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Mary Kay Green

Waiting for an investment

Some day, the national Democratic Party will make an investment in Texas rather than just use us as a glorified ATM. Just don’t ask me when that day will be.

Texans have become accustomed to occupying the nosebleed seats at the Democratic National Convention, extras in a production that favors states that are solidly blue or liable to swing that way. But this year, even the most cynical Texas Democrats say they sense a tangible shift — a feeling that that they’re being positioned to be closer to the front row.

There was the selection of San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, an ambitious young Latino with deep Texas roots, to give the convention’s Tuesday night keynote speech.

There’s the palpable energy behind several up-and-coming Texas Democrats running in key congressional races, a couple of them competitive enough to draw out-of-state dollars.

And there’s the sense, especially among longtime Democratic operatives, that there’s a new sheriff in town — a Texas Democratic Party chairman who has no qualms about asking the national party organization to make a serious investment in Texas, or else stop monopolizing the state’s biggest Democratic donors.

“I don’t want to overstate this,” Austin-based Democratic consultant Harold Cook said. “But they are suddenly showing some fight, some signs of life, which is a lot better than a quiet, sleepy little party.”


“The Texas Democratic Party has always strained to not complain about the extent to which the national party takes more than it returns,” said Jim Henson, a University of Texas political science professor and Texas Tribune pollster.

No longer. Party insiders say they’ve reached a breaking point: They can’t sit by, losing “winnable” local races for lack of funding while they watch Texas donors fill national coffers. Former Cameron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa, who took the helm at the TDP this summer, said his goal at the national convention is to “impress upon the leadership that Texas could be blue if we just got a little lovin’ from the national party.”

“Texas is the only state in the union that is majority-minority but doesn’t have a Democratic statewide elected official,” he said. “That’s something that needs to be talked about.”

I consider this to be a sort of companion piece to that story about Paul Sadler, because they both boil down to the same thing. No one thinks Texas is ready to be competitive for Democrats at the statewide level, so nobody is willing to fund statewide candidates. Bill White in 2010 was the first adequately funded statewide Democrat since 2002, and he picked the wrong year to run. But the lack of funding makes being competitive at a statewide level that much less likely and more difficult. I have no idea how Paul Sadler plus ten or fifteen million dollars would be polling against Ted Cruz right now, but I’ll bet it would be closer than people think. I often think Texas will go blue in a downballot race or two before anyone believes it could. This was the case in Harris County in 2006, when Jim Sharp carried the county in his race for the 1st Court of Appeals, and Mary Kay Green – who had a majority of the vote on Election Day – missed being elected to a Family Court bench by 7000 votes out of 550,000 cast. It wouldn’t have taken much to swing that one race and change everybody’s perception going into 2008, but it wasn’t seen as possible. But demographic change and a depressed year for turnout nearly made it happen. You just never know.

My point is simply this. We don’t know what the competitive landscape would look like in a state where the two parties were closer to financial parity. Dems did very well in legislative races in 2006 and 2008, and even did pretty well in 2004, netting a seat in an otherwise pretty red year. In those races they did have the funds to go toe to toe. Doing so at the state level is obviously a tall order, but we won’t know till we try. Unless we find out in a year where we’re not expecting it, of course. I’d rather be prepared for success than find it accidentally. The Democrats here are ready. When will the national party do its part?

Judicial Q&A: Mary Kay Green

(Note: I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. There are a lot of judicial races on the ballot in Harris County this election, and so this is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote in March. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. I will also be conducting some in-person interviews of candidates who will be involved in contested primaries for non-judicial offices. Please see my 2010 Election page for a full list of Q&As and interviews.)

