September 29, 2008
Chron overview of the Sheriff race

The Chron takes a look at the Sheriff's race, and I think we all agree on the matter of what it's all about.

Both candidates for Harris County sheriff focus on the current sheriff's record.

A challenge for Republican incumbent Tommy Thomas may be that this has been the most troublesome year for the sheriff's department under his watch. While the presidential campaign centers on change and reform, Thomas is asking to add four more years to his tenure of 14 years.

Democrat Adrian Garcia, a Houston councilman and former police officer, said sheriff's department controversies -- including a spate of jail inmate deaths that triggered a pending U.S. Department of Justice investigation -- show Thomas has performed poorly. Garcia also touts his record as mayor pro tem and chairman of the council's public safety committee as well as being a former lawman.

But even when Democrats did well on the Harris County ballot more than a decade ago, Democratic Houston council members had a tough time in countywide elections as they sought support from hundreds of thousands of voters who live outside the city limits, where neighborhoods trend politically conservative.

Regardless, Thomas said, the Nov. 4 contest is about which candidate has the best experience for running a sprawling law enforcement agency that employs 4,000 people and spends an average of $1 million a day. Garcia, he said, can't come close to the qualification.

"My tenure speaks for itself," the sheriff said. "It's not something you can just walk into."

I must say, I agree here with Sheriff Thomas. His tenure really does speak for itself. It's just a matter of what you think is being said. Or at least what you think is being emphasized. So I found this bit at the end to be fascinating.

Thomas has raised much more campaign money than Garcia and plans to plow much of it into TV ads and billboards in the next few weeks. But, he said, the fate of his campaign may lie in the turnout for the Obama and McCain tickets.

"I think we will be a victim to the top of the ticket," he said.

Garcia, who would be the county's first Hispanic sheriff, said otherwise. "The sheriff's race is in the forefront of the public's mind by virtue of the sheriff's performance," he said. "I think they are completely disappointed."

I've assumed all along that Thomas' sizable amount of campaign cash meant he would take to the airwaves. I've just never been sure what those ads would say. My guess is that he'll tout whatever accomplishments he thinks he can claim, and as I suggested before, will focus on his department's work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. If nothing else, that ought to rally the base for him. He may run attack ads, but I'd bet that gets done via direct mail, more likely by third parties. I believe Garcia will have the resources to run some TV ads as well, though clearly not as much. As long as he's not completely drowned out, he should be able to counter most of what Thomas does. Get ready to start seeing it all soon.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 29, 2008 to Election 2008
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