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Lloyd Oliver

Endorsement watch: A veritable plethora, part 2

A quick look at the Chron’s endorsements page shows they basically did a massive update on Sunday night/Monday morning. Most of them are in legislative races, but there are a couple of others. I think I’m going to need two more of these multi-race endorsement posts to catch up with them, so today we will (mostly) focus on races in which there is not a Democratic incumbent. Today that means the Democrats challenging State House incumbents, plus two JP races. Let’s get going.

HD126: Natali Hurtado.

Natali Hurtado, 34, told us she is running “because I’m tired of just sitting back and watching our state go backwards” while Undrai F. Fizer, 50, said he wants “to inspire hope and passion” in the people of the 126th district.


Hurtado earned degrees from the University of Houston and University of St. Thomas, the latter a masters in public policy and administration, and got a taste of the political life working in City Hall and for politicians including longtime U.S. Rep. Gene Green, a Democrat.

She wants to close property tax loopholes for big business to ease the tax burden on individuals, get rid of Texas Senate Bill 4 — the “sanctuary cities” law that abrogates the discretion of local law enforcement on immigration issues — and accept the Medicaid expansion offered under the Affordable Care Act.

Fizer has a lot of charisma but needs to learn more about the issues. Hurtado has a better grasp of them and her time working with Green and others gives her an invaluable head start in the art of politics. We think both her head and heart are in the right place, and endorse her for this race.

My interview with Hurtado is published today, and my interview with Fizer went up yesterday. They’re both good people, and I think the Chron captured their essences pretty well.

HD132: Gina Calanni.

Candidate Gina Calanni told us [incumbent Rep. Mike] Schofield is “very beatable” because people, including her, are angry that he votes in ways that hurt public schools and favor the charter and private schools popular with Republicans.

Flooding is the other big issue, she said, not just because of the massive damage it caused, but also because many people are still suffering from the effects of it and not getting much help.

Calanni, 40 and a writer of novels, is a single mom without much money to spare, while her opponent former corporate lawyer Carlos Pena, 51, is neither seeking money nor spending much of his own.

“I don’t believe in taking campaign contributions because there are people who feel they are owed,” he said.

He’s out blockwalking, but Calanni is doing that and going to political events where she has gotten endorsements from, among others, the Harris County Tejano Democrats, the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats and the AFL-CIO.

Our view is that Calanni has a fire in the belly to win that Pena may lack and with some money she can make a race of it. For that, she gets our endorsement.

My interview with Calanni is here; Pena never replied to me, and only recently put up a website. I agree with the Chron here. HD132 is a much more competitive district than you might think. It moved in a Democratic direction from 2008 to 2012, and is basically 55-45 going by 2016 numbers. It won’t take much in terms of the overall political climate for this to be a very winnable race, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the Democratic candidate to make an effort to win it. From where I sit, Gina Calanni is the only candidate putting in that effort. She’d get my vote if I were in HD132.

HD133: Marty Schexnayder.

Sandra Moore, 69, and Marty Schexnayder, 51, are both making their first run at political office because of their frustration with [incumbent Rep. Jim] Murphy and state leadership in general.

“I think people in our district are disgusted by the Dan Patrick agenda,” Schexnayder, a lawyer, told us, referring to the state’s lieutenant governor.


Both candidates also spoke of the need for improved health care and education. Schexnayder said the state share of education costs must increase so property taxes will stop going through the roof.

We liked Moore, but overall we think Schexnayder is the stronger candidate and has a broader grasp of the issues. We endorse him for Democratic nominee in District 133.

My interview with Sandra Moore is here and with Marty Schexnayder is here. Moore received the Houston GLBT Political Caucus endorsement, which is the only club or group endorsements that I tracked that was given in this race. The main point here is that both of them are worthy of consideration, while the third candidate in the race is not. I will note again that while this district is pretty red, there was a significant crossover vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. As such, it is not at all unreasonable to think that “the Dan Patrick agenda” is not terribly popular as well.

HD134: Alison Lami Sawyer.

Political parties always have their internal disagreements, but Harris County Democrats should nevertheless operate by a single, cardinal rule: Never, under any circumstances, vote for Lloyd Wayne Oliver.

A perennial candidate who runs for office to drum up his law practice — and undermine serious Democrats along the way — Oliver routinely makes a mockery of our electoral system.

Luckily, Democrats in this race have a qualified and impressive alternative in Allison Lami Sawyer.

Sawyer, 33, is a Rice University MBA alumnus who has her own company which uses special optics to detect gas leaks in oil installations in the United States and abroad.


Assuming Davis defeats Republican primary opponent Susanna Dokupil, who is backed by Gov. Greg Abbott, well look forward to an interesting campaign between two compelling candidates.

And remember: Don’t vote for Oliver.

My interview with Sawyer is here. I endorsed her way back when. The Chron is right: Don’t vote for Lloyd Oliver. Friends don’t let friends vote for Lloyd Oliver, either.

HD138: Adam Milasincic.

Democratic voters in District 138 have the luxury of picking between two good candidates to face well-entrenched incumbent Dwayne Bohac in the March 6 primary.

They are attorney and first-time candidate Adam Milasincic, 33, and Jenifer Rene Pool, 69, owner of a construction consulting company who has run unsuccessfully for City Council and County Commissioner and now wants a shot at tea party stalwart Bohac.


We could see both candidates becoming effective legislators in different ways for the west side district and, frankly, a race between Pool and the socially conservative Bohac could be fun to watch.

But Milasincic is super smart, thoughtful and passionate, all of which is useful when you’re taking on an incumbent. He has also raised an impressive amount of money for a first-time candidate in unfriendly territory. He gets our endorsement in the Democratic primary.

My interview with Milasincic is here and with Pool is here. I cut out a lot of the good stuff in this piece because I’d have had to quote the whole thing otherwise. This is the most competitive of the Harris County legislative districts – it should be the first to flip, if any of them do. I like both of these candidates and am looking forward to supporting whoever wins the nomination.

Over to Fort Bend for HD28: Meghan Scoggins.

Two Democrats are running against each other for the right to face incumbent state Rep. John Zerwas, who has represented district in the Texas Legislature since 2007.

If either of the primary candidates is up to the task, it’s Meghan Scoggins.

Scoggins, 38, has a detailed command of the issues facing this district, an expertise she says she developed observing — and sometimes testifying in — four sessions of the Legislature. (She casually mentioned to the editorial board that she drove to Austin in an RV that became her home away from home.) Although she has a background in business management and she did support work for the International Space Station, Scoggins spent the past few years focused on non-profit and community work. She not only brags about knowing most of the fire chiefs and MUD directors in the district, she also has a grasp of the problems they face. When she talks about infrastructure issues, she cites specific voter concerns like noise abatement problems surrounding the expansion of State Highway 99. She also specifically called for a county-wide flood control district, which would be a smart policy for the next session no matter who wins in November.

I haven’t paid that much attention to the races outside of Harris County – an unfortunate side effect of the cornucopia of candidates is that time and my attention can only go so far. HD26 is the more competitive district, but by all accounts I’ve seen Scoggins is a quality, hard-working candidate. I wish her well.

Last but not least, two for Justice of the Peace.

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3, Place 2: Don Coffey

Our endorsement goes to the only lawyer in this race, incumbent Justice Don Coffey.

Coffey, 65, who was first elected in 2010, has had a positive impact on this precinct which runs from Baytown through communities like Highlands, Channelview and Sheldon — by working to change our state’s onerous truancy laws.

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 7, Place 2: Audrie Lawton

Four people are running for this seat. Out of the pool, three candidates are lawyers, all of whom graduated from Thurgood Marshall School of Law. All of the candidates in this race possess experience dealing with individuals in crisis and would be compassionate jurists.

The non-lawyer in this race, Ray Shackelford, has considerable political charisma, and we would encourage him to consider a run for another position, such as city council. But for this bench we’re endorsing the candidate with the most relevant legal experience, Audrie Lawton. Lawton has handled thousands of cases in justice of the peace courts, and she also has quasi-judicial experience having served for seven years as an examiner for the Texas Education Agency, hearing cases where teachers faced non-renewal or termination. The 40-year-old, who is licensed in all the federal courts and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, also articulated the clearest vision for updating this court through expanded use of technology.

Q&As for relevant candidates:

Audrie Lawton
Ray Shackelford
Cheryl Elliott Thornton
Lucia Bates

I don’t have anything to add here, but there are still more endorsements to get through. Kudos to the Chron to getting to them all, but man I would have appreciated it if they could have been spread out a bit more.

January 2018 finance reports: Harris County legislative candidates

We’ve looked at Congressional fundraising, now let’s look at some local legislative races.

