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George Risner

January 2022 campaign finance reports: Harris County

You know what January means around these parts. There’s lots of action in Harris County, so that’s where we’ll begin. Here’s my summary of the July 2021 reports as a reminder. Let’s dive in.

Lina Hidalgo, County Judge
Ahmed Hassan, County Judge
Georgia Provost, County Judge
Erica Davis, County Judge
Kevin Howard, County Judge
Maria Garcia, County Judge

Martina Lemon Dixon, County Judge
Robert Dorris, County Judge
Randall Kubosh, County Judge
Naoufal Houjami, County Judge
Hector Bolanos, County Judge
Oscar Gonzales, County Judge
Alexandra Mealer, County Judge
Vidal Martinez, County Judge
Warren Howell, County Judge
George Zoes, County Judge

Rodney Ellis, County Commissioner, Precinct 1

Adrian Garcia, County Commissioner, Precinct 2
George Risner, County Commissioner, Precinct 2
Gary Harrison, County Commissioner, Precinct 2
John Manlove, County Commissioner, Precinct 2
Jerry Mouton, County Commissioner, Precinct 2
Jack Morman, County Commissioner, Precinct 2
Daniel Jason, County Commissioner, Precinct 2
Richard Vega, County Commissioner, Precinct 2

Tom Ramsey, County Commissioner, Precinct 3

Jack Cagle (SPAC), County Commissioner, Precinct 4
Ben Chou, County Commissioner, Precinct 4
Ann Williams, County Commissioner, Precinct 4
Clarence Miller, County Commissioner, Precinct 4
Lesley Briones, County Commissioner, Precinct 4
Gina Calanni, County Commissioner, Precinct 4
Jeff Stauber, County Commissioner, Precinct 4

Teneshia Hudspeth, County Clerk
Stan Stanart, County Clerk

Marilyn Burgess, District Clerk
Desiree Broadnax, District Clerk
Chris Daniel (SPAC), District Clerk

Dylan Osborne, County Treasurer
Carla Wyatt, County Treasurer
Kyle Scott, County Treasurer
Eric Dick, County Treasurer
Stephen Kusner, County Treasurer


Name             Raised      Spent    Loans    On Hand
======================================================
Hidalgo         900,323    424,448    1,400  1,488,652
Hassan              200      2,461        0          0
Davis            50,114     10,143   21,852     59,970
Howard
Provost
Garcia, M

Lemond Dixon    196,977    109,175        0     90,294
Dorris                0         68        0         68
Kubosh           15,075      9,051   60,000      7,165
Houjami           1,390        592        0        147
Bolanos               0          0        0          0
Gonzales          2,475      3,432      500          0
Mealer           60,049     15,464        0     15,840
Martinez        514,585     86,782  100,000    516,134
Howell            1,450      7,075        0        375
Zoes

Ellis           264,000    181,904        0  4,192,308

Garcia, A       587,885    364,783        0  2,119,825
Risner            3,250      1,899        0     51,550
Harrison              5      2,191        0          0
Manlove          19,452      4,285        0     68,870
Mouton           29,100      2,916        0     26,283
Morman           45,749     66,119        0    165,834
Jason
Vega

Ramsey          236,900    185,263        0    581,035

Cagle           285,673    501,923        0  1,119,432
Chou             80,590      4,133        0     77,490
Williams          2,600      1,250    1,250      1,450
Miller            5,293     10,560        0     10,336
Briones         244,974     60,571        0    229,258
Calanni           5,540          0        0      5,540
Stauber               0      1,250        0          0

Hudspeth         26,464     10,395        0     19,376
Stanart               0      3,054        0      8,053
Burgess          24,169     26,475        0     17,222
Broadnax          9,649      9,538        0        110
Daniel           11,875      1,393   25,000     12,264
Osborne           2,440        622        0      2,202
Scott             7,900     20,489   14,000      1,410
Dick                  0      1,489        0          0
Kusner              

If you don’t see a linked report for someone, it’s because there wasn’t one I could find on the harrisvotes.com page. The information I have here is current as of last night. It’s possible someone could still file a report, these things do happen, but I wouldn’t expect much from anyone who hasn’t by now.

