December 08, 2008
A look ahead to 2010 in Harris County

I've spent some time recently talking about what might happen - more accurately, what I'd like to see happen - in 2010 at the state level. In this post, I'd like to contemplate what might happen locally.

It's clear that the Harris County GOP is looking ahead with an attitude that without Obama on the top of the ticket, they'll be in much better shape. I think that's blinkered for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that Obama wasn't always an asset to the Dems, not to mention the Republican Party's image problems, but never mind that. On some level, I agree, in the sense that without someone at the top of the ticket to generate interest among Democratic voters, and without some kind of organized GOTV effort, there could be a step backwards, perhaps a big step backwards, for them. Let's assume that 2010 isn't a replay of 2006 in that sense, and go from there.

The Bettencourt resignation changes the landscape from where it was a week ago. I think it's clear that whoever gets the nod to replace him will be a top target, perhaps the top target, in two years. If it's a Republican, I hope Diane Trautman takes another shot at it. If it's a Democrat, hopefully Trautman, then I expect there to be a contested Republican primary to take her on. Beyond that, we'll have to wait and see who the replacement is.

The next question is whether or not County Judge Ed Emmett gets a serious challenge. After surviving the onslaught this year thanks in large part to voter approval of the job he did during Hurricane Ike, I think Emmett is a favorite to win re-election under most scenarios, barring some scandal emerging. I don't know (and I have not asked) if David Mincberg is up for a rematch, but if I had to bet I'd say no at this point. Beyond that, I have no idea. It would not surprise me if Emmett skates, though if the partisan shift continues I'd expect that to be a one-time-only event, as potential challengers look to 2014, when having the D next to their name might be enough.

If Emmett goes literally or figuratively unopposed, the next highest-profile local race will be for County Clerk, where current City Council Member Sue Lovell has been looking at a challenge to incumbent Beverly Kaufman. Expect to hear a long and contentious airing of the faults of the eSlate machines in this scenario. Lovell is a hard worker and a tough fighter, but as we saw last year she's got some enemies. All this makes for a potentially fascinating matchup.

Newly-elected District Clerk Loren Jackson will be one of a handful of Democrats defending their seats for a full term; the others are judges like Robert Hinojosa and Kathy Stone. I'm sure he'll draw an opponent, but unless the Dems take that big step backwards, I feel confident about his chances.

Last and least is Orlando "Just what exactly does he do all day?" Sanchez, our beloved Harris County Treasurer. I don't know if Richard Garcia will take another crack at him on an abolish-the-office platform, or if someone else will take a slightly less esoteric approach, since this looks a lot more like a winnable office now. I just know I will delight in voting his sorry ass off the public dime.

As for the judges - and there are many more benches up for election in 2010 than there were this year - who knows? Again, barring the big step aback I expect the Democratic slate to do well here, and there are a couple of names I'll be watching closely to see if they finally do fall. Of greater interest to me now is whether or not there will be another committee like there was this year, to screen and recommend (or un-recommend) various candidates for different jobs. As that committee started life with a mission of recruitment, I feel confident in saying its original mission is no longer needed. How many contested primaries will there be, and how many of them will produce oddball results? We'll know sooner than you think.

For legislative races, I've already said that I expect HDs 133 and 144 to be the top battles. The Dems make take a shot at a couple of other seats, like HD138, but I'll be surprised if there's much money in any races besides those two. If Chris Bell wins the SD17 runoff, I expect the Republicans to take a big swing at him; if Joan Huffman wins, I'm less sanguine about the Dems taking another shot at it, on the grounds that if you can't win with a candidate like Bell in a year like this, you probably can't win. The same type of thinking will likely mean no serious challenges in CDs 07 and 22; I think CD10 is more likely to be challenged, but that's just a guess.

One last race to contemplate: Given his legal issues, it seems likely that County Commissioner Jerry Eversole is serving his last term in Precinct 4. If so, that will surely mean a hotly contested Republican primary to replace him, with the possibility of some other seats opening up as existing officeholders seek to climb the ladder. I would hope the Dems field a decent candidate here as well. Precinct 4 isn't quite the opportunity for Dems that Precinct 3 is likely to be when it opens up, but how can you resist? For what it's worth, Jim Sharp got a bit less than 39% in Precinct 4 in 2006; I don't have the data for 2008, as the precincts aren't the same. Whatever the numbers are, though, it's an open County Commissioners Court seat. How can you resist?

It may be that Eversole steps aside, or is pushed aside, before then. If so, there would be an appointed replacement on the ballot instead. I've heard that HD138 Rep. Dwayne Bohac wants the job. Regardless of the situation, I hope the Dems find and fund a serious contender. And if it is Bohac, I expect that would add HD138 to the list of seriously-challenged seats. Either way, I see it as a great opportunity.

That's what I see at this time. What do you think?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 08, 2008 to Election 2010

I agree with you, 2010 could be a step back but that is a long time away in the world of politics. I am still taking in the joy of the last election. After the last election certainly Bettencourt and other republicans see the writing on the wall and that Harris County is going to be a solid blue county in 4 to 6 years.

Posted by: cb on December 8, 2008 10:40 AM

After Eckels and Bettencourt passing on the office they've just won, it's getting hard to take GOP candidates seriously.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on December 8, 2008 12:11 PM

2010 will be for Harris County what 2006 was for Dallas County--the confirmation election for the previous partial victory. That assumes the judicials will be able to raise enough money for a coordinated effort (shouldn't be a problem), and the top of the ticket doesn't completely suck. What would be particularly helpful for the countywides would be if we managed to scare up decent candidates in the House races, even in "hopeless" districts, so we have that many more people banging on doors in non-Democratic areas.
Given the restrictions on giving to the judicials, this would be a good way for the big legal firms to give more towards the same end--electing Democratic judges.

Posted by: precinct1233 on December 8, 2008 1:24 PM
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