In her last column for the Chron before moving on to the WaPo, Kristen Mack writes about the upcoming battle for Harris County DA between Chuck Rosenthal and former HPD Chief C.O. Bradford. I think she's right to call it the marquee local race for 2008 - it will certainly be an expensive and high profile race, especially given the failed attempt by Rosenthal to prosecute Bradford for saying naughty words, or whatever it was. This race will be fought with vigor, and I daresay no small measure of nastiness.
I have no idea how this will turn out. Bradford certainly has some baggage, though not all of it can be easily used against him by Rosenthal. Whatever you might say about the HPD Crime Lab scandal (and remember, the problems there started well before Bradford was Chief), Chuck Rosenthal wasn't exactly an outsider to it. Bradford can also point out that it was on his watch that the Bromwich investigation got started. If he's canny, he could now echo Bromwich's call for a special master to oversee the cases that need review, which is something Rosenthal opposes.
Rosenthal will surely make an issue of the fact that Bradford hasn't been a prosecutor before. While that's true, Bradford is a lawyer, and as he points out, he's not applying for a job as a prosecutor. That's what the assistant DAs do; besides, we all know what happened the last time Chuck Rosenthal actually argued a case in court. Bradford is running to manage the office, which is the sort of thing he has done before. And whatever you may think of his time as HPD chief, it's not like he isn't familiar with the workings of the criminal justice system.
There's the K-Mart Kiddie Roundup, for which former HPD captains Mark Aguirre and Ken Wenzel were fired. Bradford is still a defendant in at least one lawsuit that stemmed from the Roundup. Whether any of that will become news during the campaign, I couldn't say.
And finally, there's the last-minute raise Bradford got before he stepped down as Chief, for which he's clearly not apologetic. I'm sure Rosenthal will bring that up a few times. My guess is that Rosenthal and his proxies will do everything they can to tie Bradford to Lee Brown, whose administration had its share of people who got into trouble with the law. I haven't seen any polling to indicate this, but I'd bet that Brown isn't all that well regarded in Harris County, especially in the parts of the county outside Houston where much of Rosenthal's base lives. If Charles Bacarisse is an indicator, the overall GOP strategy is going to be "fire up the base", and this would fit well with that. For his part, I see Bradford running a Craig Watkins-like campaign, emphasizing Rosenthal's bad judgment (his own perjury trial being Exhibit A) and the myriad ways in which that costs us, and the need for a non-prosecutor to come in and change the culture at the DA's office.
As I say, I have no idea how this will ultimately play out. In some ways, Bradford is exactly the right candidate to run this kind of campaign against Rosenthal (assuming that's what he's planning; I'm just guessing), but he also has some obvious vulnerabilities. You don't know how good or bad someone will be as a candidate until you see that person in action, which hasn't happened for me yet. I've had some critical things to say about Bradford in the past - you can search my archives and see for yourself - and I won't pretend that I don't have some trepidation about his candidacy. I don't know who my ideal candidate to run against Chuck Rosenthal would have been, but if you'd put a gun to my head and demanded that I give you a name, C.O. Bradford would not have been it. But whatever concerns I may have about Bradford, my issues with Chuck Rosenthal are much greater, and I see a lot of potential for Bradford to do some real good. It's up to him and his campaign to make that case, to me and to everyone else. We'll see what he does. Grits has more.
Finally, congrats to Kristen Mack on the new gig, and best of luck in DC. Do we know yet who will take over the Friday politics column?Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 08, 2007 to Election 2008