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Wally Kronzer

Filing report update

We’re a week out from the official filing deadline for the 2020 primaries. There’s still a lot of known candidates who haven’t filed yet, but I expect there will be a mad flurry of activity this week, as is usually the case. Don’t be surprised if we hear of an out-of-the-blue retirement or two, as that is known to happen at this time as well. I’m going to take a quick look at where we stand now, and will provide other reports as needed before the deadline on Monday. My sources for this are as follows:

The Patrick Svitek spreadsheet.
The Secretary of State Candidate Information page, which is quite handy and reasonably up to date.
Texas Judges, whose provenance is unknown to me, but they have the most information I’ve found about candidates for statewide and Courts of Appeals judicial races.
Jeff Blaylock’s Texas Election Source – I may be too cheap to subscribe, but the free info he includes is always worth noting.

SBOE

We have a third Democrat in the race for SBOE6, Kimberly McLeod. She is Assistant Superintendent of Education & Enrichment at HCDE and a former professor at TSU. She joins former HCDE Board member Debra Kerner (who has filed) and teacher Michelle Palmer (who had not yet filed, at least according to the SOS, as of this weekend).

We have a filing for SBOE5, the most-flippable of the SBOE districts up for election this year, Letti Bresnahan. Google tells me that a person by this name was a Trustee at San Antonio’s Northside ISD (she is not on the Board now). She was elected in 2008, narrowly re-elected in 2012, and I guess didn’t run in 2016; the Bexar County Elections report for May 2016 doesn’t list the NEISD Position 6 race, so who knows what happened. In 2015, she voted to keep the name of San Antonio’s Robert E. Lee High school; it was subsequently changed to Legacy of Education Excellence (LEE) High School in 2017, by which time as far as I can tell she was no longer on the Board. That’s a whole lot more words than I intended to write about her or this race – and mind you, I can’t say for sure this is the same Letti (Leticia) Bresnahan. I noted this because I’ve been keeping an eye on this race – the district was carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, it was the bluest of the Republican-held SBOE districts in 2018, and the incumbent is a wingnut. So I was gonna write something when a Dem filed, I just didn’t expect it to be this.

State Senate

Someone named Richard Andrews has filed as a Democrat against Sen. Borris Miles. The Svitek spreadsheet has him as a General Election opponent, but his website clearly says “Democrat”, and the SOS has him as a Democrat. He’s a doctor, and that’s all I know about him.

State House

Current SBOE member Lawrence Allen, Jr, who is the son of State Rep. Alma Allen, has filed in the increasingly crowded Democratic primary in HD26. It’s one of the nine GOP-held districts that Beto won in 2018. Rish Oberoi, Suleman Lalani, and 2018 candidate Sarah DeMerchant have also filed.

Travis Boldt has filed in HD29, in Brazoria County. That was one of two near-miss districts (Beto got 47.0%) in which no Dem was on the ballot in 2018; HD32, which does not yet have a candidate filed, was the other.

Sandra Moore, who lost in the 2018 Dem primary to Marty Schexnayder, has filed to run again in HD133.

Ashton Woods has changed the name of his Facebook page to indicate he plans to run in the primary for HD146, currently held by second-term Rep. Shawn Thierry. He has not filed as of this writing.

So far, no one else has filed to run in the primary for HD148, where Anna Eastman is in the runoff for the special election, and has made her filing for 2020.

First Court of Appeals

I hadn’t gotten into the Courts of Appeals in my previous discussions, but especially after the sweep of these races by Dems in 2018 (and not just on this court), they will surely be of interest to multiple candidates.

Veronica Rivas-Molloy, who has officially filed, and Dinesh Singhal are in the race for Place 3 against incumbent Russell Loyd, who was elected in 2014. The Texas Judges website also lists Keith F. Houston as a candidate, but he appears to have decided not to run.

Amparo Guerra and Tim Hootman have both filed for Place 5, which had been held by the now-resigned Laura Carter Higley. There are three Republicans running so far, and there may be another if Greg Abbott appoints someone to fill the still-vacant seat prior to the filing deadline.

14th Court of Appeals

Jane Robinson is the (so far, at least) lone Democrat running for Chief Justice. I saw her at the HCDP Friendsgiving last month but did not have the chance to walk up and say Hi. The position is held by Justice Kem Thompson Frost, who is not running for re-election. Justice Tracy Christopher, who holds Place 9, is running for Chief Justice. She was last elected in 2016, so she would not otherwise be on the ballot. My assumption is that if she wins, she will move over from Place 9, which will make Place 9 vacant, and Abbott will appoint someone who would then run in Christopher’s spot in 2022. If she loses, she’ll remain in her spot and run for re-election (or not, as she sees fit) in 2022.

Wally Kronzer, who has filed, and Cheri Thomas are running for Place 7. Kronzer ran for Place 5 on this court in 2010. Ken Wise, in his first term, is the incumbent.

