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Election 2022

Judicial Q&A: Je’Rell Rogers

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to my readers. This year it’s mostly incumbents running for re-election, so it’s an opportunity to hear that talk about what they have accomplished. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. For more information about these and other Democratic candidates, including links to interviews and Q&As from the primary and runoff, see the Erik Manning spreadsheet.)

Je’Rell Rogers

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

My name is Je’Rell Rogers and I am running for judge of Harris County Criminal Court at Law #14. I have been practicing law since 2013. For the last 3+ years, I have served as chief prosecutor of the 180 th District Court where I am responsible for the murders and capital murders pending in that court. I am a 2008 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, a Teach for America alumni corps member (Sharpstown Middle School), and an LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center 2013 graduate.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court hears Class B and Class A misdemeanors. Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to 180 days Harris County Jail and a fine not to exceed $2,000.00. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in the Harris County Jail and a fine not to exceed $4,000.00. Common class B misdemeanors may include DWI (first offender), criminal trespass, and some thefts—just to name a few. Class A misdemeanors include DWI (second offender), Assault, and Burglary of a Motor Vehicle—just to name a few.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for this particular bench because there was a lack of community involvement and focus from this particular seat. Many of the other county criminal court judges have been involved with specialized courts/programs that are focused at bettering the members of our community through services targeting specific needs. SOBER Court and Veterans’ court are examples of such specialized courts and my predecessor had next to no involvement. Everyday, judges make decisions that impact our community and so programs like these and the Fresh Start program introduced by the county criminal courts are essential for the bettering of and safety of our community. Thus, judges need to have not just the legal experience but the actual community involvement in order to have proper perspective when making these decisions. I’m running for this bench because I am the candidate that can best bring these qualifications to the position.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

My qualifications for this job include courtroom experience and community experience. From the courtroom side of things, I have handled the most serious criminal offenses in the state of Texas, from the filing of charges to seeing them through jury verdict. Additionally, I have supervised a number of junior attorneys and support staff, while handling my own case load which demonstrates my ability to lead while getting work done. From the community side of things, my years as a teacher in HISD and my years as a Big Brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Houston have brought to my face the issues that plague our community. I’ve witnessed first hand the impacts of drugs on communities and the impact of domestic violence in homes and the role that homelessness and mental health and substance abuse plays in our criminal justice system. By serving as an usher at my church, I’ve had real, genuine conversations with other community members about their concerns and their family concerns. By serving as a course instructor with HPD, I’ve had conversations with new and veteran police officers about the issues they face. In other words, I am best qualified for this position because I recognize the problems our community faces, I’ve faced them head on, and I recognize there is no ”one size fits” all solution as opposed to a case by case approach.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because our county has the chance to continue to build on the strides we’ve made in the last 4 years. Misdemeanor bail reform is not finished and there is still work to be done to get to where we need to be. In order for this work to happen, the judge for this bench needs to bring the perfect combination of legal experience and community experience to the conversation while showing an ability to work with the other judges. This race is important because it directly impacts every person who lives in or works in or raises their family in Harris County.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

People should vote for me because I am the candidate that this position calls for in 2023 and moving forward. As an attorney, I have experience handling the lowest level of cases to the most serious criminal offenses. Well before I decided to run for office, I got involved with the community when I decided to teach 8th grade students in a low-income area of Houston. Well before I decided to run for office, I decided to become an usher at my church because I have a heart for people and wanted to share with people the love that I had for my church. Well before I decided to run for office, I recognized that I had a responsibility to give back to members of our community who didn’t grow up with the opportunities I had and so I joined Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Houston as a Big Brother. Well before I ran for office, I recognized that I had certain experiences and knowledge that I could share with police officers to better them and our community as a whole and so I started teaching a class on Racial Profiling and a class on Search and Seizure at the Houston Police Academy. People should vote for me in November because my whole life is a personification of me serving my community for the betterment of my community.

Voting has already started for 2022

Military voters are getting their ballots now.

Voting in the Texas governor’s race is officially underway.

While in-person early voting is still four weeks away, Texans on military bases around the U.S. and overseas are getting their ballots as part of a nationwide push to help give service members more time to get their ballots returned and counted.

About 8,000 ballots already have been sent out statewide, with up to 30,000 potentially going out over the next few weeks if it follows the trends of past election cycles.

Nationwide, federal officials have been pushing states to move more quickly to get ballots out for deployed soldiers and overseas voters. Historically, those ballots get rejected at a much higher rate than other vote-by-mail ballots largely because many of them just don’t make it back to Texas in time.

The Department of Defense has put more effort into outreach to soldiers through voter assistance offices set up at military bases across the nation. Even ships at sea have a designated voting assistance officer onboard to help get ballots filled and sent back in time to count.

That’s a big change from decades ago. In 2006, nationwide, 1 million ballots were sent out to people in the military and overseas, but just one-third of those ended up being counted.

Congress responded in 2009 with new laws requiring all local election officials to get requested military ballots out to soldiers domestically and overseas 45 days before an election. This year, that meant ballots had to be out by Saturday.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s a fairly small number of votes. But every vote matters, and I hope we all agree that we should make some effort to accommodate active military personnel. And if you’re out there casting doubt on the legitimacy of mail ballots, these are among them. So show some respect, and show it to all voters.

Endorsement watch: Stogner for Warford

Nice.

Luke Warford

Sarah Stogner, the former Republican candidate for railroad commissioner who forced incumbent Wayne Christian to a runoff and made waves for riding a pumpjack almost naked in a memorable campaign ad, is backing the Democratic nominee for the seat.

Stogner on Monday endorsed Luke Warford over Christian, a former state representative who was first elected to the Railroad Commission in 2016. She said in an interview that Texas’ energy industry is “too important to let corrupt career politicians stay in office, and I’m taking a stand against it.”

Stogner, an oil and gas attorney, lost to Christian by double digits in the runoff. Her campaign turned heads not only for the racy ad but also $2 million in funding she got from a West Texas rancher and friend who had been battling the Railroad Commission over abandoned oil wells on her property.

Stogner said she was supporting Warford, a former state Democratic Party staffer running on fixing the power grid, because she simply believed he would do the job better. She also said in a statement that he is not “your typical Democrat,” calling him “pragmatic and pro-business.”

Christian’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Stogner’s endorsement comes as another Democratic statewide candidate, Mike Collier, has also been picking up Republican endorsements, most recently from former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff on Thursday.

A bit of background in case you need to be reminded about Sarah Stogner. Here’s more from the Chron.

Stogner announced the support Monday and appears in a new video for Warford. Stogner lost in the runoff to Wayne Christian, who is the incumbent and chairs the oil and gas regulatory agency.

“My thinking was, if my endorsement can help him bring some Republican voters to vote for him, it’s the right thing for Texas,” she said.

[…]

Stogner has been an outspoken critic of Christian, pointing to campaign contributions he receives from the oil and gas industry, and to his unwillingness to acknowledge climate change. In recent days, she has also offered support for Christian’s libertarian opponent, Jaime Andres Diez.

“I don’t think that this should be politicized,” Stogner said of the race. “And unfortunately, the incumbent is talking about the (border) wall and pro-life and things that he has absolutely no jurisdiction over.”

The three-member Railroad Commission regulates the state’s oil and gas industry. Christian, a former state legislator and financial planner, opposes new regulations and alternative energy such as wind and solar.

“I’m tired of career politicians mining their pocketbooks and ignoring what needs to be done,” Stogner said.

Here’s the new video:

Whatever one might say about Sarah Stogner, she likely has a lot more name recognition than your typical primary-losing candidate in a downballot race. She is good at getting earned media, which is nice. I’ve said before that I don’t think endorsements like this move a lot of votes, but they probably move a few. And for real, I’ve never seen this many prominent Republican endorsements of Texas Democrats. I don’t know how much that means, but it’s not nothing.

Interview with Teneshia Hudspeth

Teneshia Hudspeth

We are moving the focus back to local offices this week, with three interviews of incumbents running for re-election. Teneshia Hudspeth is seeking her first full term as Harris County Clerk. A longtime employee of the Clerk’s office before winning a special election in 2020 to finish out the term after Diane Trautman stepped down, Hudspeth is now one of five members of the Harris County Elections Commission, with oversight over the office of the Elections Administrator. We obviously talked about that, and about all of the things she is doing with the non-elections parts of the Clerk’s office, which is a quite a lot. You can listen to the interview I did with her in 2020 here, and you can listen to this year’s interview here:

PREVIOUSLY:

All interviews and Q&As through the primary runoffs
Michelle Palmer – SBOE6
Chuck Crews – HD128
Cam Campbell – HD132
Stephanie Morales – HD138
Robin Fulford – CD02
Laura Jones – CD08

As always, everything you could want to know about the Democratic candidates can be found at the Erik Manning spreadsheet.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Michelle Moore

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to my readers. This year it’s mostly incumbents running for re-election, so it’s an opportunity to hear that talk about what they have accomplished. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. For more information about these and other Democratic candidates, including links to interviews and Q&As from the primary and runoff, see the Erik Manning spreadsheet.)

Judge Michelle Moore

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

Michelle Moore Presiding Judge of the 314th District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Juvenile Delinquency and Child Welfare

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

I have removed ankle restraints from juveniles who appear in court. The youth are no longer coming to court in a jail jumpsuit. Instead, they wear a grey or burgundy shirt
and black khaki style pants.

Regarding Child Welfare, same sex couples and single persons are permitted to adopt a child(ren) in the 314th.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

For court operations, I hope for the 314th courtroom to be completely paperless. Regarding juveniles, I will continue to use community rehabilitation programs. For child welfare, I will become a trauma informed court.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because children and parents’ lives are directly impacted. Our youth are vulnerable and impressionable and oftentimes when youthful offenders come to court, they are at a crossroads.

The Court is in the unique position to motivate the youth to change their life for the better. Conversely, if the youth’s interaction with the court is negative, it may push him/her participate in more illegal activities. Understanding the magnitude and reach of this position, is integral to being an effective judge.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

I am an experienced judge and I practiced Child Welfare Law before taking the bench. I have a breadth of knowledge and experience in the area of law for which I am seeking reelection. The youth in my court have experienced positive outcomes and I have achieved a reputation of being fair and efficient judge, which is exactly what Harris County deserves. There is no reason to change.

There are many variables affecting what might happen with abortion law in Texas

Another way to put this: What can Beto do as Governor with a Republican legislature to make abortion laws less bad in Texas?

Toward the end of a virtual campaign event last month, one of Beto O’Rourke’s supporters asked how he would fulfill a key pledge: overturning the Texas ban on abortion.

