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Jeff Stauber

Endorsement watch: Getting into the county

The Chron goes all in on county races, where they had not spent much time before. Two editorials, with two endorsements per, starting with Commissioners Court.

Adrian Garcia

County Commissioner, Precinct 2: Adrian Garcia

While we lament that he ever stepped down as Harris County sheriff, Adrian Garcia has our support in this run for Commissioners Court. Garcia, 51, is uniquely qualified in this race. He is the only candidate with experience overseeing a budget and staff on this scale. As former sheriff, he knows the problems of an overcrowded jail and would be a loud voice for bail reform. A child of northside neighborhoods, Garcia understands the challenges facing the people who live in Precinct 2, which covers east Harris County and a sliver of north Houston. That includes income inequality, environmental threats around refineries, chronic flooding and a general lack of leadership.

We were particularly swayed when Garcia concisely explained why he opposes County Judge Ed Emmett’s current proposal for a massive billion-dollar (or more) bond sale to fund flood prevention infrastructure. First, he said, the proposal is too vague and needs public hearings. Second, it should be overseen by an independent review board. Third, any bond vote should to be held on Election Day in November rather than hidden on some obscure date.

“Let’s not have Republicans be afraid of having a tax increase next to their names, on the same ballot that they’re on,” Garcia told the editorial board.

Penny Shaw

County Commissioner, Precinct 4: Penny Shaw

If Precinct 4 were its own city, the sprawling north Harris County metropolis would be the 10th largest in the United States, falling between Dallas and San Jose, Calif. Two Democratic candidates are hoping to replace Republican incumbent Jack Cagle as the politician in charge. Penny Shaw, 51, is an attorney specializing in business litigation making her first run for public office. Jeffrey Stauber, 55, is a 32-year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office who previously ran an unsuccessful race for sheriff.

These candidates agree on more than they disagree. They both complain that commissioners do far too much of their work behind closed doors. They both think the county needs to spend more on flood control, but they’re reluctant to raise taxes to pay for it. And they both give low marks to County Judge Ed Emmett for failing to do more to protect the county against flooding before Hurricane Harvey.

“Where was he when the sun was out?” Stauber asks.

Stauber would bring to this job decades of experience with county government. But Shaw makes a convincing case that she’s the candidate more likely to “shake up the system” and that she would give Latinas and women in general a voice that’s been missing on the court since Garcia’s departure. She also had the keen insight that commissioners court is “vendor-driven, not community driven” – a problem she hopes to change.

My interview with Penny Shaw is here and with Jeff Stauber is here. Adrian Garcia was my choice for Precinct 2 all along; I didn’t interview in that race but you can easily find past conversations with Garcia in my archives. Shaw has basically swept the endorsements in Precinct 4, which is pretty impressive given that Stauber is a really good candidate. As the piece notes, Precinct 4 is tough territory for Dems, but a decent showing there would at least help with the countywide efforts.

And on that note, the Chron picks their Clerk candidates.

District Clerk: Marilyn Burgess

The Harris County district clerk oversees the data infrastructure of the Harris County legal system, including jury summonses and the courts’ electronic filings. Democrat Marilyn Burgess earns our endorsement for this primary slot based on her focus on improving existing practices and her knowledge of office operations. Burgess, 63, calls for enhancing the hourly wage of clerks to reduce turnover, improving the website, adding diversity to the top level of leadership in the department and increasing outreach to improve minority participation in juries. As former executive director of Texas PTA and former president of North Houston-Greenspoint Chamber of Commerce, Burgess, who is a certified public accountant, is the only candidate in this race who has managed a large organization.

County Clerk: Diane Trautman

Stanart has been a magnet for criticism over his two terms, and Democrats should put forward a strong candidate if they want to take a real shot at winning this seat in November. That means voting for Diane Trautman in the party primary.

