Harris County Dem resultsHarris County GOP results

Democratic races of interest, with about 86% of precincts reporting

District Attorney: Kim Ogg with 51%, so no runoff needed.

Sheriff: Ed Gonzalez (43%) and Jerome Moore (30%) in the runoff.

Tax Assessor: Ann Harris Bennett (61%) gets another crack at it.

Judicial races: Some close, some blowouts, some runoffs. Jim Sharp will not be on the ballot, as Candance White won easily, while the one contested district court race that featured an incumbent will go to overtime. Elaine Palmer in the 215th will face JoAnn Storey, after drawing 43% of the vote to Storey’s 28%. Those who are still smarting from Palmer’s unlovely ouster of Steve Kirkland in 2012 will get their chance to exact revenge on May 24.

Turnout: For some reason, Dem results were reporting a lot more slowly than GOP results. As of midnight, nearly 150 precincts were still out. At that time, Dem turnout had topped 200,000, so the final number is likely to be in the 210,000 to 220,000 range. That’s well short of 2008, of course, but well ahead of projections, and nobody could call it lackluster or disappointing. As was the case in 2008, some 60% of the vote came on Election Day. I think the lesson to draw here is that when there is a real Presidential race, fewer people vote early than you’d normally expect.

Republican races of interest, with 92% of precincts reporting

Sheriff: Ron Hickman, with 72%.

Tax Assessor: Mike Sullivan, with 83%. Kudos for not being that stupid, y’all.

County Attorney: Jim Leitner, with 53%.

Strange (to me) result of the night: GOP Chair Paul Simpson was forced to a runoff, against someone named Rick Ramos. Both had about 39% of the vote. What’s up with that?

Turnout: With 67 precincts to go, just over 300,000 total votes. Interestingly, that was right on Stan Stanart’s initial, exuberant projection. He nailed the GOP side, he just woefully underestimated the Dems.

Bedtime for me. I’m sure there will be plenty more to say in the coming days. What are your reactions?

Judicial Q&A: Judge Elaine Palmer

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote in March. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2016 Election page.)

Judge Elaine Palmer

Judge Elaine Palmer

1. Who are you and what are you running for?

My name is Elaine Palmer and I am the presiding Judge of the 215th Civil District Court. Our Civil Justice Court is a tool for righting wrongs, equalizing the disparities between the rich and the poor, leveling the playing field between the powerful and the powerless, and achieving social justice. I understand that our civil courts are often the last resort for those who have suffered physical, mental and/or economic harm, discrimination, wrongful termination, or deprivation of their civil and human rights. It has been my job for the past three (3) years to ensure that my courtroom is a place where people are treated with dignity, respect and a sense of urgency. I am committed to make this happen and to continue to strive to get better.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 215th Civil District Court hearings cases involving disputes between parties who have suffered physical, mental and/or economic harm, discrimination, wrongful termination, or deprivation of their civil or human rights.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for the 215th Civil District Court because this was the first Civil District Court in Harris County that an African American elected to the bench.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have served as the presiding Judge of this Court for the past three (3) years and prior to serving on the bench I practiced law for fifteen (15) years as Solo Practitioner. I represented clients from all financial backgrounds and it was my mission to treat each of them with dignity and respect.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because as I said above our civil justice courts are often the last resort for those who have suffered physical, mental and/or economic harm. Our Civil Justice Court is a tool for righting wrongs, equalizing the disparities between the rich and the poor, leveling the playing field between the powerful and the powerless and achieving social justice.

6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?

My desire to serve the citizens of Harris County and to continue the reforms that I have brought to the 215th Civil District Court. My reforms have improved efficiency, reduced costs and provided certainty for the parties and their lawyers. It is my goal to make sure that all citizens are treated with dignity and respect. I will continue to bring compassion, understanding and reason to my rulings in the 215th.

.

Kirkland v Fleming goes national

Lisa Falkenberg writes the followup column on George Fleming and his repeat attempt to underwrite a campaign challenge to Steven Kirkland that I figured she’d write.