The Legislature is virtually certain to remain under Republican control next year, leaving O’Rourke with no clear path to restore abortion access if he were to defeat Gov. Greg Abbott in November. But the Democratic nominee insisted he could bring lawmakers around.

“The shockwaves that it will send through this state to have a proudly, boldly pro-choice Democrat win for the first time in 32 years … will give us the political capital, the leverage we need to make sure that we can restore protections for every single woman in Texas to make her own decisions about her own body,” O’Rourke said.

He would also use “the power of the governor’s veto to stop bad ideas that are coming down the pike already,” he said.

But the proposals that most animate O’Rourke’s base — abortion rights, gun restrictions, expanded voting access — would likely face stiff resistance from Republican lawmakers, many of whom will return to Austin with no desire to rescind laws they passed as recently as last year.

Under those conditions, O’Rourke’s ability to enact core parts of his agenda would require a near-impossible level of legislative savvy, and unsparing use of the governor’s limited tools to influence the lawmaking process, such as vetoing bills and budget line items, veterans of Texas politics say.

[…]

On paper, Texas governors have limited power to shape public policy, with no cabinet and less control over state agencies than most of their counterparts around the country.

In recent years, though, Abbott and his predecessor, Rick Perry, have expanded their sway through sheer longevity — each staying in office long enough to stock boards and commissions with allies. Abbott has also used disaster orders to bypass the Legislature and steer policy on border security, the state’s COVID response, Texas National Guard deployments, and more.

Governors can also influence how laws are interpreted and enforced, through their appointments to state boards and commissions and directives to state agencies via executive order.

But governors cannot fire even their own appointees, let alone those of former governors, meaning O’Rourke would be stuck with thousands of Abbott appointees until their terms expire.

He could appoint their replacements between legislative sessions without immediate oversight, though each appointee would eventually require approval from the Republican-majority Senate once the Legislature is in session.

O’Rourke’s most potent tool to influence the lawmaking process would likely be his power to veto laws and spending he opposes, which governors have historically wielded as a powerful bargaining chip. O’Rourke said he would use that power, if necessary, to nix policies like private school vouchers, which Abbott has supported.

“Being able to stop that is incredibly important,” O’Rourke said. “But it also affords the governor leverage, in a broader sense, to bring people to the table and to make sure that we find that common ground, we get to that consensus, and we make some progress.”

The veto argument is one I was making about Wendy Davis back in 2014, before some of the worst anti-abortion legislation was passed. It’s still salient today, though the context is now very different. At the very least, it would be a hard stop against the vengeance fantasies of sociopaths like Briscoe Cain.

I think we can safely put aside any ideas about Beto reaching across the aisle for bipartisan compromise legislation on almost anything. Not that he wouldn’t sincerely try, and he could lead with things that under other circumstances might have genuine bipartisan appeal, like improving broadband access or drought mitigation. I just don’t believe that Republicans will move an inch even on things they have championed in the past to give him a legislative victory – their primary voters will not stand for it. I’d love to be too cynical about this, but it’s very much a prove-me-wrong situation. There may be some opportunities in the budget, where he will have line item veto power and where a lot of sausage making goes on behind closed doors, but don’t look for anything bigger than that. At least one chamber will need to be Democratic-majority before anything like that could realistically happen.

The use of executive power is an interesting possibility, and one where recent history is of much better use than past history. Abbott and Perry have absolutely pushed the bounds on what a Texas Governor can do, though to be fair they have had a docile and largely submissive legislature and a mostly compliant Supreme Court abetting them, neither of which Beto would have. All of the contradictions and hypocrisies that will result when those institutions suddenly decide that maybe there should be some limits on executive power won’t mean much given how little that kind of thing engages the public. All that said, Beto should look for every opportunity to push the envelope. He has little to lose by doing so.

Now, to complicate my earlier assertions about bipartisan legislation and compromise, we do have one slim possible avenue for such a thing.

Republican state Sen. Robert Nichols of Jacksonville said Friday that he’d support a change to Texas’ abortion laws to allow victims of rape to legally obtain the procedure.

“If I get a chance to vote for an exception to rape, I will vote yes,” the East Texas senator said during a panel of Republican lawmakers at the 2022 Texas Tribune Festival. “I think instead of us telling women what to do, we should show our support for women of this state.”

Nichols is one of the first anti-abortion lawmakers to say he would support loosening the abortion laws when lawmakers meet in January.

[…]

Texas is competing against private companies who are willing to bus their employees out of state for “pregnancy care,” said Nichols. “And what are we doing?”

At the least, Nichols said, the state should provide a minimum of four weeks of paid maternity leave for state employees.

Nichols self-identifies as “pro-life” and has voted in favor of the state’s abortion laws, including the “fetal heartbeat” law that went into effect last September. The law prohibited most abortions after an ultrasound could detect cardiac activity in a embryo, about six weeks into a pregnancy. Nichols’ office did not immediately respond to questions about whether the senator would support any other exceptions to the abortion law, such as for incest.

I would point out that as an actual Senator, Nichols could author such a bill himself and perhaps even try to persuade his fellow Republicans to vote for it, including in the House, rather than wait for such a bill to magically appear before him. Crazy talk, I know, but it’s what I do. The question here, as above, is whether Nichols would still support such a bill even if it would then be sent to Governor O’Rourke for a signature, or whether that would be out of bounds as per the same politics I discussed above. My guess is the latter is more likely, but we’ll see. For what it’s worth, signing a bill that merely allowed for a rape exception to the current ban, without at least clarifying the “life and health of the mother” exception that is causing so much chaos and mayhem in the hospitals now would not be a clear win for Beto in my estimation. I believe it would garner at best grudging support from reproductive rights advocates, even if it was clearly the best we could get under the circumstances, just because it’s so incremental and would give some form of approval to that strict a legal regime. I could be wrong about that, I’m just saying that this stuff is more complicated than it looks and there are way too many variables to support making any kind of prediction. We’ll know a bit more after the election, but for now almost anything could happen. We need to do what we can to put ourselves in the best possible position to affect the outcome.

Voter registration update

However you look at it, we have a lot of registered voters now.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

With three weeks before the Oct. 11 deadline for the November elections, nearly 80% of the state’s voting age population is registered to vote, putting the number of people eligible to cast ballots to more than 17.5 million and counting, according to the Austin American-Statesman. 

Records maintained by the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, show that the new-registration numbers are higher than they were during the midterm cycles of 2014 and 2018, however, the percentage of people of voting age registered has increased only marginally.

This means the addition of new voters is offset by the number of people who have left the registration rolls. Democrats believe the sudden surge of new voter registration is largely due to the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade’s landmark abortion ruling.

“It’s not just that younger voters are surging in TX since Dobbs,” tweeted Tom Bonier, CEO of the firm, TargetSmart, in reference to the high court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling. “It’s clear that those younger voters who are registering now (men and women) are far more Democratic.”

Apart from being motivated by the loss of abortion rights, new voters might have been inspired by the inaction of Texas Republican leaders on gun safety issues in the wake of the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

On the other hand, Republicans are skeptical about that conclusion. Derek Ryan, a Texas Republican researcher, and consultant, examined data from the three most recent midterm cycles and said the demographic characteristics of new registrants are remarkably consistent, as reported by Austin American-Statesman.

We’ve discussed the voter registration figures and the reasons to maintain some perspective before. I will say that if we get the same turnout percentage in 2022 that we got in 2018, we’ll get about 9.3 million voters in this election, or about 900K more than we got four years ago. That’s also almost exactly double what we got in 2014, when registration was considerably lower and the turnout percentage was almost comically small. The last couple of elections have shown that higher turnout elections are not inherently favorable to one party or the other, but I would still claim that low turnout elections are generally bad for Democrats, at least in Texas.

I wish I knew how to turn the heat down

But I do know that I’m not the responsible party for this crap.

About a dozen activists demanding responses to conspiracy theories about election integrity this week disrupted what is typically an uneventful public testing of voting machines ahead of an election in Hays County.

The activists shouted at the county election administrator and Texas’s secretary of state, who was present for the testing. County officials said they’d never previously encountered such intense hostility at the routine event.

The crowd surrounded members of the election test board — which consisted of political party representatives, county officials and election workers — who were assigned to test the machines, pressing in and looking over their shoulders. Many filed into the election department’s large conference room at county headquarters holding notebooks and pens, ready to take notes.

As soon as the testing began, the activists began to raise familiar questions.

“Are the machines all connected?” one asked Jennifer Doinoff, the county’s elections administrator. “How many Bluetooth devices are there?”

No, the machines are not connected, Doinoff responded, nor were there any Bluetooth devices. The questioning continued, sparking side conversations and repeatedly drowning out the voices of those doing the testing. Doinoff, over and over, had to ask the crowd to lower their voices.

“Can we go back to focusing on the testing please?” Doinoff told the crowd. Attendees said they were at the public event — versions of which were held this week by many county election offices across the state — as “concerned citizens” and were not affiliated with any particular group or political party.

Texas law requires public testing of the voting machines be done before and after every election to ensure the machines are counting votes correctly. Half-a-dozen Hart Intercivic voting machines were spaced out on a large table inside the room, ready to be tested by the handful of county officials present to help.

Texas Secretary of State John Scott was on hand in Hays County, home to Texas State University, to observe the testing and film an educational video about Texas’s voting systems.

As testing of the machines continued in the background, the activists turned their attention away from the process, surrounding Scott and peppering him with complaints and prepared questions. Scott, a Republican, spent around 20 minutes listening and answering granular questions.

“We’re following state law,” Scott told them.

“No you’re not,” the activists responded, nearly in unison.

Gosh, John, why do you suppose these “just plain folks” are seething with such hostility? Where do you think they could have gotten those ideas into their heads? It’s a mystery, I tell you.

The Hays County activists also told Scott they believe voting machines are not trustworthy; they want hand-counting ballots of ballots and same-day election results; and emphasized the need for consecutively numbered ballots and to go back to precinct polling places rather than vote centers.

Because people never make mistakes and are faster at counting than computers. Apparently this is a French thing, and never have I been more surprised to hear of a particular obsession with an aspect of French culture.

Doinoff and her staff told Votebeat they weren’t discouraged by the rancor. Instead, the disruption and the questioning highlighted the importance of testing voting systems, also known as logic and accuracy tests, ahead of an election. That process has been standard practice for decades.

“I am still glad that people came,” Doinoff said. “We want them to see it and ask us.”

You are a better person than I am. You also deserve to have all the security you need, and I hope you already have it.