District courts

I don’t see any primary challengers yet for incumbent Democratic district court judges. I have heard someone is circulating petitions to challenge Judge Alex Smoots-Thomas, which I think we can all understand. I’m not in a position to say anything more than that as yet.

County offices

Audia Jones has officially filed for Harris County DA. Christian Menefee and Vince Ryan have both filed for County Attorney. Michael Moore has filed for County Commissioner in Precinct 3; Kristi Thibaut and Diana Alexander both announced their filings on Facebook over the weekend, but the SOS has not caught up to those filings yet. Bill McLeod, of accidental resignation fame, has filed to win his old seat on County Civil Court at Law #4 back. Incumbent Judge Lesley Briones has not yet filed. We will have a contested primary for at least one of the two HCDE at large positions, as Erica Davis has filed in Position 5; here’s her appointment of treasurer. Andrea Duhon, who had run for a different HCDE position in 2018, has already filed an appointment of treasurer for this race. David Brown is running for the other spot, Position 7, and as far as I know has no Dem opponent as yet.

Now you know what I know. We’ll all know a lot more in a week’s time.

Judicial Q&A: Wally Kronzer

(Note: I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates on the November ballot. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. These Q&As are primarily intended for candidates who were not in contested primaries. You can see those earlier Q&As, as well as all the ones in this series and all my recorded interviews for this cycle, on my 2010 Elections page.)

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

I am Wally Kronzer. I am a candidate for Justice, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 5.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court of appeals is one of the intermediate courts of appeals in Texas that reviews appeals in all types of civil and criminal cases, except for Capital Murder cases (which go directly to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals).

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I know the law, and I know court of appeals practices. I also know how court systems operate differently in different counties. The way things are done in the Harris County legal community are not the way things are done in other counties such as Galveston or Brazoria County. I understand how courts of appeals decision affect both sides of the civil docket as I handle cases from all sides of the civil docket. I understand how the law effects employers and in employees as I routinely dealt with both before attending law school. I understand how criminal decision affect individuals and families from my pro bono work.

The courts of appeals need diversity of thought and background. For too long too many justices on the Houston area courts of appeals arguably possessed interchangeable legal backgrounds. The courts of appeals have to follow the law, but at times following the law has more than one option. I want to be a voice on the court of appeals asking, “Why is it that we keep following only the one option when the law allows another option?”

That leaves one question – why the 14th Court of Appeals for my first run at office. It is a two-fold answer. The 1967 the Texas Legislature created that court of appeals. Numerous former legislatures reminded me over the years that my father was heavily involved in the lobbying efforts to create that court of appeals as well as refining the other existing courts of appeals. Another reason is former Chief Justice Curtis Brown. Justice Brown and my father were very close friends dating back to their law school days. They were law partners when he took the 14th Court of Appeals bench. Justice Brown swore me in as an attorney after I passed the bar examination. Frankly, there is a certain logic and symmetry to my serving on the 14th Court of Appeals.

4. What are you qualifications for this job?

Like everyone running for these courts of appeals races, I did some terrific things while in law school. I am unique in that I did it in my early thirties going to school full-time, while working, with a family that included two pre-school children. While most candidates running for the court of appeals are primarily Houston lawyers, most of my court of appeals cases come from outside Harris County. I understand why the non Harris County judges and lawyers are uncomfortable with the local courts of appeals tendency to focus on Harris County cases. I also understand the relationship between state and federal law as I handle both state and federal appeals. I know what its like to stand before the Texas Supreme Court. I also know what it is like to stand before the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

I also have extensive court of appeals writing experience. Texas appellate courts are being told to tighten their budgets. The Texas Legislature is facing significant budget issues. Judicial candidates do not talk about this even though they should because the courts of appeals are facing significant funding issues, including staffing cuts, to meet budgetary restrictions. I look forward to having staff attorneys to assist me in drafting opinions, but I am well qualified to handle everything myself if the court of appeals must reduce its current staffing levels.

5. Why is this race important?

The Texas courts of appeals not only decide significant issues effecting individuals and business entities, but in approximately 85% of cases the courts of appeals are the final word on the matter.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

It will add an experienced court of appeals mind who will do his best to prevent the court from putting a round peg in a square hole and say, “It fits.”

Endorsement watch: Appeals courts

I’ve regularly ragged on the Chron for their, um, casual attitude of late for getting endorsements done in a timely manner, so I must commend them for getting such an early start this year. They’ve covered the Governor and Railroad Commissioner races so far, and have now weighed in on the District Appeals Court races. Of the six, they went with two Democrats:

Place 8, 1st Court of Appeals: Robert Ray, a Democrat, is our choice to complete an unexpired term on this bench. Ray’s academic background as a psychologist and an undergraduate journalism major hold the promise of bringing a new and different perspective to the court. His work as a jury consultant gives Ray an appreciation for the work of juries that some contend is missing from the appeals courts.

