The Chron makes its choices in the two primaries for County Judge. First is an easy one:
David Mincberg, Democrat: Mincberg, a former leader of the Harris County Democratic party, says quality of life -- including problems of traffic congestion and transportation, flood control and clean air -- is the most significant issue facing the county today. "The decisions we make today will be critical to the quality of life of ourselves, our children and our grandchildren," Mincberg says.
Ethics in county governance is an issue elevated in the minds of county residents lately, and it's a matter Mincberg pledges to give his full attention. However, he contends, having high ethical standards is not the basis for a campaign but a basic criterion for the job and for how the county conducts its business. Mincberg, who has amassed a personal fortune in real estate investments, promises to completely separate his financial interests from county business, to place voluntary caps on contributions to his campaigns and never to use campaign contributions for personal expenditures.
Mincberg says he is in the process of liquidating his company holdings and will make running Harris County his full-time job. It's a job to which he'll bring the experience of having run an operation employing 750 workers and representing more than $1 billion worth of economic activity owned or invested primarily in this county.
Mincberg, who served more than a year as Houston Mayor Bill White's $1-a-year executive on affordable housing, says he has a good working relationship with White and understands the need to work closely with mayors of the 32 cities incorporated in Harris County, as well as with leaders of neighboring counties.
An attorney by training, Mincberg is conversant in budgeting, large-stakes finance arrangements and high-dollar bonding transactions. He intends to turn his attention to the finances of the Harris County Hospital District, as one example, to ensure that taxpayers receive the most value for the hundreds of millions in public health-care dollars they invest there.
On the other side, the choice was tougher, but I would argue still obvious for the Chron:
Ed Emmett, Republican: Emmett, who currently holds this seat, was appointed last year to fill the unexpired county judge term of Robert Eckels, who left the position for the private sector. He faces a strong political challenge in former District Clerk Charles Bacarisse for the Republican nomination, but the Chronicle believes Emmett is the better candidate.
Emmett is a former four-term state representative (1979 to 1987) and was a George H.W. Bush appointee to the U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission. In addition to his extensive government service, Emmett has strong private sector business experience in the transportation industry.
As an internationally recognized expert on transportation policy and issues, Emmett is well-qualified to deal with this region's thorny traffic congestion and mobility issues. He intends to continue working regionally to find solutions -- both mass transit and road projects -- to abet Houston's traffic woes. Also, the Chronicle believes that Emmett's support of the Metropolitan Transit Authority's plan to put light rail along Richmond Avenue is the correct stance on this controversial issue.
"That's where the people are, that's where the businesses are," Emmett told members of the Chronicle editorial board this week.
Emmett sees good judgment as one of his strongest suits, which will put county residents in good stead in any emergency scenario, from a natural disaster to a terrorist attack. And he touts the fact that under his administration, commissioners approved the largest tax-rate cut in Harris County history. He promises to make crafting a stronger county ethics policy a high priority of his tenure.
Having endeavored over the past year to earn a reputation as a consensus builder on Commissioner's Court, Emmett pledges to work hard to support his party while recognizing that the county judge must serve the diverse needs of this dense, urban/suburban and growing county.