Interview with Cam Campbell

Cam Cameron

I have spoken to many candidates for office over the years, from all walks of life. I don’t believe I had spoken to one who is called “Coach” before, but that ends today with Cameron “Coach Cam” Campbell, the Democratic nominee for HD132. Campbell is a University of Houston graduate and public speaker/entrepreneur. He has been a basketball coach and athletic director at KIPP Houston High School and now serves as a Play Safe Coach for the Houston Texans. He won a close primary this March and now faces a tougher challenge in a district that went from swing to more Republican after redistricting. Here’s what we talked about:

PREVIOUSLY:

All interviews and Q&As through the primary runoffs
Michelle Palmer – SBOE6
Chuck Crews – HD128
Stephanie Morales – HD138
Robin Fulford – CD02
Laura Jones – CD08

As always, everything you could want to know about the Democratic candidates can be found at the Erik Manning spreadsheet.

Spectrum News/Siena College: Abbott 50, Beto 43

A new pollster enters the chat.

Less than two months from Election Day, Republican Governor Greg Abbott has a seven-point, 50-43%, lead over Democratic challenger, former Congressman, Beto O’Rourke. In the race for Lieutenant Governor, incumbent Republican Dan Patrick is up by nine points, 49-40%, over Democratic challenger Mike Collier. In the race for state Attorney General, incumbent Republican Ken Paxton has a five-point advantage, 47-42%, over Democratic challenger Rochelle Garza according to a new Spectrum News/Siena College (SCRI) poll of likely Texas voters released today.

Abbott has a 47-46% favorability rating, while O’Rourke has a negative 39-52% favorability rating. Patrick has a negative 33-36% favorability rating, compared to Collier’s 13-12% favorability rating. Paxton has a negative 29-41% favorability rating while Garza, like Collier is unknown to about threequarters of Texas likely voters, and has a 13-12% favorability rating.

“Governor Abbott, who won a landslide thirteen-point race against Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez four years ago, has a seven-point lead with over six weeks until Election Day. Abbott has the support of 95% of Republicans and O’Rourke has the support of 93% of Democrats, while independents tilt toward Abbott by one point,” said Don Levy, SCRI’s Director. “White voters favor Abbott by over two-to-one, 64-31%, while Black voters prefer O’Rourke 79-10% and a majority of Latinos, 58-36%, plan to vote for O’Rourke.”

The crosstabs are here. The headline on the Chron story for this refers to Abbott’s lead “widening”, which I object to on the grounds that there’s no earlier Spectrum/Siena poll to compare this one to. I don’t like comparing one pollster’s poll to another’s because they all do slightly different things. Nobody asks me these about these things, so here we are.

Now, if we want to do comparisons to other polls, I will note that this one actually has solid numbers for Beto in terms of support from Dems, as well as from Black and Latino voters. Compare to the DMN/UT-Tyler poll from earlier this week that had Beto only winning Dems by a 77-12 margin, and multiple polls saying that Abbott is getting upward of 15% of Black voters. Why is the overall result not so great if these subsamples are so good? My guess would be that this sample’s partisan distribution is a bit weird – 27% Dem, 34% GOP, 32% Indie/Other (the remaining 8% are a mystery). The DMN/UT-Tyler poll had those distributed as 33-40-27, and in general I expect the Dem share to be higher than the Indie share.

Having written that, I decided I had to go back through earlier poll results to do a comparison. With one exception, my expectation matched the data:

UT-TPP: Dem 42, GOP 48, Indie 10

Echelon: Dem 35, GOP 43, Indie 20

UH/Hobby Center: Dem 41, GOP 46, Indie/unsure 13

Quinnipiac: Dem 24, GOP 30, Indie 36, Other 10

I went back as far as June. Not all of the recent results I’ve blogged about included partisan breakdown data that I could find. Color me surprised at some of the ranges here. You can make of all this what you will, it’s what I noticed.

Judicial Q&A: Judge LaShawn Williams

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to my readers. This year it’s mostly incumbents running for re-election, so it’s an opportunity to hear that talk about what they have accomplished. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. For more information about these and other Democratic candidates, including links to interviews and Q&As from the primary and runoff, see the Erik Manning spreadsheet.)

Judge LaShawn Williams

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

Judge LaShawn A. Williams, Harris County Civil Court at Law No. 3

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

These courts share jurisdiction with the district courts up to $250,000. Also, a county civil court at law in Harris County has jurisdiction over all civil matters and causes, original and appellate, prescribed by law for county courts, but does not have the jurisdiction of a probate court.

A county civil court at law has jurisdiction in appeals of civil cases from justice courts in Harris County. A county civil court at law also-regardless of the amount in controversy-has jurisdiction in statutory eminent domain proceedings and exclusive jurisdiction over inverse condemnation suits.

In addition to other jurisdiction provided by law, a county civil court at law has jurisdiction to:

1. decide the issue of title to real or personal property;
2. hear a suit to recover damages for slander or defamation of character;
3. hear a suit for the enforcement of a lien on real property;
4. hear a suit for the forfeiture of a corporate charter;
5. hear a suit for the trial of the right to property valued at $200 or more that has been levied on under a writ of execution, sequestration, or attachment; and
6. hear a suit for the recovery of real property.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

We are protecting seniors and others from losing their homes after years of investment and sacrifice. We’ve helped and continue to help those who are burdened by collections and who just need a hand up. And for renters on the threshold of eviction, we’ve engaged volunteer lawyers and rent relief programs to help them keep the roof over their heads, while helping landlords stay in business. And along with all of those kept promises I am proud to say that we helped taxpayers save lots of money and made our positive mark on the climate by going paperless.

During this pandemic, our court has worked hard to successfully move the dockets avoiding backlog. We collaborated with Houston Volunteer lawyers and the law schools to provide legal representation to folks facing eviction. We provide oral hearings in proceedings for self represented litigants providing them opportunity to conference with the opposition in a fair and safe manner. When it was safe to do so, we opened the court back to in person trials enforcing CDC and local guidelines. We did this because I believe fair and equal access to the courts requires engagement and confrontation without the impediments of technology in a remote proceeding. Certain evidence, particular demeanor and credibility evidence, require testing, objection and consideration without internet interruption or other interferences.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

I intend to continue using this platform to educate the public, bring more young lawyers into the judicial pipeline, and support groups that do the same. This Court will continue to advance and ensure equal access to justice. We intend to further advance our technological advances by making it easier for parties to receive notices about the status of their case via email. We went paperless in 2019 and then Covid hit. While this interrupted much of our work, we are excited to get back to things like providing improved forms and templates online for self-represented litigants and others.

We will continue working on making legal representation available in eviction cases as a matter of law, rather than just in the face of Covid. When the pandemic is gone, we plan to move forward with what we’ve learned and gained – like legal representation for tenants in eviction cases. We will also move forward in keeping some remote dockets, like bench trials and motions hearings.

I am really excited about being able to further engage and educate the community on equal access to justice and the Rule of Law by holding community events and safe places for real conversations with the judiciary.

5. Why is this race important?

It seems our democracy is moving at the speed of light. Now more than ever it is important that we all understand how our democracy works…that we have three branches of government, and each are equally important. Each affect our lives daily. Who we put into office in these three branches of government has serious implications. How safe we are, whether our children return home safe; our health care; women’s healthcare; gun safety; our elections and our right to vote. It seems all those things most important to us hang in the balance. This race is important because citizens should be confident in and trust our courts now like never before. We see how decisions, creating precedent, resound for decades. It matters today how a court decides, whether the Rule of Law if followed, whether justice is equal.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

I have run the court successfully over the past 3.5 years and intend to continue improving upon the administration of equal justice and access to the courts. I am tuned into the heart of the people of this diverse county. Each day I see their need and concerns in court – what’s important to them and how they are hurting; and how they are prospering! I take my seat on this bench as a call to service. I enjoy it and find it an honor to serve in this way. I am committed to ensuring the Rule of Law applies equally to everyone and that the administration of justice is fair. This county needs judges that are relatable, competent and who understand what is at stake. I have proven that I am qualified and can do the job. I want to continue serving this great county and our communities.

Interview with Laura Jones

Laura Jones

For my second Congressional interview this week we stay up north for a visit with Laura Jones, the Democratic candidate un CD08, which is open this year following the retirement announcement of Rep. Kevin Brady. Jones is a small business owner who grew up in Houston before moving with her husband to Cold Spring, on the north end of the Sam Houston National Forest, four years ago. She got involved in local politics and has served as Chair for the San Jacinto County Democratic Party and as the Field Director for Texas Senate District 3 under the Non-Urban Rural Caucus of the TDP. She ran for CD08 in 2020 but lost in the primary, and is back for another run. Here’s what we talked about:

PREVIOUSLY:

All interviews and Q&As through the primary runoffs
Michelle Palmer – SBOE6
Chuck Crews – HD128
Stephanie Morales – HD138
Robin Fulford – CD02

As always, everything you could want to know about the Democratic candidates can be found at the Erik Manning spreadsheet.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Lori Chambers Gray

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to my readers. This year it’s mostly incumbents running for re-election, so it’s an opportunity to hear that talk about what they have accomplished. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. For more information about these and other Democratic candidates, including links to interviews and Q&As from the primary and runoff, see the Erik Manning spreadsheet.)

Judge Lori Chambers Gray

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

I am Lori Chambers Gray, the presiding Judge of the 262nd District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 262nd District Court has jurisdiction over felony criminal cases ranging from state jail felony to capital murder.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

One accomplishment during my time on this bench has been being elected by my fellow judges to serve as presiding judge over the mental health competency restoration docket. Serving in this position has been especially rewarding because it has allowed me to serve some of our communities most vulnerable, those suffering with mental illness. Through programs in place, persons with mental illness are connected to services and community resources. This docket has long history of persons successfully completing the programs and going on to living productive lives.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

I want to help speed up the process of resolving cases in a fair and equitable manner. I want to make the court is even more efficient. In the appropriate cases where individuals are not incarcerated I want to insure that we provide reasonable alternatives to incarceration. In cases where individuals are placed on probation I want to insure that the conditions are strict, meaningful and appropriate for that offense.

5. Why is this race important?

This election is important because judges affect citizens lives in so many ways. In the criminal justice system in many ways judges are the backbone of the criminal justice system. Judges have a duty to insure that every accused citizen has a fair process and a fair trial, if they want one. At the same time, a judge must make sure that the community is safe. A number of judicial races are on the November mid term ballot and the peoples vote will decide who will serve as judge in these courts.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

I have had the pleasure to serve as the presiding judge of the 262nd district court for the last 3 1/2 years. In my time as a judge I have strived to insure that all people are treated fairly regardless of background. I practiced law for 29 years before being elected in 2018 and built a successful criminal law practice handling cases in Harris and surrounding counties.