There are items of greater substance to discuss, but I can’t help myself: Naoufal Houjami was a candidate for Mayor in 2019 – if you don’t remember him, it’s probably because he got a total of 565 votes, for 0.2%, finishing last in the field. He has filed a finance report as a candidate for Harris County Judge, but he is not listed as a candidate for either primary, according to the Secretary of State’s Qualified Candidates page. (The Harris County GOP candidates page doesn’t have him, either.) The first two pictures I saw on his webpage were one with him and Greg Abbott, and one with him and Sheila Jackson Lee. Go figure. He is fully supporting his friend George P. Bush for Attorney General, so you make the call. This is way more than you ever needed to know about Naoufal Houjami.

Anyway. Barring an unlikely late and lucrative report from Georgia Provost, who wasn’t much of a fundraiser as a City Council candidate, incumbent Judge Lina Hidalgo outraised all of the other candidates for that position combined. Erica Davis claimed $70K raised on the summary page of her report but just $50K on the subtotals page – I suspect the $70K number was a typo. She had six total donors listed, two of whom gave $25K each, one who gave $196, and the others gave $19.12 apiece. Vidal Martinez was the other big fundraiser, though as John Coby notes, almost 70% of his donations came from 14 people who each ponied up at least $10K. For sure, it’s all green, but that’s not exactly grassroots support. As for Alexandra Mealer, I’d been wondering about her because I’ve seen multiple signs for her in my very Democratic neighborhood. Turns out she’s also my neighbor, now living in one of the historic houses. That explains a lot.

I included the two Commissioners who are not on the ballot just as a point of comparison. Adrian Garcia is obviously well-equipped for battle. George Risner presumably had a few bucks in his account from his time as a Justice of the Peace, but his candidacy for Commissioner does not seem to have drawn much support so far. Jack Morman also had some coin still in his bank and drew more support on his attempt to come back, but he’s nowhere close to Garcia. For Precinct 4, Jack Cagle raised a reasonable amount, though as you can see not an earth-shaking total, with Lesley Briones coming close to him. He has a tidy sum in his treasury, but it’s less than what he had in July thanks to how much he spent. Gina Calanni didn’t raise much – to be fair, there isn’t that much time between the filing deadline and the finance reporting deadline – but her report showed $40K in pledges, which are noted as transfers from her State House campaign account.

None of the other offices tend to raise much. Chris Daniel has a personal report as well as the SPAC report. The non-SPAC account reported no money raised and $1,151 in expenditures.

Finally, someone named Stephen Kusner filed a finance report for Treasurer in July but is not on either ballot and has no report for January. I’m just making a note of that here in case anyone who looked at my July summary is wondering what happened to him.

I’ll take a look at some state reports next, and Congressional reports later. Let me know if you have any questions.

Filing update: How many contested judicial primaries are there? (Part two)

See here for Part One, which covered district and appellate court judges. Today we review the contested Democratic primaries for county court judges and justices of the peace.

County Civil Court At Law #4: Cynthia Castanon, David Patronella, Manpreet Monica Singh, and Treasea Trevino. This is the bench currently held by Judge Lesley Briones, who is running for County Commissioner, Precinct 4. I don’t know offhand if Judge Briones has stepped down yet or not, but in either case there will be someone appointed by Commissioners Court to fill in through the 2022 election. David Patronella is the incumbent Justice of the Peace in Precinct 1, Place 2.

County Criminal Court At Law #2: Incumbent Judge Ronnisha Bowman, Jannell Robles.

County Criminal Court At Law #3: Staci Biggar, Porscha Brown, Lorenzo Williams. The incumbent judge in this court is Judge Erica Hughes, who was just appointed as a US immigration court judge, and is thus not running for re-election.

County Criminal Court At Law #5: Carlos Aguayo, incumbent Judge David Fleischer.

County Criminal Court At Law #6: Selina Alaniz, incumbent Judge Kelley Andrews.

County Criminal Court At Law #7: Mauricio Vazquez, incumbent Judge Andrew Wright.

County Criminal Court At Law #8: Incumbent Judge Franklin Bynum, Erika Ramirez.