Fran Watson – SD17
Rita Lucido – SD17
Ahmad Hassan – SD17

Natali Hurtado – HD126
Undrai Fizer – HD126

Gina Calanni – HD132
Carlos Pena – HD132

Marty Schexnayder – HD133
Sandra Moore – HD133

Allison Sawyer – HD134
Lloyd Oliver – HD134

Adam Milasincic – HD138
Jenifer Pool – HD138

Randy Bates – HD139
Jarvis Johnson – HD139

Richard Bonton – HD142
Harold Dutton – HD142

Shawn Thierry – HD146
Roy Owens – HD146
Ricardo Soliz – HD146

Garnet Coleman – HD147
Daniel Espinoza – HD147 – No report found

Here are the totals:

Candidate       Office    Raised      Spent     Loan    On Hand
Watson            SD17    24,212      9,773        0      6,968
Lucido            SD17    10,826      7,456    3,000     10,868
Hassan            SD17       775      1,845        0          0

Hurtado          HD126     2,250        978        0        750
Fizer            HD126       800          0        0        450

Calanni          HD132        10        750        0         10
Pena             HD132         0          0        0          0

Schexnayder      HD133     6,330      3,744        0      3,332
Moore            HD133       650        939        0        362
Other guy        HD133

Sawyer           HD134     7,493     11,160        0     16,355
Oliver           HD134         0        750        0          0

Milasincic       HD138    64,071     11,816        0     54,577
Pool             HD138     1,000        623        0        346

Bates            HD139    39,730     17,720        0     27,178
Johnson          HD139     8,014      8,299   15,174     18,562

Bonton           HD142     3,000     24,203        0      1,538
Dutton           HD142    22,000     48,112        0     61,677

Thierry          HD146    31,200     19,270   20,650     10,629
Owens            HD146         0      4,278        0        550
Soliz            HD146         0          0        0          0

Coleman          HD147    43,433     51,012        0    333,602
Espinoza         HD147

A lot less money here than in the Congressional races, that’s for sure. Some of that is because many of these candidates didn’t get into the race until December. Adam Milasincic, who has raised the most, has also been running for the longest, at least among the candidates in Republican districts. As it happens, thanks to the compressed primary schedule, the 30 day reports are already up – the reports I’ve linked and figures I’ve posted are all January reports, which run through the end of 2017. The 30-day reports cover roughly the five weeks after that. I may add them to the 2018 Legislative page, but I doubt I’ll do another one of these till the July reports are up. Point being, there’s more recent data if you want to find it.

The bottom line is that while we’ve done a great job funding our Congressional challengers, there’s work to be done at this level. As I said, many of our candidates were late getting in, so the picture may be different elsewhere in the state. I’ll repeat my call from the previous post for Congressional candidates who don’t make it to the runoff to consider sharing the wealth down the ballot. Be that as it may, the well is more than deep enough to support all of our standard-bearers. We just need to do it. I’ll have more from other races soon.

Republican Party sues to get Farenthold off the ballot

Now here‘s something you don’t see every day.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

The Texas GOP is suing the Texas secretary of state to keep embattled U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold off the 2018 primary ballot — one day after the Corpus Christi Republican announced he will not seek re-election in 2018.

Farenthold, who’s facing a raft of allegations that he sexually harassed staffers and created a hostile work environment, had filed for re-election by the Monday deadline and missed the deadline the next day to withdraw. Still, he asked Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey on Friday not to include him on the ballot, according to the lawsuit, which notes Dickey has until Tuesday to submit the names of all primary candidates to the secretary of state.

Filed late Friday in federal court, the lawsuit calls into question the “incongruity” between the separate deadlines to withdraw and to hand over the names, while arguing Farenthold’s appearance on the ballot at this point would violate the “First Amendment associational rights” of the party.

“In short, the State cannot constitutionally force any political party to be represented on the primary election ballot by a candidate with whom it does not wish to associate,” the lawsuit said.

See here for the background. As you know, I Am Not A Lawyer. I am, however, a sentient carbon-based life form, and I am highly dubious of this claim. Candidates who are not representative of a given political party run for office in the primary of that party all the time. Dave Wilson has filed as a Democrat numerous times, for instance, most recently in 2016 when he challenged Rep. Jessica Farrar in HD148. Keisha Rogers and Lloyd Oliver, both of whom have had success in primaries, have done this as well. The reason Farenthold is still on the ballot is because he resisted the pressure from national Republicans to step aside until it was too late to legally withdraw his filing. The fact that he’s had a change of heart now is nobody’s problem but his own. There are other Republican candidates running for CD27, and working to ensure that one of those candidates defeats him in March is a perfectly viable option. Farenthold can abet this by not campaigning, or even endorsing one of his opponents. If the people choose to support him anyway, that’s just too damn bad. He can stay on the ballot and hope all is forgiven, or he can withdraw at that time and leave it up to the RPT to find a suitable write-in candidate, a la Tom DeLay and Shelley Sekula Gibbs in 2006. The RPT can also remember that it has total control of state government, and lobby for a change to that portion of the electoral code in 2019. Until then, I say tough luck. We’ll see what the courts say.

The Harris County slates

Let’s talk about the filings for Harris County. The SOS filings page is still the best source of information, but they don’t provide shareable links, so in the name of ease and convenience I copied the Democratic filing information for Harris County to this spreadsheet. I took out the statewide candidates, and I didn’t include Republicans because they have not updated the SOS office with their slate. Their primary filing site is still the best source for that. So review those and then come back so we can discuss.

Ready? Here we go.

– If there was an announcement I missed it, but HCDE Trustee Erica Lee, in Position 6, Precinct 1, did not file for re-election. Three candidates did file, Danyahel Norris, an attorney and associate director at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law; John F. Miller, who was a candidate for HCDE Chair earlier this year; and Prince Bryant.

– While there are contested races up and down the ballot, there’s one race that is no longer contested. Mike Nichols withdrew his filing for Harris County Judge, leaving Lina Hidalgo as the sole candidate to oppose Judge Ed Emmett next fall.

– The SOS page also shows that Sammy Casados withdrew his filing for County Commissioner. However, his campaign Facebook page makes no such announcement, and there’s no evidence I can find to confirm that. It’s possible this is a mistake on the SOS page. We’ll know soon enough, when the HCDP publishes its official final list. Anyway, the cast for Commissioner in Precinct 2 also includes Adrian Garcia, Daniel Box, Roger Garcia, and Ken Melancon, who was previously a candidate for Constable in Precinct 3 (note that Constable precincts, like Justice of the Peace precincts, do not correspond to Commissioner precincts). Also, there are now two candidates for Commissioner in Precinct 4, Penny Shaw and Jeff Stauber, who was a candidate for Sheriff in 2016.

– All other county races save one are contested. Diane Trautman has two opponents for County Clerk: Gayle Mitchell, who ran for the same office in 2014, losing to Ann Harris Bennett in the primary, and Nat West, who is the SDEC Chair for Senate District 13 and who ran for County Commissioner in Precinct 1 in that weird precinct chair-run election. Two candidates joined Marilyn Burgess and Kevin Howard for District Clerk, Michael Jordan and former Council candidate Rozzy Shorter. Dylan Osborne, Cosme Garcia, and Nile Copeland, who ran for judge as a Dem in 2010, are in for County Treasurer. HCDE Trustee Position 3 At Large has Josh Wallenstein, Elvonte Patton, and Richard Cantu, who may be the same Richard Cantu that ran for HISD Trustee in District I in 2005. Only Andrea Duhon, the candidate for HCDE Trustee for Position 4 in Precinct 3, has a free pass to November.

– I will go through the late filings for legislative offices in a minute, but first you need to know that Lloyd Oliver filed in HD134. Whatever you do, do not vote for Lloyd Oliver. Make sure everyone you know who lives in HD134 knows to vote for Alison Sawyer and not Lloyd Oliver. That is all.

– Now then. SBOE member Lawrence Allen drew an opponent, Steven Chambers, who is a senior manager at HISD. That’s a race worth watching.

– Sen. John Whitmire has two primary opponents, Damien LaCroix, who ran against him in 2014, and Hank Segelke, about whom I know nothing. Rita Lucido, who ran for SD17, threw her hat in the ring to join Fran Watson and Ahmad Hassan.

– Carlos Pena (my google fu fails me on him) joins Gina Calanni for HD132. Ricardo Soliz made HD146 a three-candidate race, against Rep. Shawn Thierry and Roy Owens. There are also three candidates in HD133: Marty Schexnayder, Sandra Moore, and someone you should not vote for under any circumstances. He’s another perennial candidate with lousy views, just like Lloyd Oliver. Wh you should also not vote for under any circumstances.

– The Republican side is boring. Stan Stanart has a primary opponent. Rep. Briscoe Cain no longer does. There’s some drama at the JP level, where Precinct 5 incumbent Jeff Williams faces two challengers. Williams continued to perform weddings after the Obergefell decision, meaning he did (or at least was willing to do) same sex weddings as well. You do the math. Unfortunately, there’s no Democrat in this race – it’s one of the few that went unfilled. There was a Dem who filed, but for reasons unknown to me the filing was rejected. Alas.

I’ll have more in subsequent posts. Here’s a Chron story from Monday, and Campos has more.

UPDATE: Two people have confirmed to me that Sammy Casados has withdrawn from the Commissioners Court race.

Endorsement watch: Opting for Ogg

The Chron makes their choice in the Democratic primary for District Attorney.