I was born and raised in Houston and have strong ties with my community through volunteer organizations that I have served in the past and present. I understand the unique challenges and concerns of the citizens of Harris County and have the desire to make a positive difference for all. It is my hope that the voters keep me on the bench so that we can continue in our efforts to insure justice for all.

Community meetings about the Harris County bond referenda

Ask your questions, get some answers.

Harris County voters will decide in November whether to approve a bond package totaling $1.2 billion, with the vast majority aimed at road construction. On Monday, the county [began] a series of 24 community engagement meetings to share information and gather input about where the money will go if the bond propositions pass.

Voters will see three bond propositions on the ballot:

  • Proposition A: Up to $100 million for public safety, which could include law enforcement facilities, courtrooms, technology and improved data systems for court management and crime prevention.
  • Proposition B: Up to $900 million for transportation, including road rehabilitation and added capacity; roadway and neighborhood drainage improvements; walking, biking, and mass transit access; and safety projects to reduce transportation-related fatalities and injuries.
  • Proposition C: Up to $200 million for parks and trails, including construction and maintenance of parks facilities and trails, including floodable parks, trail projects, and inclusive parks for people with disabilities.

If all are approved, at least $220 million would be spent in each of the county’s four precincts, while the $100 million in public safety investments would be countywide.

The county will hold community meetings through Oct.. 20, including 16 in-person meetings divided evenly among the four precincts and eight virtual meetings. Spanish, Mandarin and Vietnamese interpreters will be available.

[…]

The dates and locations of the meetings are subject to change. Residents can check the latest schedule or submit their comments online at harriscounty2022bond.org.

See here for the background. The schedule as known at the time of publication is in the Chron story, but it is subject to change so check out that Harris County 2022 Bond page before heading out.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Linda Dunson

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to my readers. This year it’s mostly incumbents running for re-election, so it’s an opportunity to hear that talk about what they have accomplished. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. For more information about these and other Democratic candidates, including links to interviews and Q&As from the primary and runoff, see the Erik Manning spreadsheet.)

Judge Linda Dunson

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

My name is Linda Marie Dunson. I am the Presiding Judge of the 309th Family District Court in Harris County, Texas. I grew up in a small town in east Texas. I grew up very poor and disadvantaged. As a child decisions were made about me by others who were not my family, nor did they live in my neighborhood, nor did they look like me. Those who were in “authority” assessed my situations and made judgments and predetermined my future without giving me the opportunity to speak for myself. They were wrong! They fueled the desire in me, the fire, the passion for advocating on behalf of others, especially children. I believe in equal access to justice; that every human should be treated with dignity and respect and that every litigant should have the opportunity to be heard.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The Family District court oversees matters such as divorce, adoption, child support, child protective services, and other related matters.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

The 309th has been able to manage the flow of cases such that justice has not been delayed during a flood, a freeze, after effects of hurricane Harvey and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, my main accomplishment is being able to apply the law in a manner to change the trajectory of families who are impacted by the Texas Department of Family and Protective services by recognizing the impact that trauma plays in the lives of those families and how treating that trauma can lead to a more positive outcome. The 309th has been selected as one of six Trauma Informed Courts across Texas.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

I will continue to collaborate with community organizations and attorneys to create a network of resources to assist families with facing and healing the effects of their respective traumas. I hope to be able to measure the positive outcomes in terms of increased family reunification and reduced recidivism. Dignity, respect, integrity and fair impartial interpretation and application of the law shall always be paramount.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is so important because there is so much progress being made in the courts in general and the 309th in particular and that progress needs to continue. Let’s keep it moving forward.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

I have been tried and tested. Family is my passion. I am compassionate. I understand the human condition. I understand that there are many ethnic groups with many cultural norms living in America. I understand that there are individuals who may believe differently than I in regards to religion and sexuality.

I have a demeanor that is becoming a Judge. I am consistent in my dealing with people. I believe that everyone is entitled to a fair, impartial and just decision. I listen and I connect with people. Moreover, I believe the rule of law should be respected.

I believe that lawyers ought to be allowed to represent their client zealously without being disrespected by the bench. Let the lawyers practice law and let the Judge be the judge.

People should vote for me because I genuinely care. I have advocated for others ever since I can remember. I have been in the trenches. I have given brain, brawn and bucks to improve the human condition, expecting nothing in return.

I am a Progressive Democrat with traditional democratic values. I believe in Faith, Opportunity, Equality, Hard Work (Jobs), Education, Healthcare. I believe in embracing differences. I believe in equality, justice and fairness. And, I truly believe that a person should be judged by their character.

People should vote for me because I want to continue the fight for equality, justice and fairness.

I am the best and most qualified candidate. I bring with me knowledge, skill, an unmatched personal experience and unsurpassed compassion.

DMN/UT-Tyler: Abbott 47, Beto 38

Insert shrug emoji here, and insert link to the unreadable DMN story here. I’ll give you the main results of interest and then a few comments after that.

Abbott 47, Beto 38
Patrick 39, Collier 28
Paxton 37, Garza 30
State House GOP 50, Dem 48

The August poll had Abbott up 46-39. As I said in other posts while resisting the urge to attribute “momentum” to Beto, I find the claim that a one point shift for each candidate represents a “gain” for Abbott to be a bit tendentious. Like with other polls, the subsample that I tend to look at when considering these results is the partisan subsamples. Here, Beto wins Democrats by a lethargic 77-12, with Abbott at 85-8 among Republicans. It was 81-12 for Beto in August, with Abbott at the same level among Rs. I find the claim that more than ten percent of people who would credibly self-ID as Democrats support Greg Abbott to be implausible. I’ll just leave it at that.

I know that the Lite Guv and AG races are lower profile, but as I’ve said before, poll results this late in the cycle that can’t give me a better idea of how many people will vote for “the Republican” versus “the Democrat” are not ones I put much weight in. It is possible to do better than that. It’s especially humorous to me given the near-100% response rate for the Texas House race. The conjunction of these things doesn’t make much sense to me.

One last thing, in their suite of issues questions, this poll finds slightly less support overall for abortion rights, as approval for overturning Roe v Wade went from 42-49 in August to 46-46 in September, while the question on abortion being mostly or completely illegal versus mostly or completely legal went from 44-55 in August to 49-50 in September. This stands at odds with other recent polling. Which doesn’t mean it’s wrong, just that I will cast a skeptical eye at it. The claim I saw in the snippet of the story I could read that this had to do with Abbott doing a lot of advertising strikes me as not very likely. Polls can be weird, which is why we try to look at them in bunches where possible.

UPDATE: I missed on first reading that this was a poll of registered voters, not “likely” voters, which is what all of the other recent polls have been. That explains the lower response numbers in the Lt. Governor and AG races. With their likely voter screen, this poll has Abbott up 50-39. My stated concerns about the likelihood of so many self-described Democrats saying they will vote for Greg Abbott remain.

Interview with Robin Fulford

Robin Fulford

This week I have interviews with two Congressional candidates. First up is a very familiar name to local Democrats, Robin Fulford. Fulford is an activist, organizer, and founding member of the Democratic Club of The Woodlands. Fulford comes from a working-class and union background and has been a highly visible presence in the red northern suburbs of Houston. She also has a deep personal understanding of what is at stake in the fight for reproductive rights. For her first candidacy, she has the challenge of taking on the money-raising machine known as Dan Crenshaw. We talked about that and many other things in the interview:

PREVIOUSLY:

All interviews and Q&As through the primary runoffs
Michelle Palmer – SBOE6
Chuck Crews – HD128
Stephanie Morales – HD138

As always, everything you could want to know about the Democratic candidates can be found at the Erik Manning spreadsheet.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Shannon Baldwin

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to my readers. This year it’s mostly incumbents running for re-election, so it’s an opportunity to hear that talk about what they have accomplished. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. For more information about these and other Democratic candidates, including links to interviews and Q&As from the primary and runoff, see the Erik Manning spreadsheet.)

Judge Shannon Baldwin

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

Judge Shannon Brichelle Baldwin, I preside over Harris County Criminal Misdemeanor Court #4.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court hears misdemeanor class B and class A cases. The maximum punishment is up to a $4,000 fine and up to 1 year in jail. This court is an appellate court for class C misdemeanors.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

In my first two years, I served as the Local Administrative Judge over all 20 Harris County Courts comprising of 16 criminal courts and 4 civil courts; for three years I presided over an additional docket for Misdemeanor SOBER Court (a treatment court for persons with alcohol/drug addictions); currently I also preside over the Misdemeanor Veterans Court (a treatment court for Veterans with alcohol/drug addictions and PTSD). I’ve maintained an above average clearance rate despite inheriting one of the largest dockets after Harvey. I reduced the docket despite having limited ability to conduct jury trials due to building construction and COVID restrictions. I use scheduling orders to continue the efficient movement of cases. Collectively, the Harris County Criminal Courts have instituted the Community Care Court where one of our first programs is the Fresh Start Program. In that program, the courts are able to seal the criminal history of defendants who have paid their debt to society.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

Going forward, I will continue to reduce the backlog assisted with the use of the scheduling order. I hope to accomplish a domestic violence court and a fully functioning (financed) mental health court. Those specialty courts would address the majority of cases in our courts and provide a more efficient means to get them resolved. I would like to propose a computer lab run by Probation or that is open to indigent defendants with no access to the internet. They often have online classes and typically have difficulty finishing classes because they lack access.

5. Why is this race important?

Criminal Misdemeanor Courts encounter individuals at low level and oftentimes the beginning of a potential criminal future. So, we have the opportunity to make a big impact at an early stage. We can target issues and seek resolutions as a part of punishment. With successful resolution of “issues”, we can reduce crime and completely change the trajectory of an individual’s life. I chose misdemeanor court over felony court for this reason.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

I am a servant leader and I ran for this position to serve the citizens of Harris County and make it better. In many ways, I have accomplished making Harris County better. However, there is still work to be done and that takes time. I am dedicated to seeing community safety increase and not at the expense of citizens’ Constitutional rights. I’m dedicated to keeping the courts open with free access to everyone. I’m dedicated to maintaining fair and impartial courts where one’s race, color, creed, religion or sexual orientation has no bearing on their case. I am dedicated to equal protection under the law and justice for ALL! I’m humbly asking for your support and votes to continue as Judge for Harris County Criminal Court #4.