George Fleming

Fleming’s contributions to a political action committee called Moving Texas Forward – $75,000 from him and $10,000 from another of his PACs, according to records – have helped foot the bill for a new wave of attacks that have filled mailboxes, in-boxes and radio waves in recent days. All focus on Kirkland’s old record.

Gray, who according to records has taken $15,000 from Fleming and $35,000 from one of his PACs, hasn’t engaged in the attacks. She released a statement saying, in part: “If any independent groups are saying anything untrue about Steve Kirkland, they should stop immediately.”

But she hasn’t condemned the deceitful nature of the ads. And that’s a mistake, as was taking Fleming’s money with no questions asked.

Kirkland’s DWIs are shameful, no doubt. But the attack ads never mention the dates of the arrests. On the contrary, they make it seem like they happened yesterday.

[…]

Justin Jordan, who works as Gray’s campaign consultant, and has been paid thousands to do advertising by a Fleming PAC that’s supporting Gray, defended the ads.

Asked why a 30-year-old DWI is relevant in a judicial race, Jordan at first hesitated: “I’m not sure. Judge Kirkland made that an issue.”

“How?” I asked.

“He talked about it,” Jordan said. “I think his record is fair game.”

Jordan denied that the ads were misleading, including one mailer featuring scary drunken driving statistics and court documents detailing Kirkland’s conviction, jail sentence and license suspension. The only date provided is one featured prominently, in big type, near the top right: May 2012.

“Whether it was 30 years ago or 30 days, a DWI is a DWI,” Jordan said. “If you have a public record you should defend it. And the only thing we’ve heard from Judge Kirkland’s campaign is whining and crying.”

Jordan’s explanation for the May 2012 reference? It was the date a photo of Kirkland included in the ad was taken. Apparently, it’s more important we know when a random photo of Kirkland was taken in his chambers than when he actually committed the offenses at the heart of the attack ad.

See here and here for the background. Sure, a DWI is relevant in a campaign. So is lying. Kirkland has been honest about his past history with alcohol. Too bad Fleming and Jordan aren’t being honest about their characterization of it. Hope it was worth it to you if you win, Lori Gray.

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post picked up the story and added a little bit more to what we already knew, but didn’t provide a fully accurate picture.

In an email to The Huffington Post, Fleming noted that he is a lifelong Democrat who frequently contributes and supports judicial elections in Texas. Like other lawyers, he said, he is invested in ensuring that the most competent judges ended up on the bench.

“I don’t have a vendetta against anyone,” he said. “Our selection in Texas of judicial candidates is an elective system. Like so many others, I participate in that system and have for many years.”

[…]

But if Fleming’s donations are based on merits, there haven’t been many candidates he’s found meritorious. Campaign finance records show that both he and his PAC got involved in just two other races after [the 2012 primary between Kirkland and now-Judge Elaine Palmer]. The first was a state representative campaign.

The second was to support Lori Gray, a lawyer who is currently running against Kirkland in the Democratic primary for a seat on the 113th District Court.

I was a bit suspicious of that “after the 2012 primary” formulation, so I went and did a search by Contributor for both George Fleming and the Texans For Good Leaders PAC. It’s true that the latter has mostly been active since 2012, and has only contributed to one other candidate – State Rep. Richard Raymond – besides Palmer and Gray, though they did contribute $5,000 to the HCDP in 2009. However, Fleming himself does have an extensive history of contributions to mostly Democratic candidates. I searched from January 1, 2000 onward, and he gave quite a bit to the likes of Ellen Cohen, Kristi Thibaut, Susan Criss, and a few Democratic judicial candidates in 2008. He also gave $20K to Friends Of Carole Keeton Strayhorn in 2005, $1,000 to now-Supreme Court Justice Jeff Brown, and ironically enough $250 to Steven Kirkland in 2011. So much for that. Be that as it may, Fleming’s defense of himself has some merit, but by the same token in a year like this there are far better causes to which to contribute. It also doesn’t mitigate the bad acts of his anti-Kirkland crusade. If you want to be known by the body of your work, it’s best not to have one example of your work stand in stark contrast to everything else you’ve done.