Trautman, 67, is the only candidate with both the political experience and professional resume to win this election and serve as an effective county clerk. She was elected countywide to the Harris County Department of Education in 2012. Her background features a doctorate from Sam Houston State with a dissertation on women’s leadership styles and managerial positions in the public and private sector. That includes serving as a principal in Conroe and Tomball ISDs. Meeting with the editorial board, Trautman emphasized the need to improve election security, such as by bringing in outside auditors and creating a paper trail for electronic voting booths. She also proposed ways to improve Harris County’s low turnout rates, such as by opening “voting centers” across Harris County on Election Day instead of forcing people to specific locations.

“We must do better if we want to call ourselves a democracy,” she said.

They gave Stanart more of a spanking in the piece, so be sure to read and enjoy it. As you know, I agree with both these choices. I await their calls in HCDE and the Treasurer’s race.

Interview with Jeff Stauber

Jeff Stauber

From the not-so-powerful office of County Treasurer we move on to County Commissioner, easily the most powerful county office anywhere in Texas. Commissioners get a lot of control over their budgets, and at least in Harris County tend to operate without too much pesky oversight from the public. All counties have four Commissioners, and despite Harris County’s Democratic trend, it has been a three-Republican, one-Democrat mix since 2010. There’s a lot of hope to change that this year, and while it is in Precinct 2 that the best odds of a flip lie, the post-2016 cycle has been all about competing everywhere and picking up wins in unexpected places. Jeff Stauber is one of two candidates who are aiming for that in Precinct 4. A resident of Kingwood and 32-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, Stauber serves as a commander in the HCSO, and ran for the Democratic nomination for Sheriff in 2016. You can listen to that interview here, and you can listen to this interview now:

You can see all of my interviews for candidates running for County office as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Harris County Election page.

The Harris County slates

Let’s talk about the filings for Harris County. The SOS filings page is still the best source of information, but they don’t provide shareable links, so in the name of ease and convenience I copied the Democratic filing information for Harris County to this spreadsheet. I took out the statewide candidates, and I didn’t include Republicans because they have not updated the SOS office with their slate. Their primary filing site is still the best source for that. So review those and then come back so we can discuss.

Ready? Here we go.

– If there was an announcement I missed it, but HCDE Trustee Erica Lee, in Position 6, Precinct 1, did not file for re-election. Three candidates did file, Danyahel Norris, an attorney and associate director at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law; John F. Miller, who was a candidate for HCDE Chair earlier this year; and Prince Bryant.

– While there are contested races up and down the ballot, there’s one race that is no longer contested. Mike Nichols withdrew his filing for Harris County Judge, leaving Lina Hidalgo as the sole candidate to oppose Judge Ed Emmett next fall.

– The SOS page also shows that Sammy Casados withdrew his filing for County Commissioner. However, his campaign Facebook page makes no such announcement, and there’s no evidence I can find to confirm that. It’s possible this is a mistake on the SOS page. We’ll know soon enough, when the HCDP publishes its official final list. Anyway, the cast for Commissioner in Precinct 2 also includes Adrian Garcia, Daniel Box, Roger Garcia, and Ken Melancon, who was previously a candidate for Constable in Precinct 3 (note that Constable precincts, like Justice of the Peace precincts, do not correspond to Commissioner precincts). Also, there are now two candidates for Commissioner in Precinct 4, Penny Shaw and Jeff Stauber, who was a candidate for Sheriff in 2016.

– All other county races save one are contested. Diane Trautman has two opponents for County Clerk: Gayle Mitchell, who ran for the same office in 2014, losing to Ann Harris Bennett in the primary, and Nat West, who is the SDEC Chair for Senate District 13 and who ran for County Commissioner in Precinct 1 in that weird precinct chair-run election. Two candidates joined Marilyn Burgess and Kevin Howard for District Clerk, Michael Jordan and former Council candidate Rozzy Shorter. Dylan Osborne, Cosme Garcia, and Nile Copeland, who ran for judge as a Dem in 2010, are in for County Treasurer. HCDE Trustee Position 3 At Large has Josh Wallenstein, Elvonte Patton, and Richard Cantu, who may be the same Richard Cantu that ran for HISD Trustee in District I in 2005. Only Andrea Duhon, the candidate for HCDE Trustee for Position 4 in Precinct 3, has a free pass to November.