Kim Ogg

Kim Ogg

Democratic voters face a choice between two strong candidates for Harris County district attorney. But while Morris Overstreet can look back and reflect on a distinguished career, Kim Ogg is the candidate in this primary who most clearly articulates specific recommendations for the future.

The war on drugs has failed. Our system imprisons too many nonviolent offenders for low-level drug crimes, and in the process wrecks lives and destroys futures. Not only that, our existing policy disproportionately and unfairly targets young men of color.

Ogg believes that the public will be better-served not prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana cases. In her view, the best and fastest way to make our neighborhoods safer is to target real criminals – violent predators and gang members who commit serious crimes.

In Texas, a district attorney possesses the discretion under the law to decide what cases will be prosecuted criminally and which ones will not. Last year, Devon Anderson implemented a system to ticket first-time offenders caught with small amounts of marijuana instead of arresting them. Defendants can secure dismissals by attending a drug awareness class.

Ogg’s plan goes further. It would be open to anyone caught with small amounts of marijuana, even repeat offenders – although police and prosecutors will still have the discretion to charge and prosecute in certain cases. Ogg estimates that this policy – which effectively decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana – would allow the district attorney to redirect the approximately $10 million that the county is spending on enforcement in low-level marijuana cases toward the investigation and prosecution of gangs, burglary, rape and organized crime.

My interview with Ogg is here and with Overstreet is here. Overstreet is a strong candidate and this is a legitimately tough choice. Either will have an interesting race against incumbent DA Devon Anderson, who earned herself some good will and some enmity with those grand jury indictments against the two video fraudsters. It’s hard to say which will outweigh the other; if Harris County has the same kind of partisan balance as it had in 2012, that makes this race even harder to call. With the Lloyd Oliver joker in this primary deck, this race could go into a runoff. The good news is that that’s the only way he’s likely to be a factor.

Also, on Sunday the Chron made Presidential primary endorsements, for Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. Has the Chron ever passed on endorsing a Bush when given the chance? I’m just curious.

DMN overview of Senate primary runoff

Let me sum it up in four words: Don’t vote for Kesha. Any questions?

David Alameel

David Alameel

Some primary candidates struggle to differentiate themselves from the pack. Kesha Rogers does not have that problem.

The Democratic Senate hopeful’s platform calls for the impeachment of President Barack Obama and compares the Affordable Care Act to Nazism. She campaigns around the state with a poster of Obama sporting a Hitler mustache. Plus, she’s a supporter of extremist Lyndon LaRouche.

“There is this certain unique quality to what I do,” she said in an interview. “I go out and inspire people, especially people who have been discouraged by the party and discouraged by the political situation.”

That has drawn the ire of mainstream Texas Democrats, who know that a Rogers win would disrupt the party’s unified front. The party is touting what it hopes will be its most competitive statewide slate in years, but if Rogers were to win the nomination in the May 27 runoff, she would stick out.

“They want candidates that are traditional and effective, and that’s something I think that they are at a risk of losing here if … Kesha Rogers wins the runoff,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “It makes the party look like they are in disarray. It makes it look like they haven’t adequately vetted their candidates.

Democratic organizations across the state are lining up to discredit the Rogers campaign while David Alameel, the Dallas dentist who led the March primary but didn’t get a high enough share of the vote to win outright, keeps his distance. Even though many Democrats believe Alameel will win, they don’t want to take chances.

“It’s important that Dr. Alameel be the nominee and we do demonstrate that gadfly candidates like Kesha Rogers won’t get nominated in important races,” said Matt Angle, an adviser to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis who runs the Washington-based Lone Star Project. The group recently put out a video opposing Rogers.

State parties usually stay out of primaries, but the Texas Democratic Party has been vocal in its support of Alameel. Rogers’ campaign remains cut off from all party resources, including access to its voter data.

And that’s how it should be. The story goes on to quote a Kesha supporter who says something about being willing to criticize the President. Well, there’s a difference between being critical and calling for impeachment, or comparing the signature health care law to Nazism. Some things really are out of bounds, and really do disqualify you from being worth supporting. We’re a big tent, not an infinite tent. My hope is that this campaign will serve as an education to Democratic voters about Kesha Rogers, so that going forward she won’t be able to sneak into any more runoffs on the basis of a vaguely familiar name and voter ignorance. People eventually figured out not to vote for Gene Kelly – and Lloyd Oliver, here in Harris County – hopefully now they’ll have figured it out about Kesha Rogers, too. See the Chron’s re-endorsement of Alameel for more.

Primary results: Harris County

Kim Ogg

Kim Ogg

The big news here is that there were no surprises on the Democratic side, in particular no unpleasant surprises. By far the best news was that Kim Ogg easily bested Lloyd Oliver in the primary for DA, with over 70% of the vote. I doubt we’ve seen the last of this particular plague on our house, but I think it’s fair to say that this time, Oliver’s name recognition did not work for him. I hope by now there have been enough negative stories about him – that Observer piece got shared far and wide on Facebook – that now when people see his name, it’s not a good thing for him. In any event, we Dems managed to not make the same mistake we made in 2012, so we can have ourselves a real DA race this fall. Thank goodness for that.

The three incumbent legislators that had primary challengers all won without breaking a sweat. Sen. John Whitmire had 75%, Rep. Carol Alvarado had 85%, and Rep. Alma Allen was right at 90%. The other race of interest was in the 113th District Civil Court, where Steven Kirkland pulled out a close win. The thing I noticed was that while Kirkland won early voting with 51% (he trailed slightly in absentee ballots), he won Election Day with over 54%. I have to think that the late stories about serial sugar daddy George Fleming worked in Kirkland’s favor. If so, that makes me very happy. If Kirkland wins this November, it means it’ll be at least until 2018 before we have to deal with Fleming’s crap again. Maybe by then he’ll have gotten a grip and moved on with his life. I for one certainly hope so.

On the Republican side, Rep. Sarah Davis easily held off teabag challenger Bonnie Parker, clearing 70% with room to spare. Hard to believe now that this was seen as a hot race. Embattled Family Court Judge Denise Pratt led the field of five for her bench, but she had only 30% of the vote. That runoff will be interesting to watch. Most other incumbents won easily – Sen. Joan Huffman, Rep. Debbie Riddle, District Clerk Chris Daniel, and Treasurer Orlando Sanchez – while former Council member Al Hoang defeated Nghi Ho for the nomination in HD149. One other incumbent wasn’t so lucky, now-former Party Chair Jared Woodfill, who was ousted by Paul Simpson. I don’t know if County Judge Ed Emmett smokes cigars, but if he fired one up after these numbers started coming in, I for one would not blame him.

On turnout, Election Day wound up being roughly equal to early non-absentee voting on both sides. I’d say the weather plus maybe a bit of Mardi Gras had an effect. We got the results we wanted in Harris County, so I’m not too concerned about it.

UPDATE: I have to laugh at this:

Ogg, 54, said she spent $150,000 to get her message out for the primary. Her opponent, Lloyd Oliver, did not raise or spend a penny on his campaign.

“I guess the weather did me in,” Oliver said Tuesday.

Before the election, the 70-year-old said gray skies meant only the “party elite” would make it to the polls.

“They control the establishment side, and for some reason, I don’t see me ever making it on the establishment side,” he said. “You can either be establishment or a loose cannon, but you can’t be in-between.”

Yes, the weather did you in, Lloyd. Which is why Kim Ogg was leading with over 70% in early voting. Please feel free to go away and never come back now, Lloyd.

All about Lloyd

Emily dePrang talks to Lloyd Oliver about his candidacy for District Attorney and confirms what we already knew about him.

Lloyd Oliver Tree

Oliver admits he runs for office to drum up business for his law practice. He credits his 2012 win to name recognition and “dumb luck,” though some political observers thought it may have been because voters assumed, from his name, that Oliver was black. This theory was undermined by broad support from non-minority districts. Why ever Oliver won, it wasn’t because of good press. The media spilled lots of ink on Oliver’s checkered past and unorthodox style. In his long career, Oliver has been suspended twice and indicted twice for barratry and once for bribery, though he’s never been convicted.

Oliver’s most written-about scandals are linguistic. In a 2012 interview with the Houston Press, he used terms like “queers” and “rag heads” and called the local Democratic leadership “frustrated homosexuals” for trying to kick him off the ballot. (After he won the nomination, party leaders decided they would rather run nobody. Oliver sued to get back his spot.)

Among his least popular public statements was that maybe victims of domestic violence should “learn how to box a little better” and that battery can be a “prelude to lovemaking.” This went over poorly, especially when he reiterated these thoughts at a debate hosted by the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council.

But I didn’t meet with Oliver to talk about domestic violence. I wanted to know why he’s running for district attorney and what he’d do if he got the job. For all his press, I had no sense of his platform.

Within 10 minutes of our meeting, though, I learn that domestic violence is his platform. “That’s my issue, right there,” Oliver says. “An inordinate amount of time [is] spent on that when we could get more criminals out of Harris County by doing what I suggest, I guarantee.”