Revisiting George Fleming

Lisa Falkenberg catches up with an old friend.

George Fleming

Trial lawyer George Fleming was calm and gracious when he took questions back in 2012, insisting that his bankrolling of a respected judge’s no-name opponent had nothing to do with his own displeasure with that particular jurist.

“No, no,” Fleming assured my colleague Patti Kilday Hart. “The way I show displeasure (with a judge) is I appeal his rulings.”

Fleming did appeal Judge Steven Kirkland’s unfavorable ruling that could have cost his firm as much as $13 million.

Then the wealthy lawyer of Fen-Phen-fighting fame became the only financial backer of the judge’s Democratic primary opponent, contributing individually and through his political action committee $35,000.

The opponent, now state district Judge Elaine H. Palmer, ran an ugly, bruising campaign with plenty of below-the-belt jabs at Kirkland. He was ousted and is now a Houston assistant city attorney and communications law lecturer at the University of Houston.

Kirkland is back campaigning again this year, trying for another bench: the 113th District Court. And Fleming is back as well, as the sole contributor to Kirkland’s new opponent, Lori C. Gray.

This time, when Fleming took my questions on his contributions, he was practically seething at the media criticism his involvement has drawn. And, this time, he acknowledged his motivations, saying the “personal experience” in Kirkland’s court, which led to years of unnecessary appeals, has driven him to keep the judge off the bench.

Elaine Palmer actually had multiple donors in 2012, though Fleming was one of the bigger ones, and was likely the driving force behind the others who donated to her. Kirkland’s 2014 opponent, Lori Gray, reported $35K on her January filing, all of which came from Fleming and his PAC. I’m sorry Fleming has his undies in a twist about the attention he’s getting, but what did he expect would happen?

To Gray’s credit, she hasn’t engaged in the nasty, misleading mudslinging that marked Palmer’s campaign. Gray, a lawyer for 25 years who won her 2010 primary for judge, says she respects Kirkland and wants to focus on the issues, such as cutting down litigation costs.

But she makes no apologies for accepting Fleming’s money, which she says could never sway or influence her. Fleming isn’t her only supporter, she says, noting she’s got plenty of volunteers giving time and energy, if not money.

“I am not for sale,” Gray said. “I am no slave. I am a private attorney who has a contributor, for whatever reason he chose to support my campaign, I didn’t ask him. And it is not my business.”

I don’t know Lori Gray. She does now have a campaign webpage, but any campaign activity she’s been engaged in has been invisible to me. She didn’t return my judicial Q&A, though she did submit one to Texpatriate. I don’t know why she chose to run for this court, but her explanation strikes me as just a wee bit naive. Gray ran for County Criminal Court #10 in 2010 in a contested primary, winning a close race (page 21) in which she overcame being listed second on the ballot, which was a kiss of death for most other candidates that year. Why she chose to run for this particular Civil District court, the only Civil District court that features a contested Democratic primary and the one in which you have to know George Fleming would get involved, when there were several County Criminal courts lacking a Democratic candidate – County Civil Court At Law #4 also has no Dem running – is a question only she can answer. Maybe she thought this court was the best fit for her talents, maybe she thought it was her best shot to win even with the contested primary, maybe she just thought Steve Kirkland is a lousy candidate. All of these would be valid reasons, but to profess ignorance of Fleming and his motives is not believable. Again, what did she think would happen? Whatever the result of this race, it will serve as another example of what people hate about our partisan judicial election system. I’ve yet to be convinced that any of the (mostly half-baked) alternatives to it are any better, but this adds fuel to the idea that anything else would be better.