County Criminal Court At Law #10: Juanita Jackson, Thuy Le. Jackson appears to have been a candidate for a county criminal court at law in 2010. Incumbent Judge Lee Harper Wilson is not running for re-election. Which is a good thing, as he is not worth anyone’s vote.

County Criminal Court At Law #14: Je’Rell Rogers, incumbent Judge David Singer.

County Probate Court #2: Pamela Medina, incumbent Judge Michael Newman.

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1 Place 2: Ron Campana, Steve Duble, Victor Lombrana, Sonia Lopez, Jonathan Preston, Chris Watson. This is the JP position that is currently held by David Patronella, who is running for County Court At Law #4.

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2 Place 2: Dolores Lozano, Blair McClure. Incumbent JP George Risner is running for Commissioners Court in Precinct 2.

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2: Incumbent JP Lucia Bates, Ashleigh Roberson, Herbert Alexander Sanchez.

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 5 Place 2: Eman Afshar, Roderick Rogers. This is a Republican-held position, with the incumbent JP being Jeff Williams. Israel Garcia won the Precinct 5 Position 1 race as a Democrat in 2020. Eman Afshar filed for that position on the ballot but was subsequently disqualified after questions were raised about the petition signatures he submitted as part of his ballot application. However, he remained on the ballot because of the later date on which he was disqualified.

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 6 Place 2: Luis Garza, incumbent JP Angela Rodriguez. JP Rodriguez is the daughter of the longtime previous JP, who was appointed to the position in 2018 following his retirement and was unopposed for election that year.

Finally, I have realized that I missed one race that belonged in the previous post:

208th Criminal District Court: Beverly Armstrong, incumbent Judge Greg Glass, Kim McTorry.

And now you’re as up to date as I can make you at this time. As before, if I didn’t list the race it’s because the incumbent has no primary opponent, and if I don’t link to a webpage or Facebook/Instagram page, it’s because I didn’t find one with a basic Google search. I’m sending out the judicial Q&As and look forward to publishing a bunch of responses from these candidates. Finally, Murray Newman has a few notes about some of these candidates as well.

The filings I’m still looking for

Today is Filing Deadline Day. By the end of today, we’ll know who is and isn’t running for what. While we wait for that, let’s review the filings that have not yet happened, to see what mysteries may remain.

Congress: Most of the potentially competitive districts have Democratic candidates in them. The ones that remain are CDs 22, 26, 31, and 38, though I have been told there is a candidate lined up for that latter slot. Of the rest, CD22 would be the biggest miss if no one files. I have to think someone will, but we’ll know soon enough.

For open seats, CD15 has five candidates so far, none of whom are familiar to me. CD30 has six candidates, with State Rep. Jasmine Crockett receiving the endorsement of outgoing Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson. CD34 has six, with current CD15 Rep. Vicente Gonzalez the presumed favorite. CD35 has three serious contenders – Austin City Council member Greg Casar, former San Antonio City Council Member Rebecca Viagran, and State Rep. Eddie Rodrigues – and one person you’ve not heard of. CD37 has Rep. Lloyd Doggett and former CD31 candidate Donna Imam, in addition to a couple of low-profile hopefuls, but it will not have former CD25 candidate Julie Oliver, who has said she will not run.

Democratic incumbents who have primary challengers include Rep. Lizzie Fletcher in CD07 (I’m still waiting to see if Centrell Reed makes some kind of announcement); Rep. Veronica Escobar in CD16 (I don’t get the sense her challenger is a serious one); and Rep. Henry Cuellar in CD28, who gets a rematch with Jessica Cisneros, who came close to beating him last year. The Svitek spreadsheet lists some dude as a potential challenger in CD18 against Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, but so far no filing. Reps. Al Green, Joaquin Castro, Sylvia Garcia, Colin Allred, and Marc Veasey do not appear to have any challengers as of this morning.

Statewide: Pretty much everyone who has said they are a candidate has filed. Frequent candidate Michael Cooper and someone named Innocencio Barrientez have filed for Governor, making it a four-candidate field. Two Harris County district court judges, Julia Maldonado and Robert Johnson, have filed for slots on the Supreme Court and CCA, respectively. The Svitek spreadsheet lists potential but not yet filed contenders for two other Supreme Court positions but has no listings for CCA. The one potential candidate who has not yet taken action is Carla Brailey, who may or may not file for Lt. Governor.