Marijuana and the Ag Commissioner race

It’s a clear choice, though to be fair on this one issue it’s not as clear as with some other offices. But really, anytime the choice includes “not Sid Miller”, it’s pretty damn clear.

Susan Hays

The first time Susan Hays tried marijuana, she was a “teenage hell-raiser” hanging out with a couple dozen friends, drinking beers and swimming until the early morning in Pecan Bayou, near Brownwood, her hometown.

It was “Mexican hell-weed,” Hays remembered in a recent phone interview of the 3 joints her friends bought for $5. She didn’t know then how to smoke properly — to inhale — so she didn’t get high. All it did was put her to sleep in the backseat of the car.

Now, Hays is a weed evangelist of sorts and the Democratic candidate for Texas agriculture commissioner. She has made medical marijuana expansion, decriminalization and legalization the centerpiece of her campaign as she seeks to become the first Democrat in 30 years to win statewide office.

The issue is a politically powerful one, and the winds of public opinion seem to be blowing in her direction. Although Texas is among the most restrictive states in the country for accessing marijuana, it’s available medicinally in all surrounding states, and it’s fully legal for adult recreational use in neighboring New Mexico and nearby Colorado. A recent UT/Tyler poll showed 55 percent of Texans support legalization and more than 70 percent supported medical marijuana.Incumbent Sid Miller, a Trump-endorsed Republican who Hays will face in the November election, has also advocated for expansion of medical marijuana in Texas.

In an op-ed over the summer, Miller said he wants the governor, the Legislature and others to “come together and set aside our political differences to have an honest conversation about cannabis,” without stating specifically what he’s in favor of or how he’d like to see the law changed.

“In terms of specifics on how to achieve this, I have said that I am willing to work with anyone on any idea that puts these products in the right hands — and keeps them out of the wrong hands. That will be the challenge in the next legislative session. I see part of my role as that of an advocate for those who are suffering; I’ll be urging all involved to not worry about who gets credit for what — let’s just get the job done,” Miller said in a statement sent via email from a spokesman.

[…]

Hays offers a very clear and detailed vision of her preferred policies.

Current Texas law is “bass-ackwards,” she likes to say, with a patchwork of different city and town regulations and confusing and anti-scientific state laws. Hays believes from studying the rollout in other states that marijuana policy is a “three-legged stool,” encompassing medicinal access, decriminalization and legalization. If any of the legs are neglected, the industry is unstable, she says.

Medical access needs to be handled carefully to ensure people with health needs are able to access carefully regulated marijuana products that cater to their specific needs, she said. If the crop was outright legalized without the medical infrastructure being developed, “stoner-bro culture” creates a system in which dispensaries try to out-do each other by making the strongest pot products they can, “like if you went in a liquor store and all you could buy was Everclear,” Hays said.

Decriminalization is important, she said, but if it isn’t accompanied by legalization, the black market is likely to grow. Many Texas counties, including most of the state’s largest, have taken steps to decriminalize marijuana, such as Harris, Dallas, Travis and Bexar counties.

Another important element is packaging, which Hays says should be child-safe and should include detailed information about the chemical makeup of the product. Different strains of marijuana (Hays’ favorite is called Acapulco Gold) can have different effects on people when ingested or smoked, for instance.

Requiring that information to be posted on the package allows people to find marijuana strains that cater to their specific needs, Hays argues, be it spurring the appetites of chemotherapy patients, helping veterans struggling with PTSD to overcome insomnia or helping elderly people with chronic arthritic pain.

Miller’s position, recently stated, is definitely more nuanced and aware of public opinion than the likes of Dan Patrick. It doesn’t have any substance to it, though. Hays, on the other hand, really knows what she’s talking about. She’d be a leader in implementing sound and compassionate public policy that would also give a hand to hemp farmers, who could really use a boost, instead of just someone spouting generalities. Also, too, and we cannot emphasize this enough, she’s not Sid Miller. We need 100% less Sid Miller in elected office. The fact that we can replace him with someone who would be objectively good at the job is a bonus. We should grab that.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Audrie Lawton Evans

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to my readers. This year it’s mostly incumbents running for re-election, so it’s an opportunity to hear that talk about what they have accomplished. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. For more information about these and other Democratic candidates, including links to interviews and Q&As from the primary and runoff, see the Erik Manning spreadsheet.)

Judge Audrie Lawton Evans

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

Hello, my name is Audrie Lawton Evans and I am the presiding judge of Harris County Civil Court at Law No. 1.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The county civil courts at law hear all civil matters with the amount in controversy of up to $250,000 and has jurisdiction to hear all appeals of civil cases, including evictions, from justice courts in Harris County. The court also has jurisdiction over statutory eminent domain proceedings, suits involving real property disputes, and slander and defamation cases.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

On August 10, 2021, I was unanimously appointed as the presiding judge of Harris County Civil Court at Law No. 1. Approximately four months later, I was elected by my colleagues as the Administrative Judge of all the County Courts at Law. As the Administrative Judge, I am tasked with maintaining cohesiveness among the courts, disseminating information to our constituents, and reviewing and ensuring that our courts are following all Texas Supreme Court and other administrative orders. During my tenure thus far, I implemented our Fall Open House, an online event to give the public and attorneys a chance to hear all about the court and provide resources to the community. I also facilitated Active Shooter training for all courtroom personnel as well as other safety procedures.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

In the upcoming year, I hope to focus on reviewing the courts’ systems and procedures to streamline the administrative side of the judicial process. At our very core, the court provides a service to the community. As such, I would like to revamp the court’s website and online presence. In addition, because of the pandemic, the court system has had to utilize technology in a whole new way. For example, I plan to continue zoom hearings for certain cases where it makes sense. Overall, I want to ensure that a person’s experience with my court is practical and easy to navigate.

5. Why is this race important?

The judiciary’s job is to facilitate the efficient resolution of disputes. As a judge, I am responsible for maintaining decorum in the court room, making sure that all parties have equal access to the legal system, and to render the prompt and fair resolution of cases filed in court.

This race is important because in our society, protecting the integrity of the bench is becoming increasingly important. Local elections probably have the most impact on our day-to-day lives.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

I have always had an affinity for this court. As a practicing attorney for 20 years, I have tried thousands of cases in the county courts at law. I have the requisite experience and the right temperament to be a great judge. Since my appointment, I have hit the ground running, managing a large docket from day one. In 2021, the county civil courts at law have disposed of over 18,000 cases. Collectively, my colleagues and I have coordinated with rental assistance programs to help over 73,000 tenants stay in their homes while landlords collected nearly $300 Million dollars thru the programs. In addition, since 2018, the courts have also modernized all court filings to electronic filing system passing savings to taxpayers.

I am humbled every day by my position and the great weight of the responsibility I hold. A vote for me is a vote for experience, fairness, and integrity. I look forward to my continued service to Harris County as judge of the Harris County Civil Court at Law No. 1.

UT/Texas Politics Project poll: Abbott 45, Beto 40

Feels kind of familiar.

Gov. Greg Abbott leads his Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke by 5 percentage points, according to a new poll from the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

The survey found that Abbott received 45% of support among registered voters, while 40% supported O’Rourke and 4% supported third-party candidates. Three percent of respondents named “Someone else” as their choice, and 8% said they have not thought about the race enough to have an opinion.

The result is almost identical to the margin from when the pollsters last surveyed the race in June, finding Abbott ahead of O’Rourke 45% to 39%.

The latest survey also gave Republican incumbents single-digit leads in two other statewide races. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick led Democrat Mike Collier by 7 points, and Attorney General Ken Paxton registered a 5-point advantage over Democrat Rochelle Garza. More voters remain undecided in those contests than in the gubernatorial election — 20% in the lieutenant governor’s race and 21% in the attorney general one.

See here for the previous UT/TPP poll, and here for the pollsters’ report. The Lite Guv and AG numbers are 39-32 for Patrick and 38-33 for Paxton, and I just don’t give much weight to results that have such high numbers of non-responses. Joe Biden clocks in with a 40-52 approval rating, up from 35-55 in June. Abbott was at 46-44, up from 43-46 in June.

You may look at this and conclude that there’s been no noticeable boost in Democratic fortunes since the Dobbs ruling. Based just on post-Dobbs polls (minus that Echelon poll) that may be correct. I will note, however, that Abbott has slowly been losing ground to Beto in this particular poll over time:

February: Abbott 47-37
April: Abbott 48-37
June: Abbott 45-39
August: Abbott 45-40

I will also note that this poll, like previous ones, has generic US House/Texas House questions. If you look in the crosstabs for this poll (questions 21 and 22), those numbers are 47-43 and 46-43 in favor of Republicans, respectively. It was 46-41 GOP for both in June, and 48-39 (Congress) and 47-39 (The Lege) for the GOP in April. So while maybe not a sharp turn, there has been a gradual bend all along.

Interview with Stephanie Morales

Stephanie Morales

After redistricting, there is at this time one swing State House district in Harris County, and that’s HD138. HD133 was closer in 2020 at the Presidential level, but no other Dem statewide candidate did better than 44%. HD132 is a notch or two behind, and no other district is close. If there’s one seat to flip, it’s this one where Stephanie Morales is running against freshman incumbent Lacey Hull. Morales, who was one of the first Dem candidates out there this cycle, is a former assistant District Attorney in Harris County who now runs her own criminal and juvenile defense firm. She’s been a substitute teacher in HISD and a volunteer for Rodeo Houston, and was a member of the Texas A&M Fighting Aggie band, which I as a longtime Rice MOBster respect. Here’s the interview:

PREVIOUSLY:

All interviews and Q&As through the primary runoffs
Michelle Palmer – SBOE6
Chuck Crews – HD128

As always, everything you could want to know about the Democratic candidates can be found at the Erik Manning spreadsheet.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Brian Warren

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to my readers. This year it’s mostly incumbents running for re-election, so it’s an opportunity to hear that talk about what they have accomplished. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. For more information about these and other Democratic candidates, including links to interviews and Q&As from the primary and runoff, see the Erik Manning spreadsheet.)

