February 09, 2008
Endorsement watch: Harris County Judge

The Chron makes its choices in the two primaries for County Judge. First is an easy one:

David Mincberg, Democrat: Mincberg, a former leader of the Harris County Democratic party, says quality of life -- including problems of traffic congestion and transportation, flood control and clean air -- is the most significant issue facing the county today. "The decisions we make today will be critical to the quality of life of ourselves, our children and our grandchildren," Mincberg says.

Ethics in county governance is an issue elevated in the minds of county residents lately, and it's a matter Mincberg pledges to give his full attention. However, he contends, having high ethical standards is not the basis for a campaign but a basic criterion for the job and for how the county conducts its business. Mincberg, who has amassed a personal fortune in real estate investments, promises to completely separate his financial interests from county business, to place voluntary caps on contributions to his campaigns and never to use campaign contributions for personal expenditures.

Mincberg says he is in the process of liquidating his company holdings and will make running Harris County his full-time job. It's a job to which he'll bring the experience of having run an operation employing 750 workers and representing more than $1 billion worth of economic activity owned or invested primarily in this county.

Mincberg, who served more than a year as Houston Mayor Bill White's $1-a-year executive on affordable housing, says he has a good working relationship with White and understands the need to work closely with mayors of the 32 cities incorporated in Harris County, as well as with leaders of neighboring counties.

An attorney by training, Mincberg is conversant in budgeting, large-stakes finance arrangements and high-dollar bonding transactions. He intends to turn his attention to the finances of the Harris County Hospital District, as one example, to ensure that taxpayers receive the most value for the hundreds of millions in public health-care dollars they invest there.

There's a huge disparity in candidate quality here, but Mincberg would be tough to beat for the endorsement regardless. Here's the interview I did with him if you haven't had a chance to listen to it.

On the other side, the choice was tougher, but I would argue still obvious for the Chron:

Ed Emmett, Republican: Emmett, who currently holds this seat, was appointed last year to fill the unexpired county judge term of Robert Eckels, who left the position for the private sector. He faces a strong political challenge in former District Clerk Charles Bacarisse for the Republican nomination, but the Chronicle believes Emmett is the better candidate.

Emmett is a former four-term state representative (1979 to 1987) and was a George H.W. Bush appointee to the U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission. In addition to his extensive government service, Emmett has strong private sector business experience in the transportation industry.

As an internationally recognized expert on transportation policy and issues, Emmett is well-qualified to deal with this region's thorny traffic congestion and mobility issues. He intends to continue working regionally to find solutions -- both mass transit and road projects -- to abet Houston's traffic woes. Also, the Chronicle believes that Emmett's support of the Metropolitan Transit Authority's plan to put light rail along Richmond Avenue is the correct stance on this controversial issue.

"That's where the people are, that's where the businesses are," Emmett told members of the Chronicle editorial board this week.

Emmett sees good judgment as one of his strongest suits, which will put county residents in good stead in any emergency scenario, from a natural disaster to a terrorist attack. And he touts the fact that under his administration, commissioners approved the largest tax-rate cut in Harris County history. He promises to make crafting a stronger county ethics policy a high priority of his tenure.

Having endeavored over the past year to earn a reputation as a consensus builder on Commissioner's Court, Emmett pledges to work hard to support his party while recognizing that the county judge must serve the diverse needs of this dense, urban/suburban and growing county.

Given Bacarisse's position on Richmond rail, I'd have been amazed if the Chron had endorsed him over Emmett. They feel strongly enough about this that they specified it as a reason for their endorsement instead of simply repeating the candidate's points as they so often do. That last paragraph can also be read as a criticism of Bacarisse's overall campaign tone and rhetoric. Which is interesting, because as far as I can see, Bacarisse is clearly speaking the language of Republican primary voters, while Emmett seems to be in November campaign mode. Call me crazy, but I don't think that - or this endorsement - will serve him all that well in March.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 09, 2008 to Election 2008

Very astute analysis Charles; I'm admittingly a Bacarisse Backer since I know him personally (so everything else you can disregard since I'm biased) but this endorsement actually gives him more Red Meat to throw to the hardcore GOP'ers whom are motivated by: illegal immigration, taxes, and "perceived" liberal bias against conservatism in the Main Stream media. If you don't think that last point resonates with GOP'ers, you definitely don't understand why so many people vote the way the Rush Limbaughs and Bill O'Reilly's suggests they should.

Posted by: TAN on February 9, 2008 5:57 PM

Rash Limbaw? Is that pill popping draft dodger still around?

Posted by: Charles Hixon on February 10, 2008 12:31 AM