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October 13th, 2022:

Judicial Q&A: Judge Mike Engelhart

(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 Mike Engelhart

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

I am Judge Mike Engelhart. I have been the Judge of the 151st Civil District Court in Harris County, Texas for 14 years. I am the Democratic nominee for the First Court of Appeals, Place 4 which is elected from a 10 county area, including Austin County, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Grimes, Harris, Waller and Washington Counties.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

It hears appeals and mandamuses from all trial courts, including civil, criminal, family law, probate and juvenile justice matters.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I was an Editor of the Houston Law Review at the University of Houston Law Center. I was hired to handle many appeals as an attorney in private practice. As a trial court judge, I am always thinking about appeals of my decisions, and as a result, I am almost never reversed by the First or Fourteenth (the 2 local) Courts of Appeals. My experience makes me a good fit for appellate work and I would really love to serve on the First Court of Appeals.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have been a trial court judge for 14 years. I am the only Board Certified attorney in this race. In 2016 I was named Trial Judge of the Year by the Texas Association of Civil Trial and Appellate Specialists. That same year I won the University of Houston Alumni Association Public Sector Achievement Award. In 2017 I won the Franklin Jones Award for the best Continuing Legal Education Article in the State. And, in 2019 I won the President’s Award for Service to the Houston Bar Association.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because if you believe in voting and democracy, constitutional privacy rights, and public safety you can elect me. I will work to protect those values.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

People should vote for me because I am the only candidate in the race who has run for and been elected to any position by voters. My opponent was appointed to the position by Governor Abbott last year. I have been a Judge for 14 years, elected 4 times by millions of voters in Harris County. I am the only Board Certified attorney in the race. I am the only person in this race who has represented individual everyday Texans in trials and appeals. In a State Bar of Texas poll of lawyers in 2022 I defeated my opponent nearly 2-1. Finally, I believe my views align with the diverse voters of this area as reflected by my endorsements by the Mexican American Bar Association of Houston, the men and women of organized Labor, and the Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus.

Marist: Abbott 49, Beto 45

Another new pollster for this election.

In the Texas governor’s race, Republican incumbent Governor Greg Abbott has a 4-point edge over Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke among registered voters statewide. However, Abbott’s advantage over O’Rourke doubles to 8 points among those who say they definitely plan to vote.

  • Four points separate Abbott (49%) and O’Rourke (45%) in the Texas governor’s race among registered voters statewide, including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate. Abbott receives majority support (52%) against O’Rourke (44%) among those who say they will definitely vote.
  • O’Rourke (49%) has a 10-point lead over Abbott (39%) among independents.
  • Close to eight in ten Texas registered voters with a candidate preference for governor (78%) strongly support their choice. 81% of O’Rourke’s supporters and 75% of Abbott’s supporters report they are strongly committed to their candidate.
  • Neither Abbott nor O’Rourke are popular among Texans. 43% have a favorable opinion of Abbott while 46% have an unfavorable view. O’Rourke’s favorable rating is 39% while 44% have an unfavorable impression of him.
  • The Republicans (48%) running for Congress edge the Democrats (44%) on the ballot among Texas registered voters. The Republicans advantage over the Democrats widens to 5 points among those who say they definitely plan to vote.

I checked through their past polls and can confirm they haven’t sampled this race before now. They did a poll of the Senate race in 2018 and had Ted Cruz up by the same 49-45 margin; they also had Abbott leading Lupe Valdez 56-37. They did not do any kind of “likely” voter screen as far as I can tell.

This poll’s data is here. The difference in the results is that the “all voters” sample is 30% Dem and 39% GOP, while the “definitely voting” sample is 30% Dem and 41% GOP. Independents are 29% of the former and 28% of the latter. Make of all that what you will.

They do ask a “How likely are you to vote” question, with “Definite” and “Likely” as possible choices. The former is 84% and 11% for Dems, or 95% at least Likely, and 90% and 6% for Republicans, or 96% at least Likely. Why they didn’t go with Likely – why so many pollsters are also going with an Extra Super Duper Likely choice – remains a mystery to me.

Also of interest, this poll has Beto’s strongest performance among Anglo voters, getting 37% to Abbott’s 57%, but it also has Beto just barely winning among Latino voters, 49 to 49. I feel like a full-on shrug GIF would be the better choice here than the shrug emoji. I’ll leave it to you to find your preferred version. Black voters go for Beto 78-13, similar to other polls.

