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Judge Hidalgo celebrates her win

Winning is sweet. Victory laps are even sweeter.

Judge Lina Hidalgo

Fresh off a narrow reelection that was anything but assured, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on Wednesday held a news conference to praise colleagues, thank supporters and call out some members of her own party for not backing her campaign.

“There were some elected officials that weren’t there because they didn’t think it was convenient, those in my own party that wouldn’t do an ad for me, that wouldn’t have a fundraiser, that wouldn’t help when it got tough,” Hidalgo said. “And oh, I remember who they are.”

The Hidalgo campaign declined to specify which officials she was addressing.

Hidalgo also addressed critics during the election cycle who accused the Democrats on Commissioners Court of defunding police, including what she called “unscrupulous politicians of both parties.”

She called out Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, a Democrat, without naming her directly.

“This person who is supposed to represent justice in this county more than once said with a straight face ‘stop the defunding’ knowing full well that the budget had increased,” Hidalgo said.

[…]

Despite being significantly out-funded by Republican newcomer Alexandra del Moral Mealer, Hidalgo emerged from early voting ahead of her opponent and narrowly maintained that lead throughout the night as votes were counted. The final unofficial tally, released just before 9 a.m. Wednesday, put Hidalgo in front of Mealer by slightly more than 17,000 votes, or 50.8 percent of the nearly 1.1 million votes cast. That was a narrower margin of victory than her surprise election in 2018, when the then-27-year-old ousted popular Republican Ed Emmett.

Mealer tweeted her concession around 9:30 a.m.

“While we did not accomplish our goal of changing leadership in Harris County, we were successful in elevating the profile of critical issues like the need to appropriately resource our law enforcement and criminal justice system as well as the desire to eliminate corruption and increase transparency in local government,” Mealer said in a statement. “This campaign was always about good government and I am hopeful that we have played a role encouraging that going forward.”

Hidalgo acknowledged her opponent’s hard-fought campaign, much of which centered on crime, blaming policies championed by Hidalgo for rising numbers of homicides the past two years, and accusing the first-term judge of corruption, mostly related to a controversial COVID vaccination outreach contract that resulted in indictments against three of her aides.

Since July 1, Mealer raised more than $8.5 million, much of it from large donors like Gallery Furniture owner Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, an early supporter of her campaign. Hidalgo, who has refused to accept campaign contributions from county vendors, raised $2.4 million in that period.

“She had almost $10 million in the bank and she had a U.S. senator and she had a furniture salesman,” Hidalgo said in her speech, taking a swipe at McIngvale who ran several campaign ads in support of Mealer.

“I want to thank Alex Mealer for running a hard fought campaign,” Hidalgo said. “I want to thank her for her concession. And I want to thank her again for her service to our country.”

Surrounded by union leaders and Democratic party elected officials, Hidalgo thanked her supporters for helping her block walk, raise money and host campaign events.

Much of her speech was of a celebratory nature, citing past accomplishments with current Commissioner Court colleagues Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia.

“We have done so much from the very first meeting,” Hidalgo said, citing countywide voting as one example of successes while she has been in office. “We did that at the first meeting in 2019.”

In re: the margin of victory, they are referring to the raw vote differential. In 2018, Judge Hidalgo won by 19,277 votes, while in 2022 it was 17,397 votes. Of course, there were more total votes cast in 2018 than in 2022, which has an effect. As it happens Judge Hidalgo’s margin of victory as a percentage of the vote is greater now than it was then: In 2018 she won 49.76% to 48.18% (there was a Libertarian candidate that took the rest). In 2022, it was 50.79% to 49.19%, with a write-in candidate getting the other 0.02%. That means she won this year by 1.60 percentage points, compared to 1.58 in 2018. Pick your preferred measure of expression.

As for what may be on the agenda for 2023, I’m not the first person to suggest this, but don’t be surprised if Commissioners Court looks at redrawing the Constable/JP precincts. Most counties just have the Constable and JP precincts be the same as the Commissioners Court precincts. Harris has its own weird precincts for them that don’t match up in population and (as I understand it haven’t been updated since the 70s. There’s also no shortage of bad blood between (at least some) Constables and the Court, so a bit of payback may be in order. I suspect this would be a complex matter and would surely invite litigation so I don’t think it will be undertaken lightly, but I will be surprised if it doesn’t at least come up.

Beyond that, I expect the Court to do more of what it’s been doing, with the freedom of knowing that their next budget can’t be busted by no-shows. The main obstacle will continue to be interference from the state and whatever new BS legislation may come down. This is where I remind you that Harris County was under a Republican majority on Commissioners Court going back to at least the mid-70s, which is as far back as I’ve been able to verify, up until 2019 when Dems finally achieved a 3-2 advantage. We’ve done things a certain way for a long damn time. Making changes to make things better will take time, too. For now, we can celebrate a bit as we look forward. Let it out, Judge Hidalgo. You’ve earned it. The Press has more.

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8 Comments

  1. David Fagan says:

    20 days and counting………….

  2. Congrats to Judge Lina Hidalgo, and all our other victorious Democrats, for winning. Given the corruption allegations, rise in violent crime, wasteful spending, no-bid contracts, bloated county bureaucracy, ethical issues, etc., Hidalgo definitely could have lost (those issues are real). While I voted for about 80% of our Democratic candidates, I didn’t vote for her. The slim margin of victories and relatively high number (~42k) of local Democratic voters splitting their ballot should be a wakeup call for our Democratic Party. While Harris County is blue, votes still have to be earned (we can’t take voters for granted).

    On my blog, I urged our local Democratic officials to be magnanimous in victory. To help facilitate future election victories, now is the time to turn adversaries into allies. There’s no reason our elected Democratic leaders should be fighting with local police organizations, Crime Stoppers, religious leaders (Ed Young), the media, crime victims, or successful, popular business leaders (Mattress Mack). If our victorious Democratic officials will now publicly reach out to those defeated groups and offer to work with them to proactively address their primary concern (violent crime), perhaps we can turn those groups into future allies. It’s definitely worth a try and would be a great public gesture.

    Our Democratic officials have the support of 51% of Harris County voters… let’s demonstrate servant leadership and get the other 49% on board. Remember, Democrats getting 51% of the vote isn’t exactly a mandate or landslide. In the future, Democrats must (and can) do better.

  3. Flypusher says:

    Got a link to your blog post?

  4. Manny says:

    Police unions are die hard Trump lovers, with some exceptions.

    Get Republicans on board? What do you add to your coffee, Greg?

  5. Manny,

    How many police officers do you actually know? Harris County police organizations are very diverse and are open to supporting candidates from both political parties. For example, the HPOU endorsed, and fully supported, Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner several times. The HPOU, HCDO (FOP Lodge 39), and many other police unions have endorsed Democratic Sheriff Ed Gonzalez in his races. If a candidate is competent, puts a high priority on public safety, supports law enforcement, and actively engages with these organizations, that candidate can get their endorsement. I truly believe our local Democratic leaders CAN turn some recent adversaries into allies, if they are willing to make the effort. The election is over… let’s mend some fences.

    I take my coffee with a spoonful of optimism. Still, it’s best to be proactive. My favorite quote is from Peter Drucker, “The best way to predict the future is to create it”. Let’s visualize where we want to be and then make it happen.

    https://www.chron.com/politics/houston/article/Houston-police-union-endorses-Turner-for-14102058.php

    https://edgonzalez.com/supporters/

  6. […] discussed the political case for redistricting the Constables in an earlier post. That’s a separate matter from what David McClendon is advocating. The two […]