The Chron makes their choice in the Democratic primary for District Attorney.
Democratic voters face a choice between two strong candidates for Harris County district attorney. But while Morris Overstreet can look back and reflect on a distinguished career, Kim Ogg is the candidate in this primary who most clearly articulates specific recommendations for the future.
The war on drugs has failed. Our system imprisons too many nonviolent offenders for low-level drug crimes, and in the process wrecks lives and destroys futures. Not only that, our existing policy disproportionately and unfairly targets young men of color.
Ogg believes that the public will be better-served not prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana cases. In her view, the best and fastest way to make our neighborhoods safer is to target real criminals – violent predators and gang members who commit serious crimes.
In Texas, a district attorney possesses the discretion under the law to decide what cases will be prosecuted criminally and which ones will not. Last year, Devon Anderson implemented a system to ticket first-time offenders caught with small amounts of marijuana instead of arresting them. Defendants can secure dismissals by attending a drug awareness class.
Ogg’s plan goes further. It would be open to anyone caught with small amounts of marijuana, even repeat offenders – although police and prosecutors will still have the discretion to charge and prosecute in certain cases. Ogg estimates that this policy – which effectively decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana – would allow the district attorney to redirect the approximately $10 million that the county is spending on enforcement in low-level marijuana cases toward the investigation and prosecution of gangs, burglary, rape and organized crime.
My interview with Ogg is here and with Overstreet is here. Overstreet is a strong candidate and this is a legitimately tough choice. Either will have an interesting race against incumbent DA Devon Anderson, who earned herself some good will and some enmity with those grand jury indictments against the two video fraudsters. It’s hard to say which will outweigh the other; if Harris County has the same kind of partisan balance as it had in 2012, that makes this race even harder to call. With the Lloyd Oliver joker in this primary deck, this race could go into a runoff. The good news is that that’s the only way he’s likely to be a factor.