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George Risner

July campaign finance reports – Harris County candidates

The Harris County situation for candidates and campaign finance reports is a bit complicated. Take a look at my January summary and the reports and data that I’ve found for July, and we’ll discuss what it all means on the other side.

Ed Emmett

Jack Morman
Jack Cagle

Stan Stanart
Chris Daniel

Diane Trautman

David Patronella
George Risner
Don Coffey
Lucia Bates
Laryssa Korduba Hrncir
Daryl Smith
Jeff Williams
Armando Rodriguez
Zinetta Burney
Louie Ditta

Name        Raised    Spent     Loans     On Hand
Emmett     472,172   99,684         0     551,875

Morman     635,050   98,611     44,339  2,261,453
Cagle      561,350  197,375          0  1,008,707

Stanart     49,100   10,124     20,000     69,384
Daniel      49,350   51,681     55,000     25,359

Trautman    15,251    2,978          0     18,009

Patronella  20,215    5,075          0
Risner       2,550    7,202          0     81,053
Coffey         200    7,214          0     57,694
Bates (*)      850      575          0        567
Korduba (R) 24,870    5,085          0     33,466
Smith (**)       0      300          0          0
Williams (R)     0        0     60,000     13,396
Rodriguez        0        0          0      2,219
Burney           0        0          0        902
Ditta (R)        0    1,907      2,000     17,006

Let’s start with what isn’t there. I don’t see a report as yet for Harris County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez, nor do I see one for HCDE Trustees Louis Evans (Position 4, Precinct 3) and Erica Lee (Position 6, Precinct 1). Diane Trautman (Position 3, At Large) has a report, but she is running for County Clerk, so as yet there are no candidates of which I am aware for the position she is vacating. Finding Louis Evans’ name among the list of Trustees was a bit of a surprise, since he had not been elected to that position in 2012. He was appointed to the seat in November of 2015 to replace Kay Smith, who stepped down to run in the Republican primary for HD130. I just missed that announcement, so my bad there. Evans as noted in the linked release, was Smith’s predecessor in that position, serving the six year term from 2007 to 2013. He was not on the ballot for the GOP primary in 2012, so if he runs for another term this would be the first time he has faced voters since 2006.

County Judge Ed Emmett does not have an opponent yet, as far as I can tell. There’s a bit of confusion because three people – Christopher Diaz, Shannon Baldwin, and LaShawn Williams – have filed requests for authorization forms for electronic filing, with County Judge as the office they plan to seek. At least two of these people are not running for County Judge, however. Williams appears to be a candidate for Harris County Civil Court at Law No. 3, and has filed a finance report listing that office as the one she seeks. She has also filed a report for the office of County Judge. I presume the latter is an error, but they both have different numbers in them, so who knows? Baldwin’s case appears to be more clear, as she has a Facebook page for her candidacy for County Criminal Court #4, for which she has filed a finance report, again with the correct office listed. As for Diaz, I have no idea. I don’t think he is the Precinct 2 Constable Chris Diaz. Here’s the Christopher Diaz County Judge RFA, and the Constable Chris Diaz finance report. You tell me.

Jack Morman is clearly aware of his status as biggest electoral target of the year. He’s got plenty of money available to him for his race, whoever he winds up running against. Cagle has only the primary to worry about, as his precinct is highly unlikely to be competitive in November. The other countywide offices generally don’t draw much money to their races. I suppose that may change this year, especially in the County Clerk’s race, but first we’re going to need some candidates.

Constables were elected last year, as were Justices of the Peace in Place 1, so what we have on the ballot this time are the JPs in Place 2. According to the listing of judicial candidates that we got at the June CEC meeting, David Patronella and Zinetta Burney have primary opponents, but neither of them have July finance reports on file. Rodrick Rogers, who is listed as a candidates against Republican Jeff Williams in Precinct 5, also has no report. Lucia Bates is a Democrat running in the primary against Don Coffey, while Daryl Smith is a Democrat running against Repubican incumbent Laryssa Korduba Hrncir, who at last report was the last holdout on performing weddings post-Obergefell. I do not know if there has been any change in that status. Whatever the case, there’s not a lot of fundraising in these races.