SBOE: As this is a post-redistricting year, all SBOE seats are on the ballot, as are all State Senate seats. Dems have four reasonable challenge opportunities: Michelle Palmer is running again in SBOE6, Jonathan Cocks switched from the Land Commissioner race to file in SBOE8, Alex Cornwallis is in SBOE12, and then there’s whatever is happening in SBOE11. The good news is that DC Caldwell has company in the primary, if he is actually allowed to run in it, as Luis Sifuentes is also running. I would advise voting for Sifuentes.

There are two open Democratic seats, plus one that I’m not sure about. Ruben Cortez in SBOE2 and Lawrence Allen in SBOE4 are running for HDs 37 and 26, respectively. There are two candidates in 2 and three candidates in 4, so far. Georgina Perez is the incumbent in SBOE1 but as yet has not filed. If she has announced that she’s not running, I have not seen it. There is a candidate named Melissa Ortega in the race.

In SBOE5, the district that was flipped by Rebecca Bell-Metereau in 2020 and was subsequently made more Democratic in redistricting, we have the one primary challenge to an incumbent so far, as a candidate named Juan Juarez has filed against Bell-Metereau. I’m old enough to remember Marisa Perez coming out of nowhere to oust Michael Soto in 2012, so anything can happen here. The aforementioned Perez (now Marisa Perez-Diaz) and Aicha Davis are unopposed so far.

Senate: Nothing much here that you don’t already know. Every incumbent except Eddie Lucio has filed for re-election, and none of them have primary opponents so far. Lucio’s SD27 has the three challengers we knew about, Sara Stapleton-Barrera, State Rep. Alex Dominguez, and Morgan LaMantia. A candidate named Misty Bishop had filed for SD07, was rejected, and has since re-filed for SD04; I’m going to guess that residency issues were at play. There are Dem challengers in SD09 (Gwenn Burud, who has run for this office before) and SD17 (Miguel Gonzalez), but no one yet for SDs 07 or 08.

House: Here’s the list of potentially competitive districts, for some value of the word “competitive”. Now here’s a list of districts on that list that do not yet have a filed candidate:

HD14
HD25
HD28
HD29
HD55
HD57
HD61
HD66
HD67
HD84
HD89
HD96
HD106
HD126
HD129
HD133
HD150

I’m told there’s someone lined up for HD133. We’ll see about the rest.

All of the open seats have at least one candidate in them so far except for HD22, the seat now held by Joe Deshotel. There’s a name listed on the Svitek spreadsheet, so I assume that will be sorted by the end of the day.

Reps. Ron Reynolds (HD27), Ana-Maria Ramos (HD102), and Carl Sherman (HD109) are incumbents who have not yet filed. No one else has filed yet in those districts as well. Svitek has a note saying that Rep. Ramos has confirmed she will file; there are no notes for the other two. There is the possibility of a last-minute retirement, with a possibly preferred successor coming in at the same time.

Here is a complete list of Democratic House incumbents who face a primary challenge: Rep. Richard Raymond (HD42) and Rep. Alma Allen (HD131). Both have faced and turned away such opponents in the past. If there was supposed to be a wave of primary opponents to incumbents who came back early from Washington, they have not shown up yet.

Rep. James Talarico has moved from HD52 to the open HD50 after HD52 was made into a lean-Republican district. Rep. Claudia Ordaz-Perez, the incumbent in HD76, will run in HD79 against Rep. Art Fierro after HD76 was relocated from El Paso to Fort Bend.

Harris County: Again, nothing new here. Erica Davis has not yet filed for County Judge. County Clerk Teneshia Hudpseth is the only non-judicial incumbent without a primary opponent so far.

Far as I can tell, all of the county judicial slots have at least one filing in them, except for a couple of Justice of the Peace positions. George Risner, the JP in Precinct 2, Place 2 (all JP Place 2 slots are on the ballot this year) has not yet filed, amid rumors that he is mulling a challenge to Commissioner Adrian Garcia. Incumbent Angela Rodriguez in JP precinct 6 has not yet filed. No Dem challengers yet in precincts 4 or 8.

Other judicial races: Sorry, I don’t have the bandwidth for this right now. I’ll review it after today.