Oliver suggests trying more cases instead of accepting pleas and trying them much faster. “The district attorney will have a trial going at every court at every hour every day when I’m elected,” he says. “Justice delayed is just no damn justice at all. And that’s what I see. You see those damn filthy baby-rapers—they get tried, what, nine months later? A year later? Why not two months later? How long does it take to prepare a case?”

Oliver uses the term “baby-rapers” six times during our 70-minute interview. Eventually, he seems to notice this and throws in “aggravated sexual assault of a child.” It’s a move I imagine is effective with juries trying domestic violence cases. Oliver estimates that a quarter of the people he defends are charged with family violence, and as we sit together he delivers a series of vigorous, well-rehearsed arguments for why spousal abuse is taken too seriously.

What does this have to do with speedy trials? As district attorney, Oliver would divert resources away from family violence to try other cases, particularly when the abuse victim doesn’t want to press charges. “You don’t want to pursue it,” he says. “I don’t want to pursue it. The children are crying, ‘Please don’t take my dad to jail.’ And we’re pursuing things like that? That’s where we’re wasting our money? Oh, and our time? Why don’t we go after those baby-rapers instead?” He pounds on the table with each word of this apparent closing argument. “Let’s. Put. Those. People. In. Jail.”

Oliver says he would prosecute assault, but that most family violence cases aren’t really assault. “To me, an assault is not something where, in a relationship—it’s not a pushing, shoving match…” he says. “Assault should be enforced. But me touching you, pushing, shoving, some kind of mutual combat, not even combat [but] a mutual scuffle,” shouldn’t.

Oliver feels only “one in ten cases” of family violence warrants jail time or prison. “Because not every shoving, every touching, even though it’s unpermitted, is an assault, and that’s the way things are handled now. An unpermitted touching becomes an assault.”

Is your jaw hanging open yet? Either way, go read the whole thing. And let me remind you again, you need to vote for Kim Ogg to be the Democratic nominee for District Attorney. We don’t want Lloyd Oliver on the ballot again, do we? Let’s make sure we do our part to keep him off.

Endorsement watch: Kim Ogg for DA

The Chronicle gives a ringing endorsement to Kim Ogg in the Democratic primary for District Attorney.

Kim Ogg

Kim Ogg

Ogg has experience as a board-certified felony prosecutor, but she also has the broad view that comes from serving as director of Houston’s first anti-gang task force. After overseeing a 40 percent drop in gang violence, Ogg went to work as executive director of Crime Stoppers, where she helped unite community resources to solve thousands of unsolved crimes. With this experience, Ogg knows that it isn’t merely about racking up prosecutions but setting countywide policy that is directly connected to reducing crime. She points to creative use of civil law to prevent crime before it happens. Harris County has used nuisance injunctions to keep gang members away from schools and apartments, and Ogg wants to expand that strategy to fight people whose businesses act as fronts for sex trafficking.


Ogg also will put people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana where they belong: along our bayous performing community service, rather than in jail at taxpayer expense.

But like the heroine in a bad horror movie sequel, Ogg has to defeat a sad soul who keeps coming back: Lloyd Wayne Oliver. Just when you thought it was safe to vote in the Democratic primary, he’s on the ballot again for the free publicity. Primary voters should give Oliver the thrashing he deserves for making a mockery of our elections. And they should give Ogg a place in the general election come November.

We all know what the stakes are here. Either we nominate Kim Ogg and have ourselves a real candidate to support who can drive a real debate about the DA’s office and its direction, or we punt the race for the second time in two years. Given that we’re basically going to punt the County Judge race, since the only qualified candidate on the ballot is incumbent Judge Ed Emmett, that’s a lot of dead weight at the top of the county ticket. While I don’t think that will be a drag on Wendy Davis and the rest of the statewide ticket, it certainly won’t help. It’s up to Ogg and her team to do the heavy lifting of voter outreach, but we can do our part as well. Vote for Kim Ogg, and tell everyone you know to vote for Kim Ogg.

On the same page, the Chron did a series of endorsements in contested House primaries. Of interest to us:

District 131: Alma Allen

We endorse Allen, the incumbent, because of her familiarity with the Legislature and her 10 years of seniority there, and because her position on the education committee and long history as a school principal enable her to promote better state funding for public schools. Those serve her south Houston district well. But her energetic challenger, 27-year-old Azuwuike “Ike” Okorafor, is a promising newcomer. We hope to see him run for other area offices.

District 145: Carol Alvarado

In the House, Alvarado has a strong record of fighting for Democratic causes, such as education funding, women’s health and Medicaid expansion, without alienating the Republican colleagues she needs to get things done. She and her staff are notably visible and accessible, providing a high degree of constituent services in a heavily Hispanic district that stretches from part of the Houston Heights southeast to Beltway 8. She’s the clear choice in this race.

No surprises in either one, and I too would like to see Azuwuike Okorafor run for something else if he doesn’t win this time. On the Republican side, they endorsed Chuck Maricle in HD129, Ann Hodges in HD132, Rep. Sarah Davis in HD134, and Rep. Debbie Riddle in HD150. Maricle was endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, the only Republican who screened with them for this primary; Hodges was endorsed by the Texas Parent PAC; Rep. Davis was endorsed by Equality Texas, the first Republican to get their recommendation. So they have that going for them.

Chron overview of DA primary

I can’t stress enough how much this race matters.

Kim Ogg

Kim Ogg

Running for the Democratic nomination for Harris County District Attorney, Kim Ogg has spent the past four months shaking hands, staking out her positions on criminal justice issues and raising about $100,000.

Her opponent, perennial candidate Lloyd Oliver, has been watching television.

“It’s my race to lose,” Oliver said after reporting that he has neither raised nor spent a dime on his campaign. “My strategy is to watch a lot of TV, I think. That’s all I’ve been doing.”

That may be all he needs to do in a down-ballot race in a primary that is not expected to see high voter turnout.

In 2012, Oliver befuddled the political establishment when he bested much better-funded Democratic primary opponent Zack Fertitta. In that race, Oliver spent only $300, for laminated flyers.

“Ogg’s got to figure out a way to get a reasonable share of the African-American vote, which Mr. Fertitta did not get in 2012,” said Richard Murray, a professor of political science at the University of Houston. “We may have only 60,000-70,000 come out for the (Democratic) primary and with two million registered voters, it’s a real crapshoot.”

This year, Oliver said, he does not plan to campaign until the general election. Name recognition, he said, will determine who wins the primary.

And Oliver appears to have plenty of that. Since 1994, Oliver has run for judge five times, and district attorney once. Having his name in front of voters every few years – which Oliver uses as advertising for his legal practice – paid off in his race against Fertitta. He expects it will again.

“There’s really nothing you can do,” he said. “Whatever is going to happen, is going to happen in the primary.”

Nonetheless, Ogg, 54, is taking him seriously.

“I’ve believed Lloyd every time before when he’s said he runs as a publicity stunt,” she said. “I’m not about to take one thing for granted, even Lloyd’s ability to get votes despite when he does nothing.”

Taking a cue from his missteps in 2012, Oliver said he purposefully is doing little in order to minimize criticism.

It’s my hope that this time when people see Lloyd Oliver’s name on the ballot, they’ll remember all that well-deserved negativity from 2012. When people remember the reason why they recognize your name and realize that it’s not for good reasons, then name recognition isn’t much of an asset. Ideally, Ogg will spend some of that money she’s raised helping people remember why they remember Lloyd Oliver’s name. The thought of nominating Oliver again is just too gruesome to contemplate. If you’re voting in the Democratic primary in Harris County, please make sure you vote for Kim Ogg, and make sure your friends know that they need to vote for her as well. We can’t afford to screw this up again.

He’s baaaack

The Lloyd Oliver Tree

I was at HCDP headquarters on Monday night, participating in a panel discussion hosted by the Texas Democratic Women of Harris County along with my friends Perry and Neil. On the back wall of the main room is a big listing of all offices that will be on the ballot this year and the signatures of candidates that have filed for these offices. I took a look at it that night and heaved a sigh as I came across a familiar and unwanted name – Lloyd Oliver has filed to run for District Attorney again, thus pitting him against Kim Ogg in the March primary.

That was one of the subjects we discussed on the panel Monday night. I suppose the good news about Lloyd Oliver’s surprise victory in the 2012 primary is that now he’s at least slightly less obscure than he was before. Two years ago he was just a familiar name on the ballot. Now one would hope that more people realize that he’s a toxic black hole on the ballot. No good Democrat wants him on the November ballot. The HCDP’s well-intentioned but wrong effort to boot him from the ballot after his upset win means the party has no official reason to maintain its policy of neutrality in that race. They can, and should, openly support Kim Ogg for the nomination. Everyone else who cares about putting our best ticket forward also needs to get off the sidelines and spread the word. Everyone endorsed Zack Fertitta in 2012, but that’s not enough. Publicize those endorsements beyond your own membership – if you have a webpage or Facebook page, post them there – and highlight this race, the candidates, and the right choice of Kim Ogg. We cannot take anything for granted, because we know what can happen if we do. Texpatriate has more.