So that’s what I know for now. It’s possible some of the non-filers will have reports up later, I do see that sometimes. For sure, we should expect to hear of some candidates in the places where we currently have none. If you’ve got some news on that score, please let us know.

Petition forgery case (probably) resolved

Hadn’t seen an update on this in awhile.

An appeals court has ruled that forged signatures will keep a candidate off the November ballot, a decision the Pasadena justice of the peace hopeful said she will appeal,

But unless Leonila Olivares-Salazar gets some kind of decision from the Texas Supreme Court within days, voters will not see the Republican candidate’s name.

“I’m hoping they make the right decision for the community,” Olivares-Salazar said Thursday before referring questions to attorneys drafting emergency motions asking the state’s highest court to keep her name on the ballot while they take the time to consider the case.

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart’s deadline for completing the ballot is Friday, and he said he can push that back only five days.

“I need to have a ruling by Sept. 10,” he said. The county office must comply with laws mandating when printed ballots are mailed to Harris County citizens who are overseas.

On Wednesday, Houston’s 1st Court of Appeals ruled that Olivares-Salazar’s name will not appear on the ballot because of fraudulent signatures on her party application.

She is challenging longtime Precinct 2 Place 2 Justice of the Peace George Risner for the seat.

Risner, a Democrat first elected in 1987, sued Olivares-Salazar and the Harris County Republican Party in January claiming the party violated state election law, claiming hundreds of signatures were forged.


A Beaumont judge presiding over the lawsuit allowed the Republican to correct the situation, by handing in valid signatures after the deadline.

Two of the three appellate judges, all Republicans, ruled Wednesday that the law does not allow Olivares-Salazar to try again. The dissenting judge did not issue an opinion.

See here and here for the background. Olivares-Salazar had hired people to collect signatures for her, and four of them wound up going down on charges related to them faking the signatures that were turned in on her behalf, though she herself was never alleged to have engaged in any wrongdoing. I have a lot of sympathy for the argument that our system of democracy is better served when all races feature at least two well-qualified opponents, which pending quick Supreme Court action will not be the case here. I have more sympathy for the judicial candidates that do the hard work of collecting signatures themselves, and I have a harder time being sympathetic for candidates that would be the beneficiaries of a fraud that has already been proven to have taken place. It is certainly true that this sort of thing could eventually befall a candidate that I like, as Olivares-Salazar’s attorney, the infamous pecksniff Andy Taylor, asserts. But if that ever happens, I won’t defend said candidate, I’ll be pissed off at him or her, because they should know better and we their supporters deserve better. Olivares-Salazar herself may be innocent of any bad behavior, but there’s nothing innocent about the behavior that would have out her on the ballot. That to me is the critical difference.

Indictments in petition forgery case


Four political campaign workers have been indicted by a Harris County Grand Jury in the wake of allegations of election fraud in a Harris County Justice of the Peace race, first reported by Local 2 News in January.

The suspects — two men and two women — were paid to gather signatures to place Republican candidate Leonila Olivares Salazar’s name on the ballot in the Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2, Place 2 race.


The indictments, handed down Monday, come about two weeks after Salazar’s Democratic opponent, incumbent Judge George Risner, sued to have her name withdrawn from the ballot.

As first reported by Local 2, Risner obtained signed statements from three of the suspects admitting they did not actually obtain the signatures listed on the petitions.

Risner said his investigation shows that 380 of 447 signatures submitted to put Salazar’s name on the ballot were forged.

The indictments name campaign workers 57-year-old Ralph Basil Garcia, 53-year-old Annette Irigoyen, 28-year-old Iris Irgoyen and 55-year-old David Basurto. All face felony charges of engaging in organized criminal activity and tampering with a governmental record.

See here for the background. As we know, a Beaumont judge is hearing the lawsuit to determine if Risner’s opponent Salazar should be declared ineligible for the ballot. He has announced that he’s waiting till the other folks that have been indicted have turned themselves in, so they are all available to testify. Meanwhile, the County Attorney is supposed to be doing its own investigation, but no word on that yet. Campos has more.