1. Who are you, and what are you running for?

My name is Mary Kay Green and, as a candidate for the 247th Family District Court in the Democratic Party Primary, I bring 22 years of litigation experience in the family courts.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

In Harris County, there are nine family courts that hear cases involving adoptions, child custody, child support, divorces, suits to establish a parent-child relationship where there is no marriage, and petitions brought by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Until recently these courts also heard emergency protective orders involving children and adults, but that is no longer the case as these are now brought to the 280th District Court. The IV-D courts, which are supervised by the nine family courts, hear child support and the accompanying custody decisions, brought through the Office of the Attorney General.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for this bench because I have handled all of these matters, in either bench or jury trials, as counsel, attorney ad litem or once as court master, from Galveston to Midland-Odessa and points in between, and have the experience, compassion and temperament to bring a change to this court.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have been licensed since 1987, practicing primarily family law, with some general civil matters not related to family court, and criminal and probate matters. Clients going through the court process, often for the first time, are undergoing some of the most stressful events of their lives. It takes someone who can listen with compassion and experience, without rushing to judgment until knowing all the facts, and then deciding with the client what avenue they want to take in resolving their issues, hopefully in cooperation with the other side.

The Texas Family Code is gender neutral and so is my practice. I have represented differing economic levels and demographic groups, in adoptions, child custody, child support, divorces, suits to establish a parent-child relationship, as both counsel for the proponent and the responding party or as an ad litem attorney for a party needing representation and individuals against whom petitions have been brought by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS). Since only about 2% of the cases are heard before a jury in the family courts, virtually all cases are tried to the judge sitting as the sole trier of fact.

I have handled hundreds of cases throughout my practice, in the district, county, justice of the peace and municipal courts throughout the state but primarily in Harris and the surrounding counties. At this point about 90% of my practice is in the family courts. I know what is required, what is mandatory and discretionary and have attended the Advanced Family seminars that are held on an annual basis by the State Bar of Texas to keep me up to date, as well as other related seminars put on by the Houston Bar Association Family Law Section and other related groups dealing with family law issues. I am a member of the Family Law, General Practice and Probate Sections of the State Bar of Texas and member of the Family Law Section of the Houston Bar Association and licensed in the Southern District of Texas Federal Courts. I have received the Yellow Rose Award from La Rosa for volunteer work and have done volunteer work through the Houston Bar Association.

5. Why is this race important?

While all of the courts may touch on the lives of individuals, the family courts can have such a profound effect on the lives of those coming before them, the person hearing these cases must have the current knowledge and experience to be able to reach an appropriate decision. It is important for the voters to know something about the dedication, passion and ability of someone who chooses to practice family law throughout his or her career, who run for these benches.

6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?

I live and breathe the practice of family law. I have the understanding of the effect that decisions made in the criminal and probate courts can have when reaching decisions in the family courts and have experience in all three areas.

All of us view our lives through our own filters and what is important to someone in one case may have no meaning for someone in another. I have represented people who have lived in abject poverty to those who are more comfortably well off, and those whose partner may have psychological issues and/or drug or violence issues or suffer those problems themselves. I have had to deal with the realization that, as with every other workplace, that there are caseworkers who do a marvelous and conscientious job in the different agencies that appear in the family courts and those who would appear to be more concerned about justifying their own actions who have violated individuals’ rights. I have experienced appropriate and inappropriate behavior in the clients, counsel and judges with whom I have interacted these past 23 years and bring all of this experience to the bench. I have handled all aspects of my cases, from interview with the client, preparation and fiilng of pleadings, mediation and then trial.

I would ask the voter to consider voting for me in the Democratic Party Primary for my qualifications as a family law practitioner, but also because I have been a precinct chair from 1986 – 2000, interim Senate District Chair in SD 15 and then 6, and attended the state convention from 1982-2008 and national conventions in 1988 and 2004. I am a deputy voter registrar as well.

I am asking for your votes to enable me to continue the job that I started when I began working in the family courts. I invite you to visit my website at to learn more about me, contact me or contribute to the campaign. I am grateful for all the help I have had along the way and would be grateful for your support to carry me through the primary and on to November.