Other filing news of interest: Rita Lucido officially filed to challenge Sen. Joan Huffman in SD17. If you like the idea of more strong, pro-choice women in Texas government, you will very much want to check her out. I met Alison Ruff, who has filed for HD134, at the Monday event, and I look forward to hearing more from her. A fellow named Moiz Abbas has filed in HD135, and a fellow named Luis Lopez is set to file in HD132. As you know, those are the two Republican-held districts in which Dems gained ground in 2012 over 2008, and HD132 is now an open seat, so I’m particularly encouraged by that news. I don’t know much about either of these gentlemen right now, but I’m sure I will learn more as we go on. If you’re aware of other filings or soon-to-be-filings, leave a comment and let us know.

Kim Ogg to run for DA

That didn’t take long.

Kim Ogg

Kim Ogg, a former prosecutor, anti-gang investigator and crime prevention leader, told supporters Saturday that she will run for Harris County district attorney.

In an email, Ogg said she would announce Monday that she would run in the Democratic primary in the spring. Voters will choose a district attorney in November 2014.

Ogg is a former felony prosecutor in the district attorney’s office. She also has led Crime Stoppers of Houston and the city’s anti-gang task force.

She is the first candidate to formally announce a run for the office since the recent death from cancer of District Attorney Mike Anderson, a Republican.


“My focus will be to fight crime with 21st century tactics, and this will be accomplished through re-prioritization of resources, including forfeiture funds,” Ogg stated in her email. “On my first day in office, I will end the practice of accepting ‘trace drug cases’ where there is no evidence to convict and instead will shift the focus to dismantling organized crime from the top down.”

Ogg will formally announce her candidacy today. I’m familiar with Ogg’s previous work with the city, but I’ve not met her and didn’t receive the email, so this is all I know right now. I’m glad to hear that she would go back to the Lykos policy on trace cases, and her timing on that is propitious given the recent news about the jail filling up again. Assuming the Democrats can avoid another Lloyd Oliver situation, this has the makings of a very interesting race. If nothing else, as things stand we could have a race between two women for District Attorney. How often has that happened in Texas? In any event, I look forward to meeting Kim Ogg in the future and hearing more about her campaign.

Obama leads in poll of Harris County

More polling goodness for you.

The poll conducted for KHOU 11 News and KUHF Houston Public Radio indicates Obama leads Romney in Harris County, but not by much. That gives some indication how election night might go for politicians running for offices that are down the ballot.

The poll shows the president leading in Harris County with the support of 46 percent of surveyed voters, compared to Romney’s 42 percent. Libertarian Gary Johnson cracked the survey with 2 percent.

In the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Paul Sadler’s 44 percent leads Republican Ted Cruz with 42 percent in Harris County. With a 3.5 percent margin of error, that’s a statistical dead heat in the largest county in Texas.


Republican crossover voters are helping push Democratic Sheriff Adrian Garcia to 51 percent in this survey, compared to Republican challenger Louis Guthrie’s 32 percent. Another 13 percent were undecided.

On the other hand, many Democrats told pollsters they’re voting for Republican district attorney candidate Mike Anderson, who’s polling at 41 percent. Nonetheless, Democrat Lloyd Oliver is close behind with 35 percent. Another 19 percent are undecided. That number is especially striking because Democratic Party leaders were so embarrassed by Oliver’s candidacy they tried to remove him from the ballot.

“What we’re seeing is a much more significant ticket-splitting among Republicans than Democrats,” said Bob Stein, the Rice University political scientist and KHOU analyst who supervised the poll. “I don’t know if that’s because they’re more bipartisan, or they simply are more capable and more likely to make that choice, which is not easy to do on an e-slate ballot.”

Or maybe Sheriff Garcia has done a better job of making the case for himself than Mike Anderson has. Prof. Stein was kind enough to share the topline data and the poll questions with responses, and I’ll note that there were considerably more “don’t know” answers in the DA race than in the Sheriff’s. Perhaps that’s the difference.

You can also find basic poll data here, though for some odd reason there’s no breakdown of the Senate race on that page. There are also results for the five City of Houston bond proposals, the HCC and HISD bond proposals, all of which have majority support and in some cases large majorities. There’s no result for the Metro referendum, but I infer from the teaser at the end of this KUHF story on the poll that that result may be released separately. Released by KHOU and KUHF, anyway – if you go back and look at those docs I linked above, you’ll see the Metro referendum result from this poll. It has plurality support, but that makes it the only one not to have a majority. Make of that what you will.

For what it’s worth, there was a Zogby poll of the Presidential race in Harris County in 2008, which showed a 7-point lead for Obama over McCain. Oddly, as I look back at it, the story never mentioned the actual numbers, just the margin; the links for the poll data and crosstabs are now broken, so I can’t check them. (The story did say that Rick Noriega had a 47-40 lead over John Cornyn for Senate in Harris County.) A separate poll of county and judicial races showed similar results, though it did correctly call Ed Emmett the leader in the County Judge race. Democrats did win most of those races, and both Obama and Noriega carried Harris County, though by smaller margins than the poll predicted. As I noted at the time, Zogby (the pollster) showed Dems with an eight-point advantage in party ID, which largely explained the poll numbers. This poll shows roughly the same partisan ID numbers, which could mean some Democratic slippage from 2008, or could just be random. As Greg says, what we very likely have here is a swing county where GOTV will make the difference. We’ll know soon enough.

30 Day finance reports, Harris County candidates

Here’s a look at the 30 day campaign finance reports for Harris County candidates. All reports can be found by going to the Harris County Clerk campaign finance reports page.

Candidate Office Raised Spent Loans Cash ========================================================== Garcia Sheriff 192,670 120,957 0 388,197 Guthrie Sheriff 158,700 48,633 171,000 98,152 Alessi Sheriff 1,019 2,007 700 1,719 Oliver DA 3,125 6,213 0 3,125 Anderson DA 136,555 41,685 0 128,241 Ryan County Atty 24,775 79,799 0 88,714 Talton County Atty 24,922 3,952 39,250 15,286 Bennett HCTA 6,630 7,220 1,690 3,217 Sullivan HCTA 20,950 23,115 10,000 2,396 Trautman HCDE 1,685 2,704 0 8,090 Wolfe HCDE 100 750 0 109 EF Lee Com Ct 16,543 49,689 0 3,328,226 Maricle Com Ct 1,765 9,811 2,500 1,502 Radack Com Ct 39,750 28,403 0 808,390 McPherson Com Ct 0 0 0 0 Cagle Com Ct 197,106 129,312 0 203,657 Hammerle Com Ct 225 883 1,176 9 Rosen Constable 51,531 55,130 5,000 16,447 Danna Constable 18,800 15,852 0 2,568 Diaz Constable 31,750 34,163 10,815 31,837 McDonald Constable 1,645 2,151 0 0 Jones Constable 6,876 17,314 0 26,221 Cruzan Constable 31,970 7,506 552 20,720 E Lee HCDE 0 1,550 0 0 Pack HCDE 610 550 0 1,625 Mintz HCDE 0 0 0 0 Smith HCDE 500 0 0 530

My thoughts:

– You don’t need me to point out that the Sheriff’s race is the one where the money is. No other race is particularly close; one wonders how the DA race would have played out with a different result in the Democratic primary. Sheriff Garcia has 10 donors that gave at least $5,000 each – nine who gave exactly that amount, and Don McGill, who donated a whopping $50,000. Louis Guthrie has only six $5K+ donors, but each of them gave at least $10K apiece. It’s not clear to me why Guthrie has not spent more.

– Speaking of not spending more, I’m not sure why Mike Anderson is sitting on his cash like that, though I suppose he could be planning to unload it this month. I certainly expect Anderson to win, but given how he says he’d deal with losing, I’d not be taking any chances. A couple of mailers to Democratic voters reminding them of Lloyd Oliver’s idiocy and the fact that even the HCDP didn’t want him on the ticket might not be a bad idea.

– Again on the spending theme, the disparity between Vince Ryan and Robert Talton is notable. Maybe there isn’t much that can be done at the County Attorney level to overcome the predominant partisan tendencies, but we won’t know from this race.

– Wasn’t there more money in the Tax Assessor’s race last time? Checking the July and 30 day reports for Paul Bettencourt and Diane Trautman, the answer is Yes, there was more money in that race in 2008. Your guess as to why that is not the case this year is as good as mine.

– Given all this, that’s a lot of money in the Constable races. Again, you tell me what that’s all about.

– I have no idea why El Franco Lee needs $3 million in his campaign account. What in the world is he ever going to use it on? I can’t think of any good reason why anyone would want to add to that.

That’s all I’ve got. What do you see in these numbers?

What if Oliver wins?

Nothing good, that’s for sure.

The Lloyd Oliver Tree

“If he wins, I’m moving to Fredericksburg” said his GOP opponent, Mike Anderson. “I don’t have anything against him personally, but I can’t imagine what that office would be like.”

His criminal history, unusual sense of humor and the unfounded attacks on Anderson, the darling of county prosecutors, mean there is almost no support for Oliver among the people he would be leading if he wins.

Prosecutors, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, called Oliver a “joke” and worse. They were vehement about his lack of qualifications to run the office.