– I will go through the late filings for legislative offices in a minute, but first you need to know that Lloyd Oliver filed in HD134. Whatever you do, do not vote for Lloyd Oliver. Make sure everyone you know who lives in HD134 knows to vote for Alison Sawyer and not Lloyd Oliver. That is all.

– Now then. SBOE member Lawrence Allen drew an opponent, Steven Chambers, who is a senior manager at HISD. That’s a race worth watching.

– Sen. John Whitmire has two primary opponents, Damien LaCroix, who ran against him in 2014, and Hank Segelke, about whom I know nothing. Rita Lucido, who ran for SD17, threw her hat in the ring to join Fran Watson and Ahmad Hassan.

– Carlos Pena (my google fu fails me on him) joins Gina Calanni for HD132. Ricardo Soliz made HD146 a three-candidate race, against Rep. Shawn Thierry and Roy Owens. There are also three candidates in HD133: Marty Schexnayder, Sandra Moore, and someone you should not vote for under any circumstances. He’s another perennial candidate with lousy views, just like Lloyd Oliver. Wh you should also not vote for under any circumstances.

– The Republican side is boring. Stan Stanart has a primary opponent. Rep. Briscoe Cain no longer does. There’s some drama at the JP level, where Precinct 5 incumbent Jeff Williams faces two challengers. Williams continued to perform weddings after the Obergefell decision, meaning he did (or at least was willing to do) same sex weddings as well. You do the math. Unfortunately, there’s no Democrat in this race – it’s one of the few that went unfilled. There was a Dem who filed, but for reasons unknown to me the filing was rejected. Alas.

I’ll have more in subsequent posts. Here’s a Chron story from Monday, and Campos has more.

UPDATE: Two people have confirmed to me that Sammy Casados has withdrawn from the Commissioners Court race.

Chron overview of the Sheriff races

The candidate who isn’t there nonetheless plays a central role.

Appointed incumbent Ron Hickman faces two repeat challengers in the GOP primary, while four others, including former Houston City Councilman Ed Gonzalez battle for the Democratic nomination.

The candidates square off in an election year when criminal justice issues are on the forefront of the public consciousness, following a year and a half of protests across the country over how police use lethal force during interactions with the public, particularly involving minorities.

“There’s been a lot more scrutiny as there’s been more reporting on issues from brutality or misconduct amid patrol, to misconduct among jail guards, to sanitary issues in the jail,” said Jay Jenkinsof the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. “For the first time in a long time, it feels like the general public is realizing what responsibilities come with that office, and how sheriff has the ability to help or hurt on those issues.”

Former Sheriff Adrian Garcia beat out Tommy Thomas eight years ago on the heels of a string of headlines about numerous inmate deaths, a high-profile civil rights lawsuit and thousands of deleted emails under a Thomas policy that violated state law. He resigned the post last May when he ran unsuccessfully for mayor; Commissioners Court appointed Hickman to finish Garcia’s term, which ends Dec. 31.

The landscape is different today, but the department again has come under scrutiny over inmate deaths and allegations of abuse, poor medical care and other problems in the jail dating back to 2009.

Hickman’s supporters argue that the majority of those issues occurred under Garcia’s regime, and that state inspectors gave the facility high marks when they inspected it last December.

It’s not a big surprise that the primaries for Sheriff are in their own way about Adrian Garcia. Jeff Stauber on the Democratic side is a pretty strong critic of Garcia’s term in office, as you can hear in the interview I did with him. His belief is that the HCSO needs someone with experience in the office as the person in charge, a charge that conveniently works against both Ed Gonzalez and Ron Hickman. As for Hickman, invoking Garcia now is basically a defensive move, but if he’s still doing it in the fall it will surely be as an offensive maneuver. As he will have been on the job for more than a year by then there’s no guarantee that the voters will accept that, but there’s no reason why they couldn’t. I suspect that once we get past March, Hickman will prefer to talk about the things he has done rather than things his predecessor did, but I’m sure the latter won’t be too far beneath the surface, if it’s beneath it at all.