And that’s all I’ve got. See you on the other side. As always, leave your hot gossip in the comments.

July campaign finance reports – Harris County candidates

The Harris County situation for candidates and campaign finance reports is a bit complicated. Take a look at my January summary and the reports and data that I’ve found for July, and we’ll discuss what it all means on the other side.

Ed Emmett

Jack Morman
Jack Cagle

Stan Stanart
Chris Daniel

Diane Trautman

David Patronella
George Risner
Don Coffey
Lucia Bates
Laryssa Korduba Hrncir
Daryl Smith
Jeff Williams
Armando Rodriguez
Zinetta Burney
Louie Ditta


Name        Raised    Spent     Loans     On Hand
=================================================
Emmett     472,172   99,684         0     551,875

Morman     635,050   98,611     44,339  2,261,453
Cagle      561,350  197,375          0  1,008,707

Stanart     49,100   10,124     20,000     69,384
Daniel      49,350   51,681     55,000     25,359
Sanchez

Trautman    15,251    2,978          0     18,009
Evans
Lee

Patronella  20,215    5,075          0
Risner       2,550    7,202          0     81,053
Coffey         200    7,214          0     57,694
Bates (*)      850      575          0        567
Korduba (R) 24,870    5,085          0     33,466
Smith (**)       0      300          0          0
Williams (R)     0        0     60,000     13,396
Rodriguez        0        0          0      2,219
Burney           0        0          0        902
Ditta (R)        0    1,907      2,000     17,006

Let’s start with what isn’t there. I don’t see a report as yet for Harris County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez, nor do I see one for HCDE Trustees Louis Evans (Position 4, Precinct 3) and Erica Lee (Position 6, Precinct 1). Diane Trautman (Position 3, At Large) has a report, but she is running for County Clerk, so as yet there are no candidates of which I am aware for the position she is vacating. Finding Louis Evans’ name among the list of Trustees was a bit of a surprise, since he had not been elected to that position in 2012. He was appointed to the seat in November of 2015 to replace Kay Smith, who stepped down to run in the Republican primary for HD130. I just missed that announcement, so my bad there. Evans as noted in the linked release, was Smith’s predecessor in that position, serving the six year term from 2007 to 2013. He was not on the ballot for the GOP primary in 2012, so if he runs for another term this would be the first time he has faced voters since 2006.

County Judge Ed Emmett does not have an opponent yet, as far as I can tell. There’s a bit of confusion because three people – Christopher Diaz, Shannon Baldwin, and LaShawn Williams – have filed requests for authorization forms for electronic filing, with County Judge as the office they plan to seek. At least two of these people are not running for County Judge, however. Williams appears to be a candidate for Harris County Civil Court at Law No. 3, and has filed a finance report listing that office as the one she seeks. She has also filed a report for the office of County Judge. I presume the latter is an error, but they both have different numbers in them, so who knows? Baldwin’s case appears to be more clear, as she has a Facebook page for her candidacy for County Criminal Court #4, for which she has filed a finance report, again with the correct office listed. As for Diaz, I have no idea. I don’t think he is the Precinct 2 Constable Chris Diaz. Here’s the Christopher Diaz County Judge RFA, and the Constable Chris Diaz finance report. You tell me.

Jack Morman is clearly aware of his status as biggest electoral target of the year. He’s got plenty of money available to him for his race, whoever he winds up running against. Cagle has only the primary to worry about, as his precinct is highly unlikely to be competitive in November. The other countywide offices generally don’t draw much money to their races. I suppose that may change this year, especially in the County Clerk’s race, but first we’re going to need some candidates.

Constables were elected last year, as were Justices of the Peace in Place 1, so what we have on the ballot this time are the JPs in Place 2. According to the listing of judicial candidates that we got at the June CEC meeting, David Patronella and Zinetta Burney have primary opponents, but neither of them have July finance reports on file. Rodrick Rogers, who is listed as a candidates against Republican Jeff Williams in Precinct 5, also has no report. Lucia Bates is a Democrat running in the primary against Don Coffey, while Daryl Smith is a Democrat running against Repubican incumbent Laryssa Korduba Hrncir, who at last report was the last holdout on performing weddings post-Obergefell. I do not know if there has been any change in that status. Whatever the case, there’s not a lot of fundraising in these races.