Judge Brian Warren

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

My name is Brian Warren and I have the Honor of being the Judge of the 209th Criminal District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

This court handles all felony offenses, from Capital Murders, Aggravated Robberies, and Sexual Assault to low level drug possession cases

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

Since being elected judge, I have continued to make changes to improve the administration of justice. I have instituted the first scheduling order for criminal cases in Harris County. This order has been adopted by a third of the judges in Harris County. This scheduling order has eliminated needless settings as opposed to the old fashioned way of setting every case once a month. . I also adopted a zoom docket to resolve discovery disputes. I was able to secure a pre-trial officers in every court, in order to cut down on the wait times for defendants, lawyers and judges. The Honorable Judge Rosenthal has said in a hearing that Judge Warren “sets the standard for all of the felony judges to emulate” when it comes to bail reform in Harris County District Courts. With the help of the district attorney’s office, I also implemented an e-warrant system that allows judges to sign warrants electronically.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

Recently, I also have proposed a plan that would utilize our associate judges, similar to the systems used in federal court and some surrounding counties. This plan would divert our judicial resources and all first setting bond defendants to our associate judges. Allowing our elected judges to spend more time resolving cases and eliminating a significant amount of foot traffic in our courthouse which is inadequate to meet the needs of our community. I would love the opportunity to continue to innovate and make meaningful changes to our criminal justice systems in the future.

5. Why is this race important?

If you haven’t seen the inside of a courtroom recently, you are very fortunate. While some people never find themselves facing a judge, there is a good chance they have a family member or friend who has been involved in a legal case. Participating in judicial elections gives you the power to vote for people you believe to be qualified, committed and conscientious. Judicial elections are no less important, emotional or personal than senate or municipal elections. The work of judges cuts to the very core of humanity; don’t ignore its significance.

6. Why should people vote for you in November

I have over 20 years of experience as a lawyer in the criminal justice system, first as a prosecutor, then as a defense attorney, and now as a judge. My opponent has never practiced criminal law in his career. He has never appeared as a lawyer in any Harris County Criminal District Courts. If elected, his first day will be the first time he has ever set foot in the 209th District Court. The cases we handle in the criminal courthouse are too important and serious, to entrust to someone with ZERO criminal experience as a lawyer.

Echelon Insights: Abbott 48, Beto 46

Make of this what you will. It’s a national poll plus samples of likely voters in a variety of states, some red and some blue and some purple, including Texas. The numbers of interest for us:

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of Joe Biden?

Very favorable = 20%
Somewhat favorable = 21%
Somewhat unfavorable = 13%
Very unfavorable = 44%
Other/Unsure = 0%

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of Donald Trump?

Very favorable = 26%
Somewhat favorable = 20%
Somewhat unfavorable = 9%
Very unfavorable = 44%
Other/Unsure = 2%

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of Greg Abbott?

Very favorable = 27%
Somewhat favorable = 22%
Somewhat unfavorable = 10%
Very unfavorable = 36%
Other/Unsure = 5%

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of Beto O’Rourke?

Very favorable = 28%
Somewhat favorable = 18%
Somewhat unfavorable = 10%
Very unfavorable = 38%
Other/Unsure = 6%

If the election for Governor were held today, would you vote for

Abbott = 48%
Beto = 46%

If the 2024 presidential election were being held today, would you vote for

Trump = 48%
Biden = 43%

If the election for U.S. House of Representatives in your district were held today, would you vote for

The Republican = 50%
The Democrat = 43%

I’m not familiar with this pollster. In the states like Arizona and Pennsylvania, they have pretty enthusiastic leads for Democratic candidates, but in the states where you’d expect Republicans to win they have them up by expectedly large margins. The Abbott/Beto race is the closest we’ve seen in any poll so far, but it’s not really an outlier. Abbott’s level of support is pretty consistently around 47-49 – he rarely if ever tops 50% in the polls – while Beto is usually around 42 or 43. It’s plausible to get this result just by the “don’t know” respondents leaning towards Beto. Note that this poll did not name either of the third party candidates, as some other polls have, so that could have a boosting effect for both Abbott and Beto as well. This is an optimistic result, and I’d like to see more like it before I fully bought in, but it’s not a bolt out of the blue. The Trump approval and 2024 numbers, the generic Congressional numbers, the Biden approval numbers, they’re all in line with other polls or in the case of the Congressional one leaning a bit Republican. Like I said, make of this what you will. See Lakshya Jain’s Twitter thread for more.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Sonya Heath

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to my readers. This year it’s mostly incumbents running for re-election, so it’s an opportunity to hear that talk about what they have accomplished. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. For more information about these and other Democratic candidates, including links to interviews and Q&As from the primary and runoff, see the Erik Manning spreadsheet.)

Judge Sonya Heath

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

Judge Sonya Heath, 310th District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Family.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

Implementing Zoom hybrid hearings. Especially for the CPS cases where we have had a huge increase in parental participation.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

Setting up a better type of e-hearing system (an online calendaring system).

5. Why is this race important?

District Court Family judges have the ability to take your children, your property and your freedom. You want someone with a good grasp of the law and even temperament.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

As the incumbent I have been on bench 4 years. I have been at work on a regular basis for our County’s families. People need their day in Court. Some people just need to be heard so they can move on with their lives. My own children are grown now, but I have lived what most of the people coming before me are going through. I was a single parent, unfortunately divorced, adopted a child, and went back and forth on custody three times with my children’s father. I bring experience both with the law and real life that make me suited for this bench.

Interview with Chuck Crews

Chuck Crews

This week I have two interviews with candidates for State Representative. Chuck Crews knows that he’s running in one of the reddest districts in Harris County in HD128, but he’s also running against one of the worst people in the Legislature. I’m talking about Briscoe Cain, avid election denier and forced-birth fanatic whose stated priorities for the next session are to punish everyone who has ever had anything to do with abortion. You couldn’t find a better contrast in Crews, a chemical engineer who has also worked in the insurance business before joining the Beto for Senate campaign in 2018 and becoming a fulltime activist, and who has both a deep understanding of issues as well as actual compassion and empathy. He has a tough challenge ahead of him but he’s facing it head on. You can hear us talk about it all here:

PREVIOUSLY:

All interviews and Q&As through the primary runoffs
Michelle Palmer – SBOE6

As always, everything you could want to know about the Democratic candidates can be found at the Erik Manning spreadsheet.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Jerry Simoneaux

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to my readers. This year it’s mostly incumbents running for re-election, so it’s an opportunity to hear that talk about what they have accomplished. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. For more information about these and other Democratic candidates, including links to interviews and Q&As from the primary and runoff, see the Erik Manning spreadsheet.)

Judge Jerry Simoneaux

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

I am Jerry Simoneaux and I preside over Harris County Probate Court 1

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Probate Courts help families coping with death and disability. People come to probate court to appoint an executor for a deceased loved one in order to pay final bills and distribute their assets. People also come to probate court to appoint a guardian for loved ones with diminished capacity, such as dementia or intellectual disabilities. Sometimes, people fight over estates and we hear those contested matters, too.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

I have done more to fundamentally improve our courts and the practice of probate law than any other judge of this court before me. I took a court with 1990’s technology, accessed $400,000 of non-taxpayer money, and fully upgraded the four probate courts in Harris County. Now, the probate courts are the most technologically advanced courts in the county. That means we can offer remote and in-person hearings simultaneously and seamlessly. I have made it very easy for people with mobility impediments (and busy schedules) to appear in court. Many more of my accomplishments are listed on my website at www.judgejerry1.com

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

I am working to increase the availability of pro bono attorneys to help families who cannot afford one. I have been on the board of the Houston Volunteer Lawyers since 2019 and we are constantly finding ways to bring new volunteer attorneys into probate court. I am also working with the County Commissioners Court and the State Legislature to form a new Probate Court 5 to help ease the strain on the four existing courts. We have not had a new court created in over 25 years and the population has nearly doubled since then.

5. Why is this race important?

Because death and disability are indiscriminate, we see people from all walks of life. That is different from any other court, so it is essential to have a judge who is welcoming to everyone and who will provide as safe space for all. As a trilingual, openly LGBTQ judge, I know how important it is to have representation on the bench who also reaches out to all communities to ensure suitable inclusion.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

I have received the highest rating of any elected judge from the Houston Bar Association (Judicial Evaluation Poll 2019 and 2021) and the LGBTQ Caucus. I am an innovator who has completely transformed the courts by giving greater access to the public and creating efficiencies for attorneys who practice here. And, I have lots more plans for the next four years to continue to improve our courts.

Let’s not go overboard about these voter registration numbers

Sure it’s nice to see, but a little perspective is in order.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

In Texas, it’s not just women who are fired up about access to abortion and registering to vote in large numbers following this summer’s historic Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v. Wade.

A new analysis from political data and polling firm TargetSmart found that while Texas’ new voter registrants are evenly split between men and women, they are younger and more Democratic than before the June ruling.

“It’s not that we’re not seeing a surge from women but that in Texas, we’re somewhat uniquely also seeing a surge from men, particularly younger, more progressive men, who are matching the surge from women,” said CEO Tom Bonier, whose firm works with Democratic and progressive candidates.

“I would expect to see that trend develop more in other states as we get closer to the election, but it was interesting to see Texas as first in that sense.”

According to TargetSmart, Democrats now have a 10-percentage point advantage among new registrants since the high court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, making up 42 percent to Republicans’ 32 percent. Prior to Dobbs, Republicans had a five-point advantage.

The state’s young voters — defined as those under age 25 — are also leaning more blue, the analysis found. Democrats now make up 47 percent of young Texas voters, up from 34 percent. The Republican share has remained the same at just under 30 percent.

That’s in line with what TargetSmart is seeing in 25 states that report party registration. In Texas, the firm uses a variety of data, including past primary participation and consumer demographic data, to identify likely Democratic and Republican voters.

Whether the registration trend will translate to high turnout of young voters is still yet to be seen. The group had tended to turn out at low rates compared to other age groups, but that trend started to turn around nationally and in Texas in 2018.

That midterm election year, with the rise in popularity of Democrat Beto O’Rourke amid his campaign for U.S. Senate, turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds more than tripled from about 8 percent in 2014 to about 26 percent.

“No one knows if that’ll be the case in 2022,” Bonier said. “But there is reason to be optimistic that these younger voters are much more highly energized than they have been in past.”

Bonier added that new voter registrants tend to have a higher turnout rate than those already registered.

I believe this story is based on this recent tweet thread from Bonier; there’s a link to an earlier Chron story about voter registration as well. It’s a cardinal rule to me that anytime you see a story about numbers that are solely expressed in percentages, you have to think about what the actual numbers are. Big percentages of small numbers are still small numbers, and vice versa. Here, the main thing we don’t know is how many voter registrations we’re talking about. We won’t have official numbers on that until October, after the registration deadline. Here’s what the registration figures since November of 2020 look like – you can find the state data here:

November 2020 – 15,279,870
January 2021 – 15,757,825
November 2021 – 16,007,280
January 2022 – 16,150,258
March 2022 – 15,944,184

This is a reminder that voter registration does not always go up. As we well know, voters also get removed from the rolls, sometimes for legitimate reasons like death or moving out of state, sometimes not. Whatever the case, we were just under 16 million in March. We’ve probably added a couple hundred thousand since then, so maybe we’re up around 16.2 or 16.3 million or so; I’m just guessing.

