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Endorsement watch: County Judge

The Chron goes for Ed Emmett.

While building an effective working relationship with the evenly divided partisan commissioners, he tackled the politically touchy question of ethics reform. Serving on a court often accused of maintaining a pay-to-play culture in which those seeking county business feel compelled to contribute to officeholders, Emmett appointed a citizen task force to recommend ethics standards for county officials and employees as well as authoring a comprehensive ethics proposal.

He showed leadership in forcing the resignation of the County Sports and Convention Corp. chief who later was indicted in an unrelated city bribery scandal. He also launched proceedings with the state to remove District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal from office for official misconduct.

How a candidate conducts a campaign is usually a good indicator of how they will behave in office. To his credit, Emmett has stuck with the issues. He supported Metro’s plans to build light rail even when attacked on that stand by his opponent in the GOP primary. During that same contest Emmett refused to be drawn into a divisive debate on indigent care for illegal immigrants and stressed the county’s mission to provide quality health care for those in need. He also chairs the county juvenile board and is committed to finding a new model to keep juveniles out of jail and away from crime.

In his limited time in office he has made several excellent appointments, including Houston attorney and civic leader Edgardo Colon to chair the Sports and Convention Corp.

The judge teamed with Houston Mayor Bill White and other local officials to provide strong leadership during Hurricane Ike. While generally satisfied with the disaster response, Emmett says the county will produce a study within several months recommending improvements.

The Democratic candidate in the race, David Mincberg, is an able businessman and solid citizen qualified to be judge. However, he has relied too much on campaign mudslinging rather than projecting a detailed vision of how he would run the nation’s third -argest county. Those tactics raise questions about whether Mincberg would be able to lead from a position whose effectiveness depends on persuasion more than statutory power.

This is a close race and both candidates have skills that would serve the citizenry well. The Chronicle believes that Emmett has shown in his limited time in office that he can be an effective county judge and urges voters to return him to office.

I’ve called so many of these correctly, it’s starting to get boring. I think the Chron gives Emmett too much credit for ethics reform, given how long it’s taken him just to bring the issue up for discussion, though I admit I’m surprised they didn’t talk more about Hurricane Ike, which I thought would be the basis of their endorsement. As for this being a close race, it sure would be nice to get a picture of just how close, wouldn’t it? Alas.

On a side note, yesterday was the day the Chron did its ed board screening for Railroad Commissioner. Apparently, incumbent Michael Williams didn’t bother to show. I doubt it’ll affect their final decision, but keep it in mind when you read their recommendation.

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