[…]

Place 5, 14th Court of Appeals: Wally Kronzer, a Democrat, is board certified in appellate law and brings 22 years of experience practicing in that specialty to his candidacy for an unexpired term in this place on the court. Kronzer, a graduate of the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law, contends that his work in the less populous counties surrounding Houston gives him a perspective that is needed on this court. We agree.

Kronzer, a cancer survivor and longtime Little League coach, would bring strong legal background and life perspective to the bench.

Given the length of the ballot in Harris County this year – I’ve heard people say it’s the longest ballot ever, anywhere in America, thanks to all the judicial races – an early start is clearly called for. Let’s hope they maintain the pace.

Three views of the Treasurer

Since posting this entry about the Democratic primary race for Harris County Treasurer and my views of that office, I’ve gotten some interesting feedback that I thought was worth sharing. First, if you go back to that post, you’ll see a comment from Chad Khan, one of the candidates, who says:

In 2006, Mr. Richard Garcia campaigned about abolishing the County Treasurer’s office and I supported his campaign. I still believe that the County Treasurer’s office has little use and is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Once elected, I will attend every meeting of the County Commissioner’s court with the intent of serving as a watchdog for the taxpayer, which would include working to prove the ineffectiveness of the office. I believe the abolishment of the office must begin from within the office and I vow to work toward that end.

Speaking of Richard Garcia, he sent me the following email:

Charles,

Thank you once again for the kind words.

You & I have pretty much agreed on most issues. I believe that you would concurred that we need an up and down review of operations and offices to look at how to get the most bang for the taxpayer’s bucks. Business as usual needs to be uprooted. As a fellow father, we have priorities, however taxes (both obvious and hidden) take away from the available options to help our families. Doing away with an office that is no longer needed was my call to arms in the last two elections. Doing away with the office would send it to the dusty shelves of steno pools, typewriters and bag phones. I was proud of my campaign donation from Jack Cato’s wife–he was a good man and I was honoured to have attended his services. Jack really served Harris County and Houston well and history will rightfully look favourably at his life and service.

As it looks more apparent that Harris County will be a democratic favouring county–I would not feel comfortable in running for an office without the intentions of eliminating the unnecessary office. The # 2 in command has served the taxpayers well and she would continue running the office–and honestly, I believe she can institute efficiencies just as [Loren] Jackson had put in place at the [District] Clerk’s office.

I am so proud of everyone that helped my cause. A Republican blogger took heat for supporting the idea. My fellow county precinct chairs supported my position. Elected officials. I had spoken with representatives from the statewide county treasurers and informed them that my intention was only to focus on Harris County–not their county. Their plea to our County Commissioners office not to abolish the office resulted in all four County Commissioners supporting abolishing the office (see they can work together). The voters who almost made it possible and most importantly, my Mom–who has since passed away to join my Dad.

I wish Billy and Chad well; and anyone else who would care to put their toe in the political waters. Perhaps others will run, they will give voters choices and and as Marta Stewart says, “…and that’s a good thing”.

Have a joyous holiday season.

Your Friend,

Rich Garcia

And finally, a voice in support of a Treasurer’s office, from Wally Kronzer, who is a candidate for the 14th Court of Appeals, Place 5:

I will not try to put my thoughts down in any great detail as it involves Texas history, county government, the Texas Legislature (the Texas Local Government Code), and ultimately, county power sharing. A thorough justification would take too long. I was once involved in a lawsuit involving a county treasurer, county auditor, and the commissioners court (not Harris County). There are good reasons for having an elected county treasurer that primarily boil down to checks and balances issues as to county finances. It is similar to why does company have a banker (the county treasurer) and an outside auditor (county auditor)?

Check the website for Texas Association of Counties description of the office of county treasurer: http://www.county.org/counties/desc_office/treasur.asp and county auditor: http://www.county.org/counties/desc_office/auditor.asp. At the county level the county treasurer has more involvement in the integrity of county investments, bonds, and retirement plans than most people imagine.

While this is not a fits-all-points comparison, but what if the City of Houston Controller was appointed instead of elected? Where would the checks and balances be in that situation (much less some of the great Houston political stories)? Texas may have eliminated the position of state treasurer and passed the duties on to the Texas comptroller. But an elected comptroller still oversees the finances. You could devise an elected county position to do the role of the county treasurer, but that role does not exist – nor is there any real interest in changing the status quo to do so. But, to put it bluntly, someone in the county checks and balances needs to be elected other than just the county commissioners.

The theoretical case certainly makes sense. In practice, can anyone claim that Orlando Sanchez is actually doing that job? Not as far as I can tell. That’s the reason why Richard Garcia’s argument has been compelling to me. I do plan to interview Chad Khan and Billy Briscoe, so we’ll see what their vision for the office and/or its elimination are. My thanks to all for the feedback.