Precinct analysis: The two races we’re all glad to see the end of

For my last look at precinct data from the Harris County Democratic primary of 2012, let’s see what happened in the two most contentious races on the ballot: Elaine Palmer versus Steven Kirkland, and Keryl Douglass versus Lane Lewis. First up, Palmer-Kirkland:

Dist Palmer Kirkland Palmer % =============================== 126 791 417 65.48% 127 860 466 64.86% 128 815 615 56.99% 129 1155 878 56.81% 130 582 322 64.38% 131 3894 1785 68.57% 132 662 350 65.42% 133 803 884 47.60% 134 1393 2614 34.76% 135 731 401 64.58% 137 816 563 59.17% 138 649 511 55.95% 139 3266 1514 68.33% 140 897 461 66.05% 141 2547 963 72.56% 142 2992 1332 69.20% 143 1859 1122 62.36% 144 944 638 59.67% 145 982 708 58.11% 146 4546 2275 66.65% 147 4224 2710 60.92% 148 1077 1305 45.21% 149 847 514 62.23% 150 647 419 60.69%

Palmer won by a 61.5 to 38.5 margin, so her domination of the districts is not surprising. Never underestimate a large budget and a boundless willingness to go negative. Kirkland did have a base of support, it just wasn’t big enough to withstand the assault. It will be interesting to return to the precinct results in November to see how long the memories of Kirkland’s supporters are. My guess is that Palmer is going to underperform the Democratic baseline overall, and will probably do worse in the districts that Kirkland carried. Good thing for the people who bankrolled Palmer that it wasn’t actually about her winning. They’ve already done what they set out to do.

I don’t know about you, but when the early vote results came in and I first saw the Palmer-Kirkland numbers as I was scrolling through them, I cringed. I was convinced that if Palmer was winning, so too would Keryl Douglass be winning. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.

Dist Lewis Douglas Douglas % ============================== 126 621 568 47.77% 127 741 574 43.65% 128 891 550 38.17% 129 1224 734 37.49% 130 494 405 45.05% 131 2629 2884 52.31% 132 540 471 46.59% 133 984 576 36.92% 134 2687 962 26.36% 135 627 497 44.22% 137 811 542 40.06% 138 707 422 37.38% 139 2262 2483 52.33% 140 827 564 40.55% 141 1609 1881 53.90% 142 2062 2112 50.60% 143 1815 1213 40.06% 144 1066 584 35.39% 145 1103 596 35.08% 146 3016 3449 53.35% 147 3407 3181 48.28% 148 1609 746 31.68% 149 757 594 43.97% 150 601 455 43.09%

Douglass carried five of the six African-American State Rep districts, but by relatively small margins. She did not win anywhere else. She also didn’t have anywhere near as much money as Palmer had, and I have to believe that in the end, the homophobic campaign email – whether her campaign had something to do with it or not – and push cards did not help her. I can’t say for certain that they hurt her, but I think it is safe to say that this was the wrong year to be on the wrong side of the equality issue, at least in a Democratic primary. If this is the last year that it’s even a question, I’ll consider that to be one of the better things to come out of this primary.

Democratic results, Harris County

The good:

– Lane Lewis won a full term as HCDP Chair by a 55-45 margin. If you heard a whizzing noise this evening, it was the bullet we all dodged in this race.

– Sheriff Adrian Garcia easily won renomination with over 70% of the vote.

– State Reps. Garnet Coleman and Borris Miles won their races. We may finally have seen the last of Al Edwards.

– Sean Hammerle held off Dave Wilson in Commissioners Court Precinct 4. It was a close race, but the forces of good prevailed.

The bad:

– Jarvis Johnson, who finally held a campaign event during the first week of early voting, nearly won HCDE Position 6, Precinct 1 outright. A late surge by Erica Lee pushed him into a runoff. It’s not that I have anything against Johnson, but he didn’t lift a finger during this race and he was up against two much more qualified opponents. There’s nothing like being a familiar name in a race like this.

– Elaine Palmer drubbed Judge Steve Kirkland, winning over 60% of the vote. I’ll be honest, I had thought that Palmer and Keryl Douglas would win or lose together, but Douglas didn’t have much money, and really didn’t do that much campaigning. Palmer had plenty of money and it worked for her. I wonder if her financial backers will be there for her in November.