Now go back and look at what Tom Bonier said. Before the Dobbs ruling in June, Republican-profiled people were leading the new registrants. We don’t know how far back that goes, my guess is to March but who knows. Point being, we don’t know how many net new presumed Republicans this represents. We also don’t know how many new registrants there have been since June, when Dems showed the advantage. Maybe that’s enough to overcome the earlier deficit. I couldn’t tell you from the information I have available to me.

Let’s just focus on the post-Dobbs voters. Let’s say we get 100K new voters from then until October. If Dems have a ten-point lead in voter registrations during this time, that’s a net 10K potential voters for them. That number will be less than that in the end, as not everyone votes, so maybe it’s a 6K or 7K advantage. Not nothing, to be sure, but very likely not enough to tip any election.

I don’t say all this to be a bummer. It’s great that we’re doing well with voter registration! Keep it coming! I’m just saying it’s not going to magically carry us to victory. There are a lot more pieces to the puzzle than that. Don’t get distracted by the shiny object.

Coulda Been Worse

Are you ready for some attack ads?

A shadowy new group has purchased at least $6 million in TV ads ahead of the November election and is airing an ad that targets Gov. Greg Abbott as he runs for reelection.

The minute-long ad from Coulda Been Worse LLC, which started airing Friday, rattles off a list of major calamitous events that have happened on Abbott’s watch, like the Uvalde school shooting and 2021 power-grid collapse. As the narrator speaks, a picture slowly zooms out to show Abbott’s face.

“Any one of these — a terrible shame for Texas,” the narrator says at the end. “All of these — a horrific sign something big is terribly, terribly wrong.”

The spot ends with a clip of Abbott saying after the Uvalde massacre that it “could have been worse,” increasingly a rallying cry of Abbott’s critics. Abbott made the comment while praising the law enforcement response to the shooting, which has since been been widely criticized for taking well over an hour to confront the shooter. Abbott later said he was “misled” when he made the comment.

The advertising represents a significant escalation as Abbott fights for a third term against Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. Abbott has led O’Rourke by mid-single digits in polls throughout the summer.

Here’s the ad, which I can’t find right now on YouTube in part because there’s a song called “Coulda Been Worse” and in part because there’s a ton of video clips of Abbott’s original “could have been worse” quote.

60-second ads always feel interminable to me, but I’m not sure how you cut this one down. I mostly encounter ads like this when I watch sports – the college and NFL football seasons are just rife with this stuff, especially in even-numbered years – so I’ll be interested to see how often I encounter it. What’s your reaction?

UH-TSU Texas Trends poll: Abbott 49-Beto 42, and Hidalgo 52-Mealer 42

From their webpage, scroll down to Report 1 and Report 2:

  • In the race for governor, Republican Greg Abbott leads Democrat Beto O’Rourke by 7% among likely voters, 49% to 42%, with 7% undecided and 1% intending to vote for Libertarian Mark Tippetts and 1% for the Green Party’s Delilah Barrios.
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  • Abbott holds a 29% (61% to 32%) lead over O’Rourke among white voters while O’Rourke holds a 57% (72% to 15%) lead over Abbott among Black voters, a 15% (53% to 38%) lead among Latino voters and a 9% (48% to 39%) lead among those voters with a mixed or other ethnic/racial identity.
  • Abbott and O’Rourke are deadlocked at 45% among women voters, while Abbott enjoys an 18% (55% to 37%) lead over O’Rourke among men.
  • In the race for lieutenant governor, Republican Dan Patrick leads Democrat Mike Collier by 6% among likely voters, 49% to 43%, with 8% undecided.
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  • Patrick holds a 26% (60% to 34%) lead over Collier among white voters while Collier holds a 63% (78% to 15%) lead over Patrick among Black voters, a 14% (51% to 37%) lead among Latino voters and a 5% (44% to 39%) lead among those voters with a mixed or other ethnic/racial identity.
  • Collier holds a narrow 1% lead over Patrick among women voters (46% to 45%) while Patrick enjoys a 15% (54% to 39%) lead over Collier among men.
  • In the race for attorney general, Republican Ken Paxton leads Democrat Rochelle Mercedes Garza by 3% among likely voters, 45% to 42%, with 10% undecided and 3% intending to vote for Libertarian Mark Ash.
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  • Paxton holds a 23% (56% to 33%) lead over Garza among white voters while Garza holds a 61% (75% to 14%) lead over Paxton among Black voters, a 16% (51% to 35%) lead among Latino voters, and a 15% (45% to 30%) lead among those voters with a mixed or other ethnic/racial identity.
  • Garza holds a 5% lead over Paxton among women voters (45% to 40%) while Paxton enjoys a 13% (51% to 38%) lead over Garza among men.

In addition to the statewide election analysis of likely voters, the 2022 Texas Trends survey looks at the race for county judge in Harris County, the nation’s third largest county and Texas’ largest, with a population of more than 4.5 million residents.

While the non-election related reports we will subsequently release focus on all Harris County adults aged 18 years and older, this county-specific election report is based on the analysis of a sample population of 195 likely voters, with a confidence interval of +/- 7.0%. Given the small size of this population, caution should be used in interpreting the results due to the comparatively large margin of errors surrounding all of the estimates.

This county-specific election study is presented as the second report in the overall series, and it includes the preferences for candidates running for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in addition to county judge.

  • The vote intention in the race for Harris County judge is 52% for Democrat Lina Hidalgo and 42% for Republican Alexandra del Moral Mealer, with 6% undecided.

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  • This 10 percentage point lead by Hidalgo is notably higher than the 1 percentage point lead she garnered in the Hobby School election survey released in July.
  • Del Moral Mealer holds a 19 percentage point advantage over Hidalgo among white voters, 58% to 39%.
  • Hidalgo holds a 71 percentage point advantage over del Moral Mealer among Black voters, 79% to 8%, and a 44 percentage point advantage among Latino voters, 69% to 25%.
  • Hidalgo enjoys a 14 percentage point lead over del Moral Mealer among women, 53% to 39%, but only a 2 percentage point lead among men, 50% to 48%.
  • Del Moral Mealer enjoys a 16 percentage point lead over Hidalgo, 56% to 40%, among the combined Silent Generation/Baby Boomers cohort, and Hidalgo a comparable 16 percentage point lead over del Moral Mealer among Generation X, 54% to 38%.
  • Hidalgo is the overwhelming favorite of the combined Millennials/Generation Z cohort, with a 40 percentage point lead in vote intention over del Moral Mealer, 67% to 27%.

That’s a lot to take in, but it’s all there on their site. Note that while this poll references the UH/Hobby poll from July that had Abbott up 49-44 and had Judge Hidalgo only up by one point, 48-47, this one is different in two ways. One is just simply that this poll is a collaboration between UH and TSU whereas the previous one was all UH. I don’t think that makes any real difference, but there it is anyway. The other is that the July poll of Harris County was (I assume, anyway) a separate sample of 321 voters, while this one is (again, I presume) a subsample of 195 likely voters from the larger all-state population of 1,312. I don’t know why they chose to do it this way, and I hope someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s how I read it.

The full data for the statewide report is here, and for the Harris County subsample here. My observations, bullet-point-style:

– The July poll was also post-Dobbs, so at least as far as these surveys go there’s not been any change in the overall environment since then. Insert anodyne statement about individual data points and move on.

– In the July poll, Beto was down five overall and led in Harris County by nine; in this poll Beto is down seven overall and leads in Harris County by 13 (it was 51-42 in July and it’s 53-40 in September, as you can see in the second report). Again, if there were a live feed of me as I typed up this post, you would have seen me shrug right there. Beto beat Cruz in Harris County by a 58-41 margin in 2018, and he’s within range of that in this poll, though as noted one with a higher-than-usual margin of error. All I’m saying here is that historically there’s been a relationship between the statewide percentage for a Dem candidate and that same candidate in Harris County. As such, in general if Beto is doing better in Harris I’d expect him to be doing better across the state. But we’ll see.

– That July poll had Mealer leading Hidlago among Latino voters by three points. This one has Hidalgo up among those same voters by 44. I feel very confident saying that it cannot be the case that both of those figures were accurate. Maybe they’re both off, but if one is right then the other is extremely wrong.

– I didn’t post the generational numbers for the statewide races, but overall Hidalgo did much better than the others. Of course, this is a subsample of a subsample, so be super duper cautious in drawing any conclusions from this. For what it’s worth, in the three statewide races the Dems were around 55% for the Millennial/Gen Z cohort and the Republicans were in the 30-35 range.

– The main reason Rochelle Garza is closer to Ken Paxton than Beto and Collier are to Abbott and Patrick is that Paxton has less support overall, clocking in at 45%. Most likely, this is just a number of Abbott/Patrick voters moving into the “don’t know” pile in this race. Maybe they’re really not sure how they’re voting, and maybe they’re Republicans who don’t want to admit, even in a webpanel, that they’re voting for Paxton. I do think Garza has a chance to be the top Dem performer, but I don’t think you can necessarily conclude that from this poll, as her level of support is in line with Beto and Collier. She did do best in Harris County, leading Paxton 54-36 in that sample, compared to 53-40 for each of the other two Dems.

– This is not the first poll I’ve seen this cycle that had Abbott getting about 15% of Black voters, which is about five points better than I’d normally expect. I don’t know if this is sample weirdness or if there’s something there, like the Trump bump among Latinos was visible in some 2020 polls, though not all.

– Finally, as far as Latino voters go, imagine me shrugging again. Some of what we saw in 2020 was low-propensity voters turning out, but not all of it. I genuinely have no idea what to expect.

The easy and obvious case against Sid Miller

Chron business columnist Chris Tomlinson writes a 95% good column about ol’ Sid.

Sid Miller appeared genuinely surprised when during floor debate over his 2011 bill requiring a sonogram before an abortion, Rep. Carol Alvarado brandished the foot-long probe a doctor would have to insert inside the patient to meet the law’s requirements.

“This is not the jelly-on-the-belly that most of you might think,” Alvarado, who today represents Houston in the state Senate, explained. “This is government intrusion at its best. We’ve reached a (new) high, a climax in government intrusion.”

I was on the House floor that day, and then-state Rep. Miller pulled himself together and stuck to his script. His bill eventually became law, marking a significant milestone on the road to banning abortion. He also guaranteed anti-abortion groups would support his 2014 campaign for agriculture commissioner.