Chron overview of Sheriff primaries

No, it’s not 2008, though there are a couple of superficial similarities.

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez

On paper, Ed Gonzalez is a near-replica of former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

The Latino Democrats served in the Houston Police Department and represented the same district on City Council. Eventually, both were appointed mayors pro-tem.

Now, eight years after Garcia unseated Harris County’s longtime Republican Sheriff Tommy Thomas, Gonzalez, 46, again is looking to follow in his political mentor’s footsteps.

“We don’t need just a manager. We really need a reformer,” the soft-spoken Gonzalez, a former hostage negotiator, said during an interview at Montrose’s Blacksmith coffee shop. “That’s what I represent.”

Garcia vacated the sheriff’s post last May to run for Houston mayor, at which point members of the county’s commissioners court replaced him with Republican Ron Hickman. Garcia came in third and now is challenging Congressman Gene Green, the longtime District 29 representative, in the Democratic primary.

Gonzalez and Hickman are widely viewed as the favorites in the Democratic and Republican primaries, respectively.

[…]

Gonzalez is up against sheriff’s lieutenant Jeff Stauber, 52, constable’s lieutenant Jerome Moore, 42, and Theodore “Ted” Perez in the Democratic primary.

All of them face a steep fundraising climb in a primary unlikely to draw much notice. Stauber reported $1,200 in the bank as of the end of 2015, while the others did not file end-of-year finance reports or reported having no cash on hand.

Asked about his top three priorities, Gonzalez listed crime prevention, jail management and working within the office’s budgetary constraints.

“I’m really going to look at some diversion programs,” Gonzalez said, adding that he supports channeling low-level drug offenders to treatment and support services rather than jail.

Stauber, who is running his first campaign for public office, criticized Gonzalez for keeping six homicide case files, including those for one active case, when he left the Houston Police Department in 2009. Gonzalez had placed the files in a box while clearing out his work area and did not return them until the department launched an inquiry into lapsed murder investigations years later.

Police charged a suspect in one of those murder cases within two weeks of receiving the file.

“A family, their investigations were held up for five years,” Stauber said. “I think that needs to be looked at.”

Stauber, who said he most recently voted in a Republican primary, plans to focus on officer training and education, technology and improving community relations.

Moore and Perez did not respond to interview requests.

My interview with Ed Gonzalez is here, and my interview with Jeff Stauber is here. Adrian Garcia cruised to an easy win over the scandal-plagued Tommy Thomas in 2008, but he was in a good position to win regardless thanks to the overall Democratic surge in Harris County that year. Ron Hickman is an appointed replacement Sheriff, not a troubled longtime incumbent, so that dynamic is very different, but the effect on the outcome of partisan turnout levels is not. More Democrats than Republicans voted in 2008; Thomas’ problems mostly helped Garcia run up the score. The Sheriff election this is more like an open seat race than anything else, and barring anything strange it will likely be decided more by turnout levels than anything else. As someone with a mostly clean slate, I think Hickman gets some benefit of the doubt, meaning that his Democratic opponent will have to either find some effective points of attack against him, or rely on a sufficiently high surge. We’ll have a better idea of how that might go once we know who the Presidential candidates are.

Endorsement watch: Sheriffs

It’s the time of the season again.

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez

In Ed Gonzalez, Democratic Party primary voters have a candidate with broad experience in law enforcement and governance. Gonzalez’s resume includes three terms as councilman of District H, and 18 years in the Houston Police Department, including time spent as a homicide investigator and a hostage negotiator.

Gonzalez, 46, has managerial experience, as well. He was a sergeant at HPD before retiring from the force and served as mayor pro tem on City Council as well as chairing council’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Division.

“We need a reformer. We need change,” Gonzalez told the editorial board. In his first week in office, Gonzalez said he would immediately assess the number of open cases, share crime analysis information and work with constable offices, regional authorities and crime prevention groups like Crime Stoppers of Houston to improve crime clearance statistics.