Petition problems

Every election cycle there are fights over who really did or didn’t qualify for the ballot. This one is shaping up to be a doozy.

Three lawsuits over alleged ballot irregularities involving Harris County judicial candidates will be heard by a Beaumont judge, officials said Thursday.

State District Judge Bob Wortham was appointed to preside over the cases a day after the Harris County Attorney’s Office said it is reviewing documents filed by all local judicial candidates.

“We have a reasonable suspicion there are several instances that we need to look into,” said Terry O’Rourke, special assistant to County Attorney Vince Ryan.

O’Rourke and other officials appeared in a Harris County court Thursday for a hearing on a temporary restraining order request by longtime Precinct 2 Place 2 Justice of the Peace George Risner.


Harris County GOP chair Jared Woodfill said the party was not made aware of the allegations until after the five-day window to investigate inaccuracies that followed the Dec. 9 filing deadline.

Instead of ruling on Risner’s request for a restraining order to stop the county from printing or mailing any more ballots, including absentee ballots, for the March 4 primary, state District Judge Randy Wilson said it would be more appropriate for a judge from outside Harris County.

“This could affect a lot of judges here,” Wilson said. “I’m a candidate on that ballot.”

He noted that Risner’s case is similar to two other recently filed cases involving Republicans and Democrats in judicial races and said administrative Judge Olen Underwood would assign the cases, including the hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday, to Wortham.

Wortham is expected to have a hearing on Risner’s request for a temporary restraining order on Tuesday.

Moving the case to another jurisdiction makes a lot of sense, for the reason noted by Judge Wilson. The Thursday Chron had a preview of what was to come, with some more detail about the instigating case.

The allegation first was raised by longtime Precinct 2 Place 2 Justice of the Peace George Risner, who is suing the Harris County Republican Party, claiming it violated state election law by placing candidate Leonila Olivares-Salazar on its party ballot even after being told her application included hundreds of falsified petition signatures.


Olivares-Salazar “has publicly admitted to hiring a company to collect the required number of valid signatures (250) to qualify her for the ballot,” the petition states. “There were at least four circulators that gathered signatures for Olivares-Salazar who were employed by the company Olivares-Salazar hired, who falsified signatures on Olivares-Salazar’s petitions.”

Risner, a Democrat first elected to his post in 1987, and Olivares-Salazar are running unopposed in their parties’ respective primaries, meaning they would face each other in the November general election.

Risner said he was suspicious about the validity of the 456 signatures his opponent submitted after some of his “friends and campaign workers looked them over,” and decided to go door-to-door to see whether people whose names appeared on the petitions actually had signed them.

“Ninety-nine point nine percent of them told me no,” he said. The petition claims 380 signatures were falsified.

Anyone who is active in politics has signed judicial petitions. The parties hold events designed to help judicial candidates get the petition signatures they need, and anyplace where candidates and voters gather there will be clipboard-toters seeking signatures. One of the things about signing such a petition is that you promise not to sign any petitions for a candidate from another party, and you promise not to vote in another party’s primary or participate in another party’s candidate selection convention. I suspect that is what may have tipped off Risner – if his Republican opponent’s petition had a bunch of signatures from known Democrats on it, that would be odd. If Risner then got some sworn statements from these folks attesting that they never signed Olivares-Salazar’s petition, that’s pretty strong evidence. Plus, the universe of people who sign these petitions for either party is pretty small, and heavily partisan. Most names are likely to appear many times, for the reasons cited above. Seeing mostly unrecognizable names on the petition, and following up to determine that they mostly have no primary voting history, would also be a clue that something unusual was happening.

Anyway. I can’t wait to see what the Beaumont judge makes of all this. There are also rumors that the County Attorney’s investigation may turn up other instances of invalid signatures. That’ss the party’s job to check, and HCDP Chair Lane Lewis is quoted saying his team did do a thorough review of all their petitions. We’ll see how that goes. The other two lawsuits involved a Republican challenger to a Republican incumbent judge who was denied a spot on the primary ballot, and an allegation by Democrat Julia Maldonado that her opponent, Sandra Peake, did not turn in enough signatures. Campos (twice) and Lisa Falkenberg have more.