The ugly:

– Perennial candidate Lloyd Oliver became the heir apparent to Gene Kelly by defeating the vastly better qualified Zack Fertitta for the DA nomination. I just about threw up when I saw the early numbers, and they never got any better. Let this serve as a very painful example of what can happen when a good candidate doesn’t have enough money to raise his name ID up to the level of the barnacle that is running against him. You can assess the blame however you like for this debacle, all I know is that I will be skipping this race in November.

– If that isn’t bad enough, Kesha Rogers will once again be the “Democratic” nominee in CD22. KP George had an early lead based on a strong showing in Fort Bend County, but he lost in Harris and Brazoria, and that was enough. I don’t even know what to say.

The rest:

– Diane Trautman won the HCDE Position 3 At Large race against David Rosen. Traci Jensen scored a clean win in the three-way SBOE 6 primary. Dexter Smith won in SBOE 8.

– Rep. Alma Allen also successfully defended her seat, winning with 59% against Wanda Adams. Mary Ann Perez had a late burst to win the nomination in HD144 outright, while Gene Wu rode a strong early showing to the top spot in HD137. He garnered 44%, and will face Jamaal Smith, who had 23%, in the runoff.

– Lissa Squiers led the three-way race in CD07 with 40%. She will face James Cargas, who was second with 33%. Tawana Cadien will be the nominee in CD10.

– Incumbent JP Mike Parrott won re-election, as did incumbent Constables Ken Jones, Victor Trevino, and May Walker. In Constable Precinct 1, Alan Rosen and Cindy Vara-Leija will face off in overtime; Grady Castleberry had been running second but Vara-Leija overtook him late. In the Constable Precinct 2 cattle call, Zerick Guinn and Chris Diaz made the cut.

– Turnout was about 73,000, with almost exactly half of it coming on Election Day. Some people just don’t like voting early.

Endorsement watch: Kirkland

Nearly all of the judicial primary action this year is on the Republican side, since nearly all of the incumbents running for re-election are Democrats; there are no contested Democratic primaries for the few Republican-held benches. The one contested Democratic judicial primary is a challenge to a sitting judge, Judge Steven Kirkland on the 215th Civil District Court, and it’s been a high profile race with a lot of money in it as I noted on Sunday. The Chron has given their endorsement for this race to Judge Kirkland.

Elaine H. Palmer’s run against Kirkland is being financed almost exclusively by local plaintiff attorney George Fleming, who not incidentally lost a major judgment in the 215th court that could cost his firm millions of dollars.

Palmer, a 14-year attorney with a blended civil, criminal and traffic/misdemeanor practice, appears to be the chosen instrument of Fleming’s effort to oust Kirkland. Fleming’s law firm and a PAC he funds have contributed $35,000 to Palmer’s primary campaign.

An unintended consequence of Palmer’s candidacy to the county Democratic Party, well explained by Chronicle columnist Patricia Kilday Hart (“A little mystery over primary opposition to judge,” Page B1, April 19), is the clear potential it has brought for creation of a schism between the party’s crucial black and GLBT voting blocs. This would be destructive to Democrats well beyond a single contested primary race for a civil court bench.

Either way, we conclude, Palmer is the apparently unwitting partner to potentially damaging mischief to both Kirkland and the local Democratic Party.

And so we offer our emphatic endorsement of Steven Kirkland in the May 29 Democratic primary. We strongly encourage the party’s voters to support this highly qualified, deserving candidate.

That $35K figure was accurate for the January finance report. It’s up to $47K now with the 30 Day report added in, and I won’t be surprised if there’s more in the 8 Day report. Palmer could certainly turn out to be a decent judge if she gets elected, but this isn’t the way to go about doing that. We can get into the whole debate about electing versus appointing judges again, but to my mind if you’re going to elect judges, or if you’re going to appoint them and then have retention elections, then make them publicly funded and bar all contributions above some token amount, say $250. I cannot think of any valid reason why anyone who might have business to conduct in a given courtroom would contribute five figures or more to the election or defeat of that courtroom’s judge. That’s an issue for the Lege to deal with. In the meantime, I join the Chron in endorsing Judge Kirkland, and I hope you’ll vote for him as well.