The race for Fort Bend District Attorney presents voters with a choice that’s starting to feel familiar in Texas politics: An experienced Republican who represents the past and an upstart Democrat who wants to welcome the future.
In this race voters should go with the Democrat, Brian M. Middleton, because of his openness to new ideas in the realm of criminal justice.
Republican Cliff Vacek has decades of experience as an attorney, including overseeing a large law firm and serving as a district judge for 10 years with concurrent civil and criminal jurisdiction. He is board certified in personal injury law and received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center. No doubt he has the resume to serve, but Vacek is skeptical of changes happening in our criminal courthouses. Practices that are routine in Harris County, under both Republicans and Democrats, are uncommon in Fort Bend and he likes it that way. For example, he told us that pretrial diversion — which helps people avoid convictions — should rarely be used.
For Vacek, the biggest problem in the Fort Bend courts are that it takes too long to get cases to trial.
What really convinced us was watching the two candidates sit side-by-side during the candidate screening and discuss drug policy.
Middleton said he though that low-level possession of marijuana should result in an automatic personal recognisance bond, an in-court assessment and, if appropriate, pre-trial diversion.
Vacek, on the other hand, spoke like a drug warrior and referred to marijuana as “a gateway drug.”
Times are changing, Fort Bend is changing, and the District Attorney’s Office needs a leader who is willing to change, too.
See here for some background. As we know, there have been a lot of reform-minded DAs getting elected around the country in the last couple of years, including here is Harris County. Most of them have been in heavily Democratic counties, with the wins coming in primaries. Winning in Fort Bend would be a new frontier for the criminal justice reform movement.