Endorsement watch: Sullivan for Tax Assessor

The Chron made its first primary endorsement on Friday, and I just now noticed.

CM Mike Sullivan

The [Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office] is, or should be, the quintessential service department – run with the customer’s satisfaction uppermost in mind.

For almost half a century, the late Carl Smith was the agreeable face of the office, the boss who was always available to help our citizens walk through the process.

But in the years since Smith’s death in 1998, a strain of partisan politics has crept into the office in unmistakable and unhelpful ways. It’s past time for that to go. The tainting of a traditional service office with the officeholder’s partisan political agenda has not brought distinction to the tax office.

The incumbent, Don Sumners, served for 10 years in that politicized environment. As head of the tax office since 2008, he has been in the crossfire of ongoing disputes over his department’s voter registration procedures.

Sumners is professionally competent to hold the assessor-collector position, given his background as a certified public accountant. But his continuing incumbency would bring with it the unnecessary baggage of partisanship that has burdened the office since Smith’s time in office.

A Republican primary challenge to Sumners by Houston City Councilman Mike Sullivan, a proven conservative with solid government and private sector credentials, offers GOP voters an opportunity to clear out those remnants of partisan politics while assuring that this department is well run. We urge them to take it by casting a ballot for Sullivan in the May 29 party primary.

Unlike Sumners (or Leo Vasquez or Paul Bettencourt), Sullivan says he’ll be “more proactive” in voter registration, saying “we have a responsibility to register people”. I’ll be voting for Democratic candidate Ann Harris Bennett in November regardless of who wins this primary, but I’m glad to hear Sullivan say that, and I would be delighted if the debate we can have this fall is about who can manage the clerical duties better rather than whether or not the office is complying with the latest court order in the umpteenth lawsuit over its voter registration practices. Having said that, I have no illusions that this is a positive trait for Sullivan in his primary. The kind of person who votes in Republican primaries is not interested in getting people registered to vote. Quite the contrary, in fact. I wish Sullivan well in his race against Sumners, but I will admit to being surprised if he wins.

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2 Responses to Endorsement watch: Sullivan for Tax Assessor

  1. Mainstream says:

    a bit shrill:
    “The kind of person who votes in Republican primaries is not interested in getting people registered to vote.”

    I just registered an 18 year old neighbor last week. There are plenty of public spirited voter registrars in the GOP.

  2. Maggie says:

    Go Sullivan!

    Sumners seems to be generally an unethical person in my opinion and as well as most of the public’s. The letter that he sent out to the existing employees at the county that essentially told them they were all fired fpr mo reason. The link is below. It was extremely inappropriate and he fired people without cause simply because he didn’t like them. The tax office lost a lot of good people because of his “opinion”. (And no before anyone says it I did not used to work for the tax office; I am not even in a related field of employment).

    The letter:

    Registration Issues

    Look at all the problems he has caused regarding registrations in Harris County. Again, another supporting link is below. He’s been in office for how long now and just noticed this? LOL

    Here is his direct quote:
    “We did sort of get caught a little bit flat footed,” said Harris County Tax Assessor Don Sumners. “I did not realize the backlog had grown to the extent that it had.” (From ABC Local)

    To me that is not an acceptable excuse especially if you’ve gotten a ticket over not having a sticker on your car. If he can’t even keep that under control, how do you expect he will do such a great job with our taxes?

    He also went on to say “To work through the backlog, Sumners says his staff is working weekends and now the delay for mail in renewals is down to about 10 days.” (From ABC Local)

    Maybe if you hadn’t fired the majority of your staff for no cause this wouldn’t have happened Mr. Sumners. Again, I’m not impressed.


    He’s also affiliated with the KSP? KSP is an illegal political committee group here in Houston; I’m sure many people do not know this. The democratic party was awarded judgment in their suit. This further strengthens the evidence that this man is unethical and has other interests than that of the public in mind.

    1] Don Sumners, the Republicans Tax Assessor Collector & Voter Registrar, also has ties to the KSP as demonstrated by this piece published during 2010 campaign.

    The Texas Democratic Party in 2010 filed a lawsuit against the King Street Patriots (KSP) upon the group’s emergence in Harris County. The KSP is a Tea Party Republican group which was registered as a nonprofit corporation but was clearly operating as an illegal, unregistered political action committee intent on electing Republicans. The 261st District Court granted summary judgment to the Texas Democratic Party on all issues on which the Court had jurisdiction.


    If this isn’t enough for you, then I’ll close with this.
    There is a federal case pending that involves Sumners and it is in regards to people being denied the right to vote. This is not just a Democratic Party initiative, it encompasses everyone’s right to vote. “The case also knocks Harris County voter officials for failing to disclose information on why so many new voters’ applications have been rejected in recent years. Tax Assessor Collector Don Sumners said Monday he would not comment.”


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