So that’s what I know for now. It’s possible some of the non-filers will have reports up later, I do see that sometimes. For sure, we should expect to hear of some candidates in the places where we currently have none. If you’ve got some news on that score, please let us know.

Petition forgery case (probably) resolved

Hadn’t seen an update on this in awhile.

An appeals court has ruled that forged signatures will keep a candidate off the November ballot, a decision the Pasadena justice of the peace hopeful said she will appeal,

But unless Leonila Olivares-Salazar gets some kind of decision from the Texas Supreme Court within days, voters will not see the Republican candidate’s name.

“I’m hoping they make the right decision for the community,” Olivares-Salazar said Thursday before referring questions to attorneys drafting emergency motions asking the state’s highest court to keep her name on the ballot while they take the time to consider the case.

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart’s deadline for completing the ballot is Friday, and he said he can push that back only five days.

“I need to have a ruling by Sept. 10,” he said. The county office must comply with laws mandating when printed ballots are mailed to Harris County citizens who are overseas.

On Wednesday, Houston’s 1st Court of Appeals ruled that Olivares-Salazar’s name will not appear on the ballot because of fraudulent signatures on her party application.

She is challenging longtime Precinct 2 Place 2 Justice of the Peace George Risner for the seat.

Risner, a Democrat first elected in 1987, sued Olivares-Salazar and the Harris County Republican Party in January claiming the party violated state election law, claiming hundreds of signatures were forged.

[…]

A Beaumont judge presiding over the lawsuit allowed the Republican to correct the situation, by handing in valid signatures after the deadline.

Two of the three appellate judges, all Republicans, ruled Wednesday that the law does not allow Olivares-Salazar to try again. The dissenting judge did not issue an opinion.

See here and here for the background. Olivares-Salazar had hired people to collect signatures for her, and four of them wound up going down on charges related to them faking the signatures that were turned in on her behalf, though she herself was never alleged to have engaged in any wrongdoing. I have a lot of sympathy for the argument that our system of democracy is better served when all races feature at least two well-qualified opponents, which pending quick Supreme Court action will not be the case here. I have more sympathy for the judicial candidates that do the hard work of collecting signatures themselves, and I have a harder time being sympathetic for candidates that would be the beneficiaries of a fraud that has already been proven to have taken place. It is certainly true that this sort of thing could eventually befall a candidate that I like, as Olivares-Salazar’s attorney, the infamous pecksniff Andy Taylor, asserts. But if that ever happens, I won’t defend said candidate, I’ll be pissed off at him or her, because they should know better and we their supporters deserve better. Olivares-Salazar herself may be innocent of any bad behavior, but there’s nothing innocent about the behavior that would have out her on the ballot. That to me is the critical difference.

Indictments in petition forgery case

Whoa.

Four political campaign workers have been indicted by a Harris County Grand Jury in the wake of allegations of election fraud in a Harris County Justice of the Peace race, first reported by Local 2 News in January.

The suspects — two men and two women — were paid to gather signatures to place Republican candidate Leonila Olivares Salazar’s name on the ballot in the Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2, Place 2 race.

[…]

The indictments, handed down Monday, come about two weeks after Salazar’s Democratic opponent, incumbent Judge George Risner, sued to have her name withdrawn from the ballot.

As first reported by Local 2, Risner obtained signed statements from three of the suspects admitting they did not actually obtain the signatures listed on the petitions.

Risner said his investigation shows that 380 of 447 signatures submitted to put Salazar’s name on the ballot were forged.

The indictments name campaign workers 57-year-old Ralph Basil Garcia, 53-year-old Annette Irigoyen, 28-year-old Iris Irgoyen and 55-year-old David Basurto. All face felony charges of engaging in organized criminal activity and tampering with a governmental record.

See here for the background. As we know, a Beaumont judge is hearing the lawsuit to determine if Risner’s opponent Salazar should be declared ineligible for the ballot. He has announced that he’s waiting till the other folks that have been indicted have turned themselves in, so they are all available to testify. Meanwhile, the County Attorney is supposed to be doing its own investigation, but no word on that yet. Campos has more.