Because Harris County trended Republican in 2010, few of the courthouse lawyers and politicians interviewed thought Oliver would win. None knew of contingency plans for a recall election, heightened scrutiny to force an impeachment or other ways to remove a sitting district attorney.

Anderson said an Oliver victory could spark a mass exodus of as many as 100 of the 240 prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office.

“These are the people we count on to try murders and aggravated sexual assaults and the aggravated robberies,” he said. “It could really be a horrible situation.”

There was a large exodus from the DA’s office after Lykos won in 2008, too. Whether you think that was a bad thing or not probably correlates with whether or not you supported Anderson in this year’s primary. Be that as it may, I don’t dispute the notion that an Oliver victory would be a disaster for the office, precisely because Oliver is a joke and a grifter who has no valid reason for running and has no good vision for how to run the office; indeed, as Patricia Kilday Hart showed last week, the ideas he does have are offensive and harmful. Nothing good comes from an Oliver win, and it’s not just cranky Internet kibitzers like me who think so.

“If he gets elected, I don’t know if he can make it four years without being indicted or removed from office,” said defense attorney Bob Moen. “I don’t wish that upon Lloyd, but after knowing him for all these years, will he make it four years? I think we’d have to check what the office pool is – may have to buy one of the squares.”

Boy, with friends like that, eh? You can still push the straight-ticket Democratic button when you go vote. Just make sure you follow that up by de-selecting Lloyd Oliver before you hit the “cast ballot” button. You can vote for Mike Anderson or not as you see fit, just don’t vote for Lloyd Oliver. And I’ll say again, I sure hope the HCDP is thinking about how to deal with situations like this going forward, because if Oliver doesn’t win he’ll probably file for one of the many available judicial races in 2014, just as he did in 2010 and 2008. We don’t want to have to go through this again in two years’ time, do we?

Endorsement watch: The easy calls

The Chron makes an easy call.

One of the clearest choices Harris County voters have in the 2012 election season comes in the race to succeed Pat Lykos as district attorney. Mike Anderson, a 30-year veteran of the DA’s office and a former criminal district court judge, is far and away the better qualified of the two contending candidates.

The Democratic hopeful, Lloyd Wayne Oliver, has admitted that he files for office mostly to get his name before the public in order to drum up law business. That attitude is beyond shameful.


In the Republican primary race we favored Lykos’ views on the use of the Divert program as a tool for rehabilitating first-time DWI offenders, and her decision to quit going after drug offenders for trace amounts (one-hundredth of a gram or less) of crack cocaine.

Anderson argues that there’s no statutory provision to allow for the Divert program, but he believes the same rehab of first-time drunk drivers could be accomplished if the Legislature would allow pre-trial diversion for DWI cases. We will encourage our new district attorney to push that agenda in Austin next session.

As for minor drug cases, our preference would still be to concentrate on bigger fish. But we would argue strenuously that if prosecutors continue to pursue trace cases, that the amounts for which users are prosecuted be sufficient to allow independent testing by both prosecution and defense lawyers. Additionally, we would encourage Anderson to be certain that those convicted be given treatment for their chemical addiction and not merely warehoused in jail.

That noted, we believe Mike Anderson has the integrity, professional experience and leadership qualities to make a fine district attorney. We encourage Harris County voters to cast their ballots for Mike Anderson.

Hard to argue with the choice. I don’t know that it’s even possible to make a positive case for Lloyd Oliver’s candidacy. Given that this race and the Sheriff’s race were cited by Patti Hart as two reasons to avoid straight ticket voting, I presume the Chron’s endorsement of Sheriff Adrian Garcia will be as easy and clear a decision for them.

On a side note, you can catch a rerun of the “Red, White, and Blue” episode on Houston PBS that featured Anderson and Oliver getting grilled by hosts David Jones and Garry Polland. I’ve embedded the video below, but I want to note that as a member of the show’s newly-formed advisory committee, I was one of a group of people asked to submit questions for the candidates, and they used the questions I provided. Check it out.

Oliver to remain on the ballot

Can’t say I’m surprised.

The Lloyd Oliver Tree

Attorneys representing Harris County Democratic Chairman Lane Lewis and the state Democratic Party argued that perennial candidate [Lloyd] Oliver should be kept off the ballot because he violated a party rule prohibiting a complimentary remark he made about defeated District Attorney Pat Lykos, a Republican, but District Judge Bill Burke ruled that Oliver was not bound by that rule.

Burke also rejected the argument that the party, as a private association, has the right to determine who should be on the ballot, regardless of election results.


“I don’t think that what happened amounted to a rule violation under party rules,” Burke said after a two-hour hearing on Wednesday morning.

Oliver admitted saying that he would have voted for Lykos had he not been running against her. He told the court Wednesday that he made the statement the day after the primary, so she technically no longer was a candidate. He also argued that the party rule applied only to chairmen and other Democratic officials.

“I have a First Amendment right to compliment public officials,” he told the court.

The judge agreed.

“I don’t think that amounts to an endorsement of the Republican candidate, since she had been defeated by then, and it was coupled with a swipe at the prevailing candidate, Mike Anderson,” Burke said.

Oliver, who told the court that Wednesday was his birthday and that he was either 68 or 69, had likened Anderson to a prison guard.

Responding to the argument that a political party had the right to determine who should be on the ballot, Burke noted that most of the cases that Democratic Party attorneys cited involved decisions reached before voters went to the polls in party primaries.

“It seems to me to be a different situation that we have here when the party accepts the filing fee, Oliver campaigns, does whatever he does to win the election and does receive the majority of the votes in the primary,” the judge said.

The case had been remanded to state court last Friday, as noted by commenter Jerad Najvar in my previous post. You know how I feel about this. I agree with Judge Burke’s reasoning, and I think he would have set a potentially dangerous precedent had he ruled otherwise. The situation the party is in is unfortunate, but these things happen and it’s not right to undo the result of a primary over a silly statement by a silly person. (Speaking of the primary, the version of the story I saw said that Oliver won it “by 30,000 votes”. He actually won it by a bit less than 3,000 votes, as you can see on page 19 here. Math is hard, y’all.) The best course of action, which is what I plan to go back to doing, is to ignore the guy. It’s not like he’s going to be out on the campaign trail making further mischief. If Oliver subsequently manages to win this election as well, we should all remind him that he only filed for the race to increase his name ID. Having unquestionably achieved this objective, he should then go ahead and resign, so that he can collect the reward for his higher profile. I mean, actually being DA would be bad for his business as a defense attorney, am I right? Let us speak of this no more until after November 6. You can go back to sleep now, Lloyd. PDiddie has more.

Who gets to rule on Oliver’s eligibility for the ballot?

We’re waiting for a ruling in the Lloyd Oliver lawsuit, but before we get a ruling in the case we must first get a ruling on who gets to rule in the lawsuit.

Tuesday’s federal court hearing centered largely on arguments between Democratic Party lawyer Chad Dunn and the leader of Oliver’s six-man defense team, Keith Gross, on whether the legal issues at hand should be heard in a federal court or a state court. After hearing 35 minutes of arguments, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal said she will rule as quickly as she can on which court should consider the question.

First Assistant County Attorney Terry O’Rourke told Rosenthal the county’s “drop-dead” date for determining which candidates will appear on the ballot is Sept. 6, to allow time for legal elections processes to play out before the Nov. 6 vote.

That’s Thursday, so I presume we’ll at least get Judge Rosenthal’s ruling about jurisdiction today. Anyone want to make a guess about how this turns out?

Oliver sues to stay on ballot

We’ll find out who’s right soon enough.

On Friday, Houston attorney Lloyd Oliver filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the Harris County Democratic Party’s attempts to oust him from the ticket.

“They’re not going to put any candidate on the ballot. They just shut the whole thing down,” Oliver said.

The lawyer called the move an attempt by party officials to disenfranchise voters.


Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for the Texas secretary of state said there was no provision in state law for removing a political candidate accused of violating party rules.

Harris County Democratic Party officials say they have federal law on their side.

“Political parties get to determine who their nominees are going to be,” said Chad Dunn, the party’s attorney.

He said the Constitution prevents government officials from compelling a political party – a private association – to select a particular candidate.

Dunn said Oliver could run as an independent or a write-in candidate.

“But, if you want to run as a Democrat, then the Democratic Party gets to decide if you are its nominee,” Dunn said.

The irony of all this is that filing the lawsuit is the first proactive step Lloyd Oliver has ever taken to be elected to something. I wasn’t sure he’d even bother, given that his goal was never to actually get elected, but merely to get publicity. Well, now he gets to keep his name in the papers for a few more days.

I’ll say again what I said originally. I don’t see what leg the HCDP has to stand on. I hope I’m wrong and that they really do have chapter and verse of federal law on their side, because they’re going to look like a bunch of idiots if they lose. I just have a bad feeling about this.