So overall one of the best topline results Beto has seen, and also very weird under the surface. That’s polling these days for you.

In which I pay a few minutes’ attention to the Miss USA pageant

What can I say? I love some controversy in niche competitive events.

R’Bonney Gabirel

Just days after Miss Texas USA R’Bonney Gabriel was crowned Miss USA, several other contestants have accused the pageant of favoritism and rigging the competition.

During the live broadcast, several contestants walk off stage as Gabriel was crowned instead of congratulating her. In the days after the pageant, some contestants have aired their grievances on social media.

“I think the most important thing is that all the contestants feel like they have a fair shot at the crown and that starts with more transparency in judging,” said Miss District of Columbia Faith Porter in an interview with ABC news.

Miss Montana USA Heather O’Keefe published several videos on Instagram and TikTok, claiming Gabriel had an unfair advantage and said the sponsors showed a preference for Gabriel.

“Most of the Miss USA contestants feel very strongly that there was favoritism towards Miss Texas USA and we have the receipts to prove it,” she said in her TikTok video.

Nancy Shuster, director of talent and media relations, said in a statement the current allegations made by the 2022 Miss USA class of 2022 are misleading and simply not factual. Shuster said the misunderstanding is the fact that Mia Beauté is a sponsor of the State Miss Texas USA Pageant and a sponsor of the National Miss USA Pageant. Mia Beauté has also recently opened a location at Nizuc Resort and Spa, which is also a sponsor of the national Miss USA Pageant.

Shuster said Gabriel did multiple sponsor visits, one with Mia Beauté, at which time they proposed that she finally visit Nizuc Spa. She said Gabriel paid for her own flight.

“Just as other contestants have been engaged by other sponsors before competing and or winning at the National level, Mia Beauté wanted to use R’Bonney’s diversity and representation as the first Filipina American to win Miss Texas USA,” Shuster said in a statement.

Ms. Gabriel has denied the allegations, as you might expect.

New Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel is denying allegations pageant officials favored her over other contestants, asserting the competition was not “rigged.”

Speaking to E! News, Gabriel said she would “never enter any pageant or any competition that I know I would win.”

“I have a lot of integrity,” she added.

Gabriel, the first Filipino-American woman to win the title, is a model and fashion designer who competed as Miss Texas USA. Her win was questioned by contestants after the pageant as questions swirled on social media as to why most of the Miss USA contestants walked off the stage after Gabriel was crowned.

[…]

Gabriel told E! she was open to talking to her fellow contestants.

“I want to be transparent, and I want everybody to know that there was no unfair advantage and nothing was rigged,” she said.

The Miss Universe Organization told the New York Post it is investigating the claims.

“We are aware of the concerns that have been brought forth by this year’s Miss USA contestants,” the organization told The Post in an emailed statement. “We commend the women for bringing these issues to our attention and will always be an organization that encourages women to use their voice.

“We firmly believe everyone has a right to express their thoughts and experiences without retaliation and bullying,” the statement said. “There are existing systems in place to ensure the fairness of our national competitions and as such we have begun an active review into this situation.”

I have done no further research and have no opinion on whether any of the allegations have merit. I’m not that interested in finding out and very likely won’t post any followups unless something really interesting comes up. But I do have an interest in our new Miss USA, because of this.

Within days of receiving her crown, new Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel of Friendswood sparked debate in that city after a publication reported her stance against Texas’ laws on abortion.

Insider reported that Gabriel said that “as a woman, and as a Texan, it was extremely disappointing” to see the state’s near-total ban on abortions that went into effect after the Supreme Court removed federal protections on the procedure. State law only allows an exception for medical emergencies that threaten the mother’s life or impair a “major bodily function.”

[…]

Insider reported that Gabriel, a 28-year-old model and clothing designer, said of abortion, “At the end of the day, I would want a woman to be able to have that decision. In Texas, even if it’s rape or incest, abortion is still illegal — and I disagree with that.”

Chateara Jackson, 30, a Houston resident who works in Friendswood, said of Gabriel, “She’s standing up for what she believes in, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think a lot of people have the same viewpoint, and she just spoke about it.”

Friendswood resident Joshua Garcia, 22, said he identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ communities and is used to his community speaking out for rights and beliefs.