Petition problems

Every election cycle there are fights over who really did or didn’t qualify for the ballot. This one is shaping up to be a doozy.

Three lawsuits over alleged ballot irregularities involving Harris County judicial candidates will be heard by a Beaumont judge, officials said Thursday.

State District Judge Bob Wortham was appointed to preside over the cases a day after the Harris County Attorney’s Office said it is reviewing documents filed by all local judicial candidates.

“We have a reasonable suspicion there are several instances that we need to look into,” said Terry O’Rourke, special assistant to County Attorney Vince Ryan.

O’Rourke and other officials appeared in a Harris County court Thursday for a hearing on a temporary restraining order request by longtime Precinct 2 Place 2 Justice of the Peace George Risner.

[…]

Harris County GOP chair Jared Woodfill said the party was not made aware of the allegations until after the five-day window to investigate inaccuracies that followed the Dec. 9 filing deadline.

Instead of ruling on Risner’s request for a restraining order to stop the county from printing or mailing any more ballots, including absentee ballots, for the March 4 primary, state District Judge Randy Wilson said it would be more appropriate for a judge from outside Harris County.

“This could affect a lot of judges here,” Wilson said. “I’m a candidate on that ballot.”

He noted that Risner’s case is similar to two other recently filed cases involving Republicans and Democrats in judicial races and said administrative Judge Olen Underwood would assign the cases, including the hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday, to Wortham.

Wortham is expected to have a hearing on Risner’s request for a temporary restraining order on Tuesday.

Moving the case to another jurisdiction makes a lot of sense, for the reason noted by Judge Wilson. The Thursday Chron had a preview of what was to come, with some more detail about the instigating case.

The allegation first was raised by longtime Precinct 2 Place 2 Justice of the Peace George Risner, who is suing the Harris County Republican Party, claiming it violated state election law by placing candidate Leonila Olivares-Salazar on its party ballot even after being told her application included hundreds of falsified petition signatures.

[…]

Olivares-Salazar “has publicly admitted to hiring a company to collect the required number of valid signatures (250) to qualify her for the ballot,” the petition states. “There were at least four circulators that gathered signatures for Olivares-Salazar who were employed by the company Olivares-Salazar hired, who falsified signatures on Olivares-Salazar’s petitions.”

Risner, a Democrat first elected to his post in 1987, and Olivares-Salazar are running unopposed in their parties’ respective primaries, meaning they would face each other in the November general election.

Risner said he was suspicious about the validity of the 456 signatures his opponent submitted after some of his “friends and campaign workers looked them over,” and decided to go door-to-door to see whether people whose names appeared on the petitions actually had signed them.

“Ninety-nine point nine percent of them told me no,” he said. The petition claims 380 signatures were falsified.

Anyone who is active in politics has signed judicial petitions. The parties hold events designed to help judicial candidates get the petition signatures they need, and anyplace where candidates and voters gather there will be clipboard-toters seeking signatures. One of the things about signing such a petition is that you promise not to sign any petitions for a candidate from another party, and you promise not to vote in another party’s primary or participate in another party’s candidate selection convention. I suspect that is what may have tipped off Risner – if his Republican opponent’s petition had a bunch of signatures from known Democrats on it, that would be odd. If Risner then got some sworn statements from these folks attesting that they never signed Olivares-Salazar’s petition, that’s pretty strong evidence. Plus, the universe of people who sign these petitions for either party is pretty small, and heavily partisan. Most names are likely to appear many times, for the reasons cited above. Seeing mostly unrecognizable names on the petition, and following up to determine that they mostly have no primary voting history, would also be a clue that something unusual was happening.

Anyway. I can’t wait to see what the Beaumont judge makes of all this. There are also rumors that the County Attorney’s investigation may turn up other instances of invalid signatures. That’ss the party’s job to check, and HCDP Chair Lane Lewis is quoted saying his team did do a thorough review of all their petitions. We’ll see how that goes. The other two lawsuits involved a Republican challenger to a Republican incumbent judge who was denied a spot on the primary ballot, and an allegation by Democrat Julia Maldonado that her opponent, Sandra Peake, did not turn in enough signatures. Campos (twice) and Lisa Falkenberg have more.