As for Dunn’s statement about who gets to decide who the nominees are, well, not to belabor the obvious, but that’s what primary elections are for. The fact that the voters made a poor choice this time is certainly unfortunate and a failure of the process that I believe the party needs to address for the future, but that’s a separate issue. It’s true that Oliver could have run as an independent or as a write-in, but to do so would have required filing paperwork that was due at the same time as the paperwork to be on the primary ballot. Unlike, say, Connecticut, where you can form your own party to run in after losing in the primary of another party, you only get one shot at this in Texas. Oliver chose to file as a Democrat for his own inscrutable reasons. He won the primary, and that means he’s earned the right to run in November, much as I dislike the idea of him winning. I’ll wait to see what the judge has to say, but I really don’t understand this. Tactically speaking, it’s hard to see how Oliver was going to be more trouble on the ballot than he is now trying to get him off of it.

Dems boot Oliver

Here we go.

The Harris County Democratic Party worked Wednesday to take district attorney nominee Lloyd Oliver’s name off the ballot, deciding to go forward without a candidate in November’s general election.

Whether they can actually take the outspoken and controversial lawyer out of the race remains an open question because state law does not appear to allow the party’s actions.

“There are ways to remove a candidate, but not the way they’re doing it,” Oliver said. “And my ultimate remedy is an injunction in the federal court, and I think the federal courts will agree with me.”

Oliver, a perennial candidate who has run as both a Republican and a Democratic, usually in judicial elections, said he did not know why the party wants to take him off the ballot.


Chad Dunn, the party’s attorney, said the party’s actions are lawful.

“All of the federal court decisions addressing this issue have found that political parties have an intrinsic right, as a private political association protected by the First Amendment, to choose and select their nominees,” Dunn said. “I think the law is very clear that political parties can’t be forced by the state, either by statute or some state officer’s requirement, to have a nominee in a race they don’t want to have a nominee in.”

I still don’t see it, but I remain a non-lawyer, so what do I know. Oliver is a barnacle on the political process and I have zero sympathy for him, but that doesn’t make this legal or right. I presume a judge will eventually decide the former; the latter is for you to determine. I hope Dunn et al are correct about the law, because this will be a debacle otherwise. I’ll say again, I hope the lesson learned is that the party needs to be involved in the primary when a clearly unsuitable candidate files.

Mark Bennett objects to this move on principle. I’ll leave the principle to others to discuss, but I will offer a pragmatic defense: If this sticks, it at least ensures that an unqualified boob like Lloyd Oliver cannot be elected DA. How likely would that be? If Harris County is roughly 50-50 as it was in 2008, then I’d have bet money on Mike Anderson winning. If Harris in 2012 is to 2008 as 2008 was to 2004, then Oliver could easily win on partisan momentum. If it’s somewhere in between, who knows? Point is, as long as Lloyd Oliver is on the ballot there’s a non-zero chance he could win. Your opinion of that risk will likely color your opinion of the HCDP’s action. Murray Newman has more.

Birnberg files complaint to force Oliver off the ballot

I’m far from thrilled to have Lloyd Oliver as the Democratic nominee for District Attorney, but this seems a bit much to me.

Gerry Birnberg, the former party chair, filed a complaint earlier this month to have Oliver removed from November’s ballot because he praised the sitting district attorney, Republican Pat Lykos.

Specifically, Birnberg said in his complaint, Oliver told the Houston Chronicle in May that Lykos was such a good candidate that she “would have gotten my vote.”


Birnberg said he was not retaliating against Oliver for beating Zack Fertitta in the primary, but said he is concerned about Oliver’s loyalty and the Republican strategy.

“I believe the Republicans are planning on using his colorful past as a way to bring down the entire ticket,” Birnberg said.

He also said he expects loyalty to Democrats across the ticket, “and if a candidate is saying that ‘Republicans are still good candidates too,’ that’s not helpful for the Democratic party.”

So much to cover here, but let me start off by noting that Gary Polland was the first to report this:

This hasn’t made the local media yet, but former Democratic Chair Gerald Birnberg has made a complaint designed to remove Democratic “accidental” District Attorney candidate Lloyd Oliver from the ballot. This is an interesting development.

TCR wonders, do the D’s intend to remove and replace with a handpicked star who they think could take advantage of the nasty GOP primary battle between incumbent Pat Lykos and successful primary challenger Mike Anderson? Do the Democrats think that they can convince enough swing and Lykos loyalists to vote their way, and win a tight battle? Maybe it’s time for the Anderson group to smoke the peace pipe with District Attorney Lykos and her supporters.

Birnberg is worried that the Republicans will user Oliver as a club against the Democrats elsewhere on the ticket. Polland is worried that the residual acrimony from the Anderson-Lykos primary could let Oliver win a race he has no business winning. We live in interesting times.

I’m sure that Birnberg and Polland have both forgotten more election law than I’ll ever know, but I don’t see how the Dems can do this. For one thing, the case Birnberg is making seems exceedingly weak to me. I mean, the Democratic Speaker of the State House in 2000 (Pete Laney) endorsed George Bush for President, and he was far from the only Dem to do so back then. Compared to that, Oliver’s words barely register. I mean, they’d be grounds to remove him as a precinct chair, but to declare him ineligible as a nominee? I just don’t see it. Oliver is an idiot, but unless he chooses to withdraw I’m afraid we’re stuck with him.

Assuming that HCDP Chair Lane Lewis buys the ineligibility argument, it’s also not clear to me that Oliver can be replaced. Section 145 of the Elections Code doesn’t specifically address the question of replacing candidates who have been declared ineligible on the ballot, but Sec 145.039 says “If a candidate dies or is declared ineligible after the 74th day before election day, the candidate’s name shall be placed on the ballot”. By my calculation, that makes the deadline this Friday, the 24th. I have no idea if the machinery can be made to move swiftly enough to allow for this, again in the event that Lewis goes along with Birnberg’s complaint. It just adds to my incredulity about this.

July campaign finance reports for Harris County candidates

You know the drill by now.

Office Candidate Raised Spent Cash Loans ============================================================ Sheriff A Garcia 47,025 41,900 357,818 0 Sheriff L Guthrie 70,176 75,646 33,075 157,000 Sheriff C Pittman 11,309 11,566 5,217 24,000 DA M Anderson 73,888 60,980 33,371 0 DA L Oliver 0 150 0 0 County Atty V Ryan 56,571 33,047 145,606 0 County Atty R Talton 7,250 17,359 2,020 39,250 Tax Assessor M Sullivan 2,900 24,126 1,966 20,000 Tax Assessor A Bennett 8,500 5,344 3,657 0 HCDE Pos 3 M Wolfe 0 0 9 0 HCDE Pos 3 D Trautman 6,674 1,722 8,849 0 Commish 1 EF Lee 307,025 199,407 3.2 M 0 Commish 1 C Maricle 0 4,085 3,520 2,500 Commish 3 S Radack 86,250 63,619 797,044 0 Commish 3 G McPherson Commish 4 J Cagle 16,850 36,738 178,700 0 Commish 4 S Hammerle 1,348 2,918 357 866 HCDE Pos 4 K Smith 0 0 31 0 HCDE Pos 4 S Mintz 710 2,000 506 0 HCDE Pos 6 E Lee 17,255 20,769 0 0 HCDE Pos 6 J Johnson HCDE Pos 6 BartlettPack Constable 1 C VaraLeija 32,264 3,056 13,404 0 Constable 1 A Rosen 54,811 69,130 16,600 0 Constable 1 S Danna 0 2,299 0 3,500 Constable 2 Z Guinn 12,275 2,669 9,637 0 Constable 2 C Diaz 9,950 11,748 28 23,337 Constable 2 C McDonald 0 2,013 0 0

My comments:

Some candidates do their fundraising through committees. These are the reports you have to check, their personal reports will show nothing. Such candidates include Adrian Garcia, Mike Anderson (I made this mistake with him before), and Jack Cagle.

I didn’t blog about this story about the colorful histories of Garcia opponents Louis Guthrie and Carl Pittman, so I figured this was as good a place as any to include it. I’m sure we’ll hear plenty more about it during the campaign.

Believe it or not, there was an actual debate between Mike Anderson and Lloyd Oliver. The mind reels. You can find links to footage of the debate here. I will note that Oliver did apparently manage to file a finance report this time, but it has not been posted on the County Clerk website as of this publication.

Vince Ryan seems to have learned from the example of his predecessor, Mike Stafford, who hadn’t raised much money for his 2008 campaign. I’d have thought Talton would have raised more by now as well, but then Ryan didn’t raise much as a challenger, either. That may just be how it is for County Attorney hopefuls.

Erica Lee not only has a July finance report up, she also has an eight day report, which covers the period of July 15 through July 18, up for viewing. She raised an additional $825 and spent $10,407 during this time period. Neither Jarvis Johnson nor JuLuette Bartlett-Pack, the GOP candidate, has a report of any kind that I can see. A. Robert Hassan, opposing Steve Radack for County Commissioner in Precinct 3, also has no report.

Cindy Vara-Leija does have a report filed, but like Oliver’s it is not viewable. As her filing date is given as July 16, I have no idea why this is so.

Chris McDonald is listed on the campaign finance reports page as being a candidate for Commissioners Court, but his actual finance report correctly lists him as a candidate for Constable in Precinct 2.

