Selecting a successor for El Franco Lee: What I’m looking for

El Franco Lee

Building on what we discussed last time, what am I, as one of maybe 100 people who has the privilege of selecting a Democratic nominee to take El Franco Lee’s place on the November ballot – and most likely, on Commissioners Court for the foreseeable future – looking for? What qualities do I want that person to have?

I’ve already noted my preference for someone who will take an active role in assisting good candidates and getting out the vote locally. Beyond that, I have three main criteria.

1. I will only support candidates who supported HERO this past November. This is non-negotiable. I have no intention of rewarding someone who was on the same team as Jared Woodfill and Steve Hotze.

2. I want a progressive. Look, I get that we’re picking one person to be on a governing body that has no other Democrats. Commissioners Court works on back-scratching consensus, and there’s not going to be a progressive consensus, at least not until there are two other Democrats on board. But because the Court operates on consensus, having a progressive voice in there means that some part of that consensus will contain that voice. The effect may be small and incremental, but it will be there if that voice is present. Thus, my preferred candidate for Commissioner has to have it in the first place.

3. I want leadership on these issues. Some things for which there is already a consensus could use a push from a progressive perspective. I’m specifically thinking of criminal justice reform, for which there’s also a fiscal motivation to get it right, but it’s not the only possibility. The single best thing that could happen to Harris County and its budget right now would be Medicaid expansion. We know Judge Emmett supports this, and we can expect the next Commissioner in Precinct 1 to support it as well. It would be great if the next Commissioner in Precinct 1 could try to get one more colleague on board, then push to get a resolution passed that calls on the Legislature to expand Medicaid already.

Beyond that, the main point to understand here is that being a County Commissioner in Precinct 1 is a pretty damn sweet gig. The next Commissioner will have a large budget, considerable discretion, and basically no worries about the next election. It also comes with a fairly sizable platform, if one chooses to use it. On that matter of criminal justice reform, what is to stop a Commissioner from, say, calling out the judges who contribute to the jail overcrowding problem by refusing to use Pretrial Services, or the judges who help line the pockets of a few preferred assembly-line attorneys who hoover up appointments as indigent defense counsel – in return for not rocking the boat and contributing to those judges’ campaign coffers – instead of using the public defender’s office? Or from calling out Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick and the Legislature for things like refusing to expand Medicaid or reform how property tax appraisals are done, both of which put a significant burden on local taxpayers? One can do that as a State Rep or State Senator, but I’d argue that the microphone a Harris County Commissioner has would be louder. But you have to want to use it. You have to want to pick the fights that need to be picked, and not worry about making a few enemies. Those enemies were never your friend anyway. You have the power. Do some good with it.

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6 Responses to Selecting a successor for El Franco Lee: What I’m looking for

  1. PDiddie says:

    So…. Rodney Ellis, then?

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  3. Paul kubosh says:

    I guess I shouldn’t let you know who I am hoping for. ? 🙂

  4. Charles,

    All you have to do is ask me and I’ll do it.

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