Carrying a conservative culture-war bill has become a prerequisite for Republicans seeking statewide or federal office, even for the mostly administrative role of agriculture commissioner. The sonogram bill was Miller’s ticket to a well-paying, full-time, state job affecting millions of businesses and consumers daily.

This year, Miller is seeking reelection to lead the state agency that oversees farmers and ranchers and regulates the scales used to weigh our food.

Eight years in, Miller remains an avid culture warrior to absurd excesses. But he’s bumbled so many of his duties you’d think the former rodeo clown was performing an old schtick.

[…]

His reelection campaign, though, rests on former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, despicable social media posts, and his anti-abortion bona fides. His record as commissioner takes a backseat to ultra-MAGA dogma.

Texas probably shouldn’t elect politicians to run agencies like the Agriculture Commission. But if we do it, vote on someone’s record, not their partisanship.

Tomlinson discusses a couple of Miller’s greatest hits, with some input from Miller’s failed primary opponent James White. You know that Sid Miller is an idiot and I know that Sid Miller is an idiot, but maybe there are some people who read the business section of the Chronicle who don’t know that, or at least don’t know the extent of it. The reason I docked a few points from this essay is simply that when one identifies a problem one ought to note the possible solutions to it, and here the clear solution to Sid Miller is Susan Hays, who has all the qualifications you could want in an Ag Commissioner along with an explicit promise to clean up the ethical and bureaucratic messes Miller has created. I’d be fine with mentioning any other candidates as well, but a quick perusal of their websites suggests that neither the Libertarians nor the Greens have an Ag Commissioner nominee among them. Which means hey, the choice is easy. But you have to note that there is one first.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Cory Sepolio

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to my readers. This year it’s mostly incumbents running for re-election, so it’s an opportunity to hear that talk about what they have accomplished. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. For more information about these and other Democratic candidates, including links to interviews and Q&As from the primary and runoff, see the Erik Manning spreadsheet.)

Judge Cory Sepolio

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

Judge Cory Don Sepolio of the 269th Civil District Court of Texas

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 269th is a civil court dealing primarily with disputes over property, contracts, money, elections, injuries, health issues, and business activities, among others.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

I eliminated the ineffective practice of unnecessary court appearances. The Harris County Court house is a sophisticated yet often crowded venue. Recently the relocation of courts followed by the damage to the Criminal Court House in Harvey has the Civil Justice building overburdened. With electronic filing courts should allow matters to be heard on the submission docket rather than requiring all matters to have oral hearing. The pandemic lessened the burden yet created a health risk for in-person attendance. If oral hearings are requested courts should allow participation by telephonic appearance when appropriate. The 269th under my direction embraced “zoom” and eliminated unnecessary docket appearances. The litigants should have the option of choosing how they wish their matters heard. This change saves litigants on legal fees, parking and decreases courthouse crowding.

The best practice in most cases is for a judge to give limited instructions on voir dire and then turn the questioning over to the trial attorneys. In my career I sat through some judges’ voir dire that ran as long as five hours. This was on routine, non-capital cases. These lengthy speeches by the judges were ineffective, delayed justice, and annoyed the jurors. Judges should not use the courtroom for campaigning. During my time as judge of the 269th I read the required instructions, introduce the parties and staff, and provide an estimated time of trial prior to lawyer questions. This takes less than 10 minutes and is respectful of everyone’s time.

It is my primary duty to ensure a safe, fair, and unbiased venue for all litigants, witnesses and their attorneys. This is regardless of race, color, creed, orientation, gender or country of origin. Historically judges refused to follow the law regarding same-sex marriage. Many prior judges belonged to groups that discriminated against the Hispanic and immigrant communities. This is unacceptable. Since taking the bench I have fought to ensure justice for all.

I refuse to allow those who appear in the 269th to be harassed or frightened. Everyone is entitled to a fair day in court without outside burden.

I proudly implemented a method I call the “Batson pause” in trial where I ensure impermissible strikes are not permitted. In this way we prevent prospective jurors from impermissible discrimination due to their ethnic background or gender.

During the pandemic I issued a moratorium on dismissals for want of prosecution in the 269th. Many lawyers, witnesses, and litigants were ill or displaced during the pandemic and I did not believe it equitable to dismiss their cases simply because they could not respond to email inquiries during that time.

In 2022, the 269th has disposed of more cases than all 24 other civil district courts, except one.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

When I took the bench in 2019 I shared the 269th with two criminal district court judges as a result of the continuing displacement resulting from hurricane Harvey. In the early Spring of 2020, the pandemic shut down the courts the exact day the criminal court judges were able to return to their own courts. The past four years required sharing and patience to ensure justice functioned in all courts. Despite these obstacles the 269th has performed admirably and continued to try cases. I am thrilled to finally be back in the 269th and have all facilities to continue our mission of ensuring justice and equality to all litigants whom have cases in the 269th.

5. Why is this race important?

I cherish our judicial system and earnestly wish to maintain the integrity of our trial courts. We began this campaign with the goal of ensuring that the citizens, litigants, and trial attorneys of Harris County have a qualified and fair judge on the bench. Those of us who maintained active trial dockets in Harris County were frustrated by several years of practicing before temperamental and inexperienced judges. The litigants and lawyers whom the 269th serves expect the level of preparation and justice the court currently provides and deserve for it to continue. I shall see that it does.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

Campaigning this long has come at a great sacrifice to my family. The time and effort spent on this campaign is great. I am determined to win this race and ensure experience, equality, and justice for all continues in the 269th Civil District Court.

Meet Clifford Tatum

Harris County’s new Elections Administrator has a chat with the Chron’s Jen Rice about his new job and the fact that early voting starts in less than seven weeks.

Why did you start working in elections and why do you continue doing it?

I started out with the Georgia Secretary of State as a securities enforcement attorney. And after a couple of years, enforcing the securities law, the elections division needed a staff attorney. So I became the assistant director of legal affairs for the state elections division, which then worked with the Georgia Secretary of State on a number of issues related to the state election board, election law enforcement, election code enforcement. And I guess you could say that … I kind of got bit by the public service bug, and that foray into the elections division in 2002 has turned into a lifetime of public service. I enjoy the fact that I’m supporting democracy and helping voters express their voice.

When election-related topics come up at Harris County Commissioners Court meetings, two of the commissioners typically raise the argument that elections should be run by elected officials, not an appointed election administrator, which was the model used in Harris County until 2020. Do you have a response to that criticism?

If we talk about the the county clerk who was running the election side of the process, they were responsible for the election side, but they had to get the information to actually conduct the election from the tax assessor. The tax assessor was responsible for the voter registration side. At the end of the day, you’re looking to two separate entities for accountability. And that gap allows for there to be this flux of, what really happened here? So, combining the two offices, you avoid that. It now becomes a single unit that’s responsible for the entire operation. And you actually have a greater level of accountability because both operations are now under the same unit and the information flows much better because there’s not a go-between.

The mail ballot rejection rate is an ongoing issue in Harris County. What is your plan for getting the mail ballot rejection rate down and to what extent are you expecting to be able to address that for this election?

The good news is that the team here has now experienced the new mail ballot requirements for now, I think, three elections. We’ve made a lot of internal strides on how to assist voters in making sure they provide the correct information to allow their ballot not to be rejected. And then if they, for whatever reasons, fail to include that information, we’ve identified internal procedures to immediately respond back to the voter, highlighting what needs to be corrected in order for that ballot to be resolved and counted. The unfortunate aspect about all of that is time. If a voter waits too late, then there’s a likelihood that the voter can’t cure an issue if they didn’t provide the correct information.

I’m fairly optimistic that we’ll have a good experience this fall. Some of the factors on which Tatum will be judged are how well the equipment works and how easily equipment errors are overcome, how long the lines are, how many mail ballots are rejected, and how long it takes to see results and updates on Election Night. My hope is that he and his office will communicate quickly and effectively when there are any issues – it’s a big county, probably over a million people will be voting, there will be issues – so that at least everyone will have a chance to be informed and make adjustments. I intend to do an interview with him myself at some point, but that can wait until after this election.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Tanya Garrison

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to my readers. This year it’s mostly incumbents running for re-election, so it’s an opportunity to hear that talk about what they have accomplished. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. For more information about these and other Democratic candidates, including links to interviews and Q&As from the primary and runoff, see the Erik Manning spreadsheet.)

Judge Tanya Garrison

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

Tanya Garrison, Judge of the 157th Civil District Court.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Civil cases in which parties are seeking equitable, declaratory, or monetary relief.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

Increased efficiency in calling cases to trial. Increased jury trials. Opening the Court for marriage equality. Began taking law school interns for the first time in the history of the Court. Named Trial Judge of the Year in 2021 by the Texas Association of Civil Trial and Appellate Specialists.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

More of the same. Increased educational opportunities for young lawyers and law students. Continued focus on continuing legal education for trial lawyers.

5. Why is this race important?

It is important to elect people to the trial courts who have experience in these courts as not only the judge but as practicing lawyers. Judges need to see the whole forest for the trees to effectively administer justice. Due process requires more than a since of fairness and equality. It requires knowing why the rules of procedure, rules of evidence, and rule of law exist so that they can be applied fairly and equally.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

I’m a true believer in the jury system and that our civil courts are the best way to resolve disputes, and I know I will do a great job as a civil court judge. The Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution is a crucial part of our democracy. The Third Branch of Government should be protected by judges that respect the importance of courtroom justice for all people.
I can best summarize the reasons I am running in three points: (1) passion for the work; (2) experience; and (3) perspective.

Passion. I truly love being a trial lawyer and working in the courtroom. I respect all parts of the process and believe that when the law is applied equally, the right result is possible. Being a Judge is my dream.

Experience. I have practiced civil trial law since I graduated law school in 2000 and have been a part of trial teams with over 20 commercial cases going to a full jury verdict. I am Board Certified in Civil Appellate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and have almost 45 appeals with my name on them. I am a member of various trial law associations, including the American Board of Trial Advocates and the Texas Association of Civil Trial and Appellate Specialists. In 2011, I was named Outstanding Young Lawyer in Houston by the Houston Young Lawyers Association.

Perspective. I am someone who sincerely believes that the greatest part of our government is its people. The strength of our judiciary comes from the diversity of our people coming together to participate in our jury system. I am a lifelong Democrat who values all backgrounds and life experiences. I want to create a courtroom experience that welcomes everyone despite the fact that courtrooms and the controversies that are resolved there are intimidating and difficult. Everyone is entitled to a fair and impartial trial, and it is my goal to ensure that they get one.