All right, that’ll do it till the 30 day reports. Is there anything in here that stands out to you?

UPDATE: Per the comments, I incorrectly identified A. Robert Hassan as the winner of the Dem primary for County Commissioner in Precinct 3. Gloria McPherson won that race, but like Hassan she has no report filed. The reports for Cindy Vara-Leija and Lloyd Oliver are now visible on the County Clerk site, and I have filled in the appropriate values for them. Still no reports for Jarvis Johnson or JuLuette Bartlett-Pack. Finally, in going over all this again I realize that I managed to overlook the Tax Assessor race in my initial roundup. I have included the totals for Mike Sullivan and Ann Harris Bennett as well. My apologies for the oversight.

UPDATE: Added in totals from Commissioner Precinct 1 at the request of Republican candidate Chuck Maricle. Commissioner El Franco Lee’s cash on hand total is $3,279,326, but I didn’t leave enough room in that column for a seven-figure total, so I abbreviated.

Precinct analysis: That mysterious Democratic DA primary

We return to Democratic primary results and to the Harris County canvass as we take a look at the race everyone is trying to understand, the Democratic DA primary. Here’s what the numbers look like:

Dist Oliver Fertitta Oliver % =============================== 126 623 571 52.18% 127 693 624 52.62% 128 772 651 54.25% 129 885 1135 43.81% 130 452 449 50.17% 131 3500 1874 65.13% 132 576 416 58.06% 133 577 1127 33.86% 134 903 3126 22.41% 135 610 522 53.89% 137 682 676 50.22% 138 512 646 44.21% 139 2721 1852 59.50% 140 768 571 57.36% 141 2014 1197 62.72% 142 2485 1593 60.94% 143 1732 1249 58.10% 144 861 761 53.08% 145 750 954 44.01% 146 3661 2668 57.84% 147 3339 3130 51.62% 148 795 1568 33.64% 149 779 541 59.02% 150 529 517 50.57%

The initial theory that was put forth as this result came in was that African-American voters helped put perennial candidate Lloyd Oliver over the top. There wasn’t enough information about the candidates available for them to make an informed decision, the theory goes, and “Lloyd Oliver” sounds like an African-American name. Oliver clearly did well in the African-American districts, but it’s not like they were his only strongholds. He won 18 of the 24 State Rep districts overall. For whatever the reason, people voted for Lloyd Oliver. For whatever the reason, Zack Fertitta’s campaign message did not work. We can either try to understand what happened or risk having it happen again.

The way I see it, there are only two possibilities. One is that people knew nothing about the candidates and voted based on the sound of the name, or ballot order (Oliver was of course first on the ballot, yet another example why I believe ballot order needs to be randomized on these electronic voting machines), or some other inscrutable reason. If that’s the case, then the question is why didn’t Fertitta’s campaign work? We know he did mail, we know he did calls, we know he did radio. Why didn’t it work? Alternately, perhaps people did know of Fertitta and for whatever the reason decided not to support him. Was his name a negative, as some of my commenters have suggested? Was there something about his campaign materials that turned voters off?

Ideally, someone will go back to the voters and ask them these questions. Go through the roster, pick a few hundred people in the precincts that went heavily for Oliver, and ask them what they knew about the candidates and why they voted the way they did. It may take some digging and some carefully worded questions to get at the reasons, but what choice do we have? We learn or we’re left to guess. Who’s going to want to run against Lloyd Oliver the next time he decides to pay a filing fee if we can’t say how to beat him?

The Oliver problem


Lloyd Oliver had run for office at least five times – likely more, he said; he’s lost count – and been beaten each time, falling short of judgeships and congressional seats, getting trounced as both a Republican and a Democrat.

Then he signed up to run as a Democrat for district attorney this year – and won, shocking himself and much of the criminal courthouse crowd.

The 68-year-old defense lawyer isn’t coy about why he has signed up for so many campaigns: Name recognition drives much of his business, and having his name on the ballot every few years is practically free advertising. Likewise, he had a simple explanation for his victory over well-liked primary opponent Zack Fertitta, a 36-year-old former assistant district attorney with a healthy war chest.

“They’ve seen my name on the ballot long enough, maybe they just thought I was the incumbent and voted for me,” Oliver said. “Sometimes you just can’t beat dumb luck.”

In a sense, this isn’t really a problem. Mike Anderson is an experienced prosecutor, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be a competent District Attorney. I disagree with him on the matter of prosecuting trace drug cases, and I believe the worst case scenario Grits describes of the jails becoming overcrowded could well result from it, but at least there would be hope for some pushback from Commissioners Court and the Sheriff. The fact that the Democrats managed to nominate a potted plant to oppose him is a grievous tragedy from a political perspective, but not from a criminal justice one. It’s not like the alternative would have been four more years of John Bradley or Chuck Rosenthal.

The lost political opportunity really is a mortal sin, and I have to believe it was avoidable.

University of Houston political science professor Richard Murray said he thought Oliver may be a contender because black voters – who cast a huge share of Democratic primary ballots when there is no presidential race – would mistakenly assume he was African-American.

“If the choices are Zack Fertitta or Lloyd Oliver, that’s a pretty easy call for a lot of folks looking for somebody they think understands the issues in their community: ‘Let’s go with the black guy’ – who ain’t black, of course,” Murray said. “Mostly people are just throwing darts.”

Political consultant Joe Householder, of Purple Strategies, said in such a low-profile race, the odds of an unexpected result rise sharply.

“When (voters) start tracing their finger down the ballot, they say, ‘I don’t know anything about either of these guys, but I have heard of this guy, so I guess I’ll vote for him,’ ” he said.

Maybe some folks thought it was Chris Oliver that was running. Who knows? I tend to think that Householder has the more accurate explanation here, but a look at the precinct data once its available ought to settle the question. Be that as it may, this goes to what I said before about how we are (not) communicating with voters. I have no idea what Zack Fertitta, or for that matter any other non-African American candidate, did or does to tell African American voters about their candidacy. African American voters are a big part of the Democratic base and a big percentage of the primary electorate. Add to that the fact that there were three contested primaries in African American legislative districts, plus the HCDE primary in Precinct One and the Constable primaries in Precincts 1 and 7, and it didn’t take a genius to predict what the turnout pattern would look like. If anyone had adequate resources but didn’t have adequate outreach in these parts of the county, then no one should be too shocked by the result. Never overestimate your own name ID. I’m not saying Fertitta’s campaign did any of these things – I don’t know one way or the other – but I am saying these are things we need to learn from this debacle so that we can at least get something out of it.

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.

The Democrats have a DA race, too

For which the Chron has an overview.

Zack Fertitta

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.

For Judith Snively

One other thing that came out of that Chron story on Dave Wilson was this nugget about a different Democratic primary.

[Harris County Democratic Party Chair Gerry] Birnberg said he also asked two state agencies whether he could prevent lawyer Lloyd Oliver from running as a Democratic candidate for judge. Oliver is under indictment for illegal solicitation of clients by a lawyer. He is running for judge of Harris County Criminal Court No. 3, the bench vacated by Republican Judge Don Jackson, who was convicted last month of a misdemeanor charge of official oppression. Lawyer Judith Snively also has filed for the Democratic nomination.

Having been informed by the secretary of state’s office and the Commission on Judicial Conduct that the indictment did not disqualify Oliver’s candidacy, Birnberg said he will seek a resolution from the county party’s executive committee authorizing him to inform voters of Oliver’s “criminal circumstances.”

That executive committee meeting is tomorrow night, and as a precinct chair I will be there and will vote for that resolution. But as a blogger, I don’t need to wait till then. I hereby formally endorse Judith Snively, whose Q&A is here, in this primary for judge of Harris County Criminal Court #3. Lloyd Oliver also ran in 2008, losing that primary to now-Judge Ruben Guerrero. At that time, I can recall meeting nearly every other judicial candidate that was in a contested primary, but not Oliver. If you’re a Democrat, please vote for Judith Snively in this race. We couldn’t do anything about Dave Wilson, but we can make sure he’s the only bad apple in the bunch.

On a related note, the Coalition of Harris County Democratic Elected Officials put out a press release about the many judicial primaries.

Because so many candidates were inclined to seek the Democratic nomination for dozens of judgeships in 2010, elected leaders created a process for screening and recommending candidates to help insure that the quality and diversity of those nominated bring strength to the Democratic Party.

Membership in the Coalition is limited to non-judicial Democratic elected officials who represent Harris County voters. The roles of several offices held by Democrats, such as the Harris County District Clerk which serves all District judges, and the Office of County Attorney, representing all County officials and departments, makes their participation problematic; however most non-judicial Democratic leaders are participating.

Very careful screening of judicial candidates by panels of elected officials has taken place over several months, with final decisions made after filing deadline had passed.

You can see their list of endorsees here. I will update the 2010 Elections page to indicate who received these endorsements. Obviously, no single endorsement is a be-all and end-all, and it will be interesting to see what recommendations some other groups, like the HGLBT Political Caucus, make. But consider this a first step to help you make some of these decisions.