Gonzalez, a native Houstonian, has an academic background in criminology: a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from University of Houston-Downtown and a master of liberal arts degree from University of St. Thomas. As a council member he played a role in the creation of the Houston Center for Sobriety, a place for Houston police officers to drop off people whose only offense is public intoxication. He also pledged to be aggressive about creating more diversion programs for additional segments of the population.

Both of Gonzalez’s opponents in the Democratic primary respectively are waging their first race for public office. Jerome Moore, 42, has more than 17 years experience in law enforcement, and Jeff Stauber, 52, has more than 30 years. But Gonzalez brings to bear the experience in law enforcement and governance needed to keep the office headed in the right direction. He has our nod for the Democratic primary.

Various Democratic groups are starting to do their screenings, and I’ve added the endorsements that I’ve seen to the 2016 Election page. I’m still working on adding January finance reports, so be patient. The Chron also endorsed incumbent Sheriff Ron Hickman for the GOP primary. They’ve got a lot of races to get through between now and the start of early voting on February 16. I expect the editorial page will be busy.

Interview with Jeff Stauber

Jeff Stauber

Jeff Stauber

As I said before, winning back the Sheriff’s office is a high priority for Harris County Democrats. Adrian Garcia won it in 2008 as an outsider. In 2016, Jeff Stauber is running on his years of experience on the inside. A 30-year veteran of the Sheiff’s office, Stauber is currently a lieutenant assigned to the court division. He spent more than a decade on patrol, as both a deputy and a sergeant, and he has also spent time in the investigations division and at the jail. He says he’s had every job there is at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, so there was plenty for us to talk about. Here’s the interview:

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2016 Election page.

More candidates for Sheriff

We’re up to four now.

Lt. Jeff Stauber confirmed Thursday he is running for Harris County sheriff.

“It’s the job that I always wanted. There’s no doubt that I could lead this agency,” Stauber said.
Now a lieutenant assigned to the court division, Stauber, 52, has been with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office since 1986.

“I’m not a career politician. I’m a cop,” he said.

[…]

Stauber said an “outsider” to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office would have a steep learning curve.

“It’s almost like they are a fish out of water. I know how the Sheriff’s Office works. I’ve done everything,” he said.

He spent more than a decade patrolling the streets of Harris County – both as a deputy and sergeant – along with tours of duty as an investigator and at the jail.

If elected, Stauber, a Democrat, said he would transfer licensed deputies from “underwater basket-weaving positions.”

“There is too much fluff in different areas. I want to get back to the basics,” Stauber said. “We need more people on the streets.”

As we know, outgoing CM Ed Gonzalez announced his entry a couple of days ago. According to the HCDP primary filings page, two other candidates – Jerome Moore and Theodore “Ted” Perez – have also gotten in. This makes me a little nervous, since as we have seen from the various At Large Council races, having more candidates does not lead to better results, especially in races where most of the candidates are not well-known. Gonzalez has a bit of an edge here, but one City Council district is tiny compared to all of Harris County. Gonzalez got 9,388 votes running unopposed in 2009. That’s barely more than half the number of votes that Delores Jones got when she ran against then-Sheriff Adrian Garcia in the sleepy 2012 primary (go to page 20 to see Sheriff results). Assuming both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders remain active on the ballot next year, it’s going to take a hell of a lot more votes than that to at least ensure getting into a runoff.

Stauber would be an acceptable candidate to me if it came to that, but I can find nothing on either Jerome Moore or Ted Perez in Google. The last thing we need here is an accident. The serious contenders in this race – Gonzalez (who had $20,290 on his July finance report) for sure, Stauber maybe – need to raise enough money to make sure the voters know who they are and that they’re running. Otherwise, it’s a crapshoot, and crap is what we may get. I’m sounding this alarm now because there’s no time to waste – Early Voting for the 2016 primaries begins February 16, 2016, which is barely more than two months from now. We have an excellent chance to take the Sheriff’s office back, as long as we don’t screw up and accidentally nominate a zero. Let’s make sure we get this right.