“With Texas traditionally being a red state and her having the power she has, she’s using her voice,” Garcia said. “It can be hard to speak out on something that can be so controversial. I think it might make old people uncomfortable if they’re fixed in their old ways of thinking.”

Democratic activist John Cobarruvias, whose children attend schools in Friendswood, said Gabriel’s statement represents a generational shift.

“This issue has energized young women, and I’m glad that she spoke out,” he said.

Here’s the Insider story, in which she also expressed dismay with Texas’ ridiculous gun laws. Gotta say, this is refreshing and more than a little unexpected, given the nature of pageant culture. Whatever the case, I welcome her words and hope that if she gets invited to a photo op of some kind with one of our state elected officials that she tells them the same things to their faces.

Texas blog roundup for the week of October 10

The Texas Progressive Alliance is ready for some MLB playoffs as it brings you this week’s roundup.

(more…)

Endorsement watch: Travesty

I have to link to this atrocious Chron endorsement of Republican Alexandra Mealer, but I refuse to quote from it. Instead, I’m going to crib from the daily Texas AFL-CIO email newsletter, which had its own thoughts on the matter:

Judge Lina Hidalgo

Our Brothers and Sisters in the Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation are standing tall for the reelection of County Judge Lina Hidalgo, a champion of working families. The ALF today posted a list of Hidalgo’s amazing accomplishments as she navigated a concentration of natural disasters in her first term.

The timing of the statement was appropriate. In a tortured editorial, the Houston Chronicle today endorsed Hidalgo’s Republican opponent. The editorial has so much praise of Hidalgo, so many misgivings about her opponent, and so much acknowledgment of disagreement on the editorial board that it has the clear look of a publisher’s intervention.

Hidalgo beat the Chronicle’s endorsement in 2018 and the labor movement is working overtime to make sure she does so again in 2022.

Statement from ALF Political Director Jay Malone:

“We’re incredibly disappointed in the Houston Chronicle Editorial Board’s decision to back an extremist candidate for Harris County Judge. Not only has Lina Hidalgo consistently invested in public safety – including a proposed 10% increase in next year’s budget – but she also recognizes that security and safety isn’t just about crime, it’s also about keeping families in their homes, helping them to keep the lights and heat on, and expanding opportunities for everyone, regardless of the zip code you live in.”

“Under Lina Hidalgo, Harris County has kept over 70,000 working families in their homes during the pandemic, expanded access to affordable childcare, worked to raise wages for essential workers and improve safety standards on construction sites and in retail stores, and implemented common-sense measures to keep us safe during the pandemic. And she fought back when state leadership tried to prevent Harvey recovery dollars from going where they’re needed, recovering $750 million earlier this year.

“Unlike her opponent, who is funded by West Texas billionaires and county contractors, Lina has taken a stand to end the corrupt system that puts the interests of the rich and connected first and leaves the rest of us with failed drainage, pockmarked highways, and collapsing bridges. The working people of Harris County stand with Lina.”

Throughout her tenure in office, Judge Hidalgo has worked closely with the labor movement to develop, pass, and implement policies to expand opportunity and keep working people safe, healthy, and in their homes. Among the accomplishment of Harris County Commissioner’s Court since Lina was sworn into office in 2019:

I completely agree. I was especially angered when they blamed the Republican quorum breaking on the Democrats on the Court, for not being flexible enough in their negotiations, as if they somehow could not grasp that Commissioners Cagle and Ramsey have no incentive to bargain in good faith. They get what they want if nothing happens! Even better, they get simps like the Chron editorial board to blame the other guys for their actions. I don’t know if they’re being deeply naive or willfully blind, but it’s infuriating that they can’t see this basic fact. Their ending note that they hope Mealer will somehow overcome her partisan preferences and govern in a manner that is completely at odds with her own campaign has big “endorse Ted Cruz in 2012 on the hope that he’ll somehow morph into Kay Bailey Hutchison 2.0″ energy. How’d that one work out?

And to think, my day started by reading the print edition endorsement of Chuck Crews in HD128, in which they gave a proper lashing of Briscoe Cain, and thinking I’d get to blog about that and it would all be puppies and sunshine. But that one still isn’t on their site (at least as of last night when I drafted this), and instead this turd is. Where do I send the invoice for that new bottle of Tums I had to buy?