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January 29th, 2020:

Interview with Ann Harris Bennett

Ann Harris Bennett

As I said before, I wasn’t originally expecting to do interviews in the Democratic primary for Harris County Tax Assessor, but once that became a contested race then of course I had to fit it into the schedule. We all interact with the Tax Assessor in various ways – property taxes, vehicle registration, and of course voter registration. (The full title for the office is Tax Assessor Collector & Voter Registrar.) Ann Harris Bennett is serving her first term as Tax Assessor. She had run for the office before, in 2012, and had run for County Clerk in 2010 and 2014, and finally got her chance after the 2016 election. She tends to keep a low profile, and given the well-publicized failures of several of her predecessors, that’s not at all a bad thing. I’ve interviewed her several times before, most recently in the 2016 primary, and you can listen to this interview right here:

The Erik Manning spreadsheet is back! You can track information for candidates on the Harris County ballot here.


Elisa Cardnell – CD02
Travis Olsen – CD02

Michelle Palmer – SBOE6
Kimberly McLeod – SBOE6
Debra Kerner – SBOE6

Chrysta Castañeda – RRC
Kelly Stone – RRC

Vince Ryan – Harris County Attorney
Ben Rose – Harris County Attorney
Christian Menefee – Harris County Attorney

Jolanda Jones – Harris County Tax Assessor

Ann Johnson – HD134
Ruby Powers – HD134
Lanny Bose – HD134

Akilah Bacy – HD138
Josh Wallenstein – HD138
Jenifer Pool – HD138

Sarah DeMerchant – HD26
Lawrence Allen – HD26
Rish Oberoi – HD26
Suleman Lalani – HD26

Rodney Ellis – Commissioners Court, Precinct 1

Judicial Q&A: Bryan Acklin

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote in March. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates.)

Bryan Acklin

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

My name is Bryan Acklin, and I am running to become the Democratic candidate for Judge of the 176th District Court in Harris County, a felony district court. I am a Houston native, and returned here to teach bilingual education at Gallegos Elementary School in HISD following my graduation from Vanderbilt University. I attended law school at the University of Texas School of law and spent the first part of my career at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. While there, I gained invaluable experience trying both felony and misdemeanor cases. I am currently in private practice where I have continued handling felony and misdemeanor cases.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 176th District Court hears felony offenses ranging from state jail felonies to Capital Murder. The Court also hears motions involving the revocation of probation and other forms of community supervision, as well as matters dealing with bonds.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for this bench in particular because many of my colleagues and I have become disturbed and saddened by 176th’s current practices. These practices include denying attorneys the right to zealously advocate on behalf of their clients on the record and bond practices which are neither fair nor aligned with relevant case law and statutes. I strongly believe that the people are entitled to have qualified, competent, and fair judges serve on the bench. I am running for this particular bench to make that a reality for the 176th District Court.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have prosecuted and defended thousands of felony cases. I even had the solemn honor of trying a Capital Murder case as a prosecutor. As a prosecutor, I worked in the Trial Bureau, the Family Criminal Law Division, the Intake Division, and the Grand Jury Division. I want to put the experience that comes with personally trying felony cases to good use by serving my community and state as a judge.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because every single person, whether the accused or the victim, a defense attorney or a prosecutor, deserves a courtroom in which the presiding judge is qualified, competent, and fair. Unless and until the current judge is replaced, that simply will fail to be the case in the 176th District Court. The outcome of this race is important to show that people care about justice in our criminal courts and to show that the people will not stand for malfeasance and incompetence.

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

People should vote for me because I am the more qualified candidate and the only candidate who is capable and willing to accurately and consistently apply the law in a manner that is fair and coherent. The liberty of the accused and the rights of victims are too precious to allow the 176th to continue as is. People should vote for me to protect their fellow citizens by ensuring that the 176th District Court is placed in the hands of a judge who is qualified, compassionate, fair, and competent.

Runoff results: Eastman wins, Markowitz loses

I’m posting this before all the votes are in, but the results are not in doubt.

Anna Eastman was leading Luis La Rotta by a 67-33 margin in HD148 after 26 of 37 vote centers were in. See here for the numbers. Eastman faces multiple candidates in the March primary, which will be the more difficult race for her.

Eliz Markowitz was trailing Gary Gates by a 59-41 margin, with some unknown-to-me number of election day votes counted. See here for those numbers. Given that Meghan Scoggins got a bit less than 46% in 2018, this would not count as beating the spread. Special legislative election runoffs have not been very kind to Dems in recent years – see SD19 in 2018 and HD118 in 2016 for examples. That said, Dems won back HD118 that fall with no trouble, and that embarrassing setback in SD19 was not in the least indicative of what was to come later that year. So pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and remember that as with those years, it’s November that counts.

Finally, Lorraine Birabil was leading James Armstrong 68-32 in the HD100 runoff, to succeed Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson. See here for those numbers. That was a D-versus-D race in a deep blue district, though there was criticism of Armstrong for taking money from Texans for Lawsuit Reform. I’m never sad to see those guys lose a race, so I’m fine with this one.

Anyway, congrats to all the winners. Early voting for the March primary starts in 20 days. You’re welcome.