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Carl Pittman

Chron overview of the Sheriff races

The candidate who isn’t there nonetheless plays a central role.

Appointed incumbent Ron Hickman faces two repeat challengers in the GOP primary, while four others, including former Houston City Councilman Ed Gonzalez battle for the Democratic nomination.

The candidates square off in an election year when criminal justice issues are on the forefront of the public consciousness, following a year and a half of protests across the country over how police use lethal force during interactions with the public, particularly involving minorities.

“There’s been a lot more scrutiny as there’s been more reporting on issues from brutality or misconduct amid patrol, to misconduct among jail guards, to sanitary issues in the jail,” said Jay Jenkinsof the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. “For the first time in a long time, it feels like the general public is realizing what responsibilities come with that office, and how sheriff has the ability to help or hurt on those issues.”

Former Sheriff Adrian Garcia beat out Tommy Thomas eight years ago on the heels of a string of headlines about numerous inmate deaths, a high-profile civil rights lawsuit and thousands of deleted emails under a Thomas policy that violated state law. He resigned the post last May when he ran unsuccessfully for mayor; Commissioners Court appointed Hickman to finish Garcia’s term, which ends Dec. 31.

The landscape is different today, but the department again has come under scrutiny over inmate deaths and allegations of abuse, poor medical care and other problems in the jail dating back to 2009.

Hickman’s supporters argue that the majority of those issues occurred under Garcia’s regime, and that state inspectors gave the facility high marks when they inspected it last December.

It’s not a big surprise that the primaries for Sheriff are in their own way about Adrian Garcia. Jeff Stauber on the Democratic side is a pretty strong critic of Garcia’s term in office, as you can hear in the interview I did with him. His belief is that the HCSO needs someone with experience in the office as the person in charge, a charge that conveniently works against both Ed Gonzalez and Ron Hickman. As for Hickman, invoking Garcia now is basically a defensive move, but if he’s still doing it in the fall it will surely be as an offensive maneuver. As he will have been on the job for more than a year by then there’s no guarantee that the voters will accept that, but there’s no reason why they couldn’t. I suspect that once we get past March, Hickman will prefer to talk about the things he has done rather than things his predecessor did, but I’m sure the latter won’t be too far beneath the surface, if it’s beneath it at all.

Morris Overstreet to run for DA

I know we’re all still recovering from Tuesday, but the 2016 filing season is almost upon us, and the Democratic race for Harris County DA just became a contested race.

Morris Overstreet

Former appeals court judge Morris Overstreet announced Thursday that he would seek the Democratic nomination for Harris County District Attorney.

Overstreet, a former judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals who has been a licensed attorney since 1975, said he wanted to bring integrity to the state’s largest DA’s office, currently helmed by Republican Devon Anderson.

“I want to instill integrity, so that the people of Harris County have public trust in the office of the district attorney,” Overstreet said. “As a trial judge and a prosecutor involving hundreds of jury trials and thousands of non-jury trials, I’ve never had any criminal conviction reversed because of any error committed by me.”

Here’s a post of Facebook from Overstreet’s announcement. He had released a video on YouTube on October 28 teasing the announcement. Overstreet was a candidate for Chief Justice, 1st Court of Appeals in 2010, and more recently was appointed by the Waller County Sheriff to an independent panel of civilians to evaluate his department in the wake of Sandra Bland’s death. Overstreet joins Kim Ogg in the race, presumably against incumbent DA Devon Anderson, who has not yet announced but is expected to run and who as far as I know has not attracted a primary opponent. I look forward to the debate in this race, Lord knows there’s plenty to talk about.

As far as the rest of the primaries go, County Attorney Vince Ryan, the sole Democratic countywide officeholder, is expected to run again, and I have not heard word of a primary opponent nor of a Republican challenger yet, though I’m sure there will be the latter. Brandon Dudley, chief of staff to Sen. Rodney Ellis and 2010 judicial candidate, is running for Tax Assessor against Mike Sullivan; Ann Harris Bennett, who ran for Tax Assessor in 2012 and County Clerk in 2010 and 2014, is also running. So far, no one has announced on the Democratic side for Sheriff. The name people bring up when I ask about it is Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen, who would be up for re-election this year. He himself has not said anything, for the same reason former Sheriff Adrian Garcia couldn’t talk about running for Mayor – he’d have to resign as soon as he did say something. There’s some speculation around outgoing CM Ed Gonzalez as well, but Rosen is the name I keep hearing. Incumbent Sheriff Ron Hickman should have at least one primary opponent, 2012 candidate Carl Pittman, but beyond that I don’t know. I’ll do a roundup on judicial and legislative and other races another time. If you have a name and some reasonably informed scuttlebutt to add to this, by all means please do.

July campaign finance reports for Harris County candidates

You know the drill by now.

Office Candidate Raised Spent Cash Loans ============================================================ Sheriff A Garcia 47,025 41,900 357,818 0 Sheriff L Guthrie 70,176 75,646 33,075 157,000 Sheriff C Pittman 11,309 11,566 5,217 24,000 DA M Anderson 73,888 60,980 33,371 0 DA L Oliver 0 150 0 0 County Atty V Ryan 56,571 33,047 145,606 0 County Atty R Talton 7,250 17,359 2,020 39,250 Tax Assessor M Sullivan 2,900 24,126 1,966 20,000 Tax Assessor A Bennett 8,500 5,344 3,657 0 HCDE Pos 3 M Wolfe 0 0 9 0 HCDE Pos 3 D Trautman 6,674 1,722 8,849 0 Commish 1 EF Lee 307,025 199,407 3.2 M 0 Commish 1 C Maricle 0 4,085 3,520 2,500 Commish 3 S Radack 86,250 63,619 797,044 0 Commish 3 G McPherson Commish 4 J Cagle 16,850 36,738 178,700 0 Commish 4 S Hammerle 1,348 2,918 357 866 HCDE Pos 4 K Smith 0 0 31 0 HCDE Pos 4 S Mintz 710 2,000 506 0 HCDE Pos 6 E Lee 17,255 20,769 0 0 HCDE Pos 6 J Johnson HCDE Pos 6 BartlettPack Constable 1 C VaraLeija 32,264 3,056 13,404 0 Constable 1 A Rosen 54,811 69,130 16,600 0 Constable 1 S Danna 0 2,299 0 3,500 Constable 2 Z Guinn 12,275 2,669 9,637 0 Constable 2 C Diaz 9,950 11,748 28 23,337 Constable 2 C McDonald 0 2,013 0 0

My comments:

Some candidates do their fundraising through committees. These are the reports you have to check, their personal reports will show nothing. Such candidates include Adrian Garcia, Mike Anderson (I made this mistake with him before), and Jack Cagle.

I didn’t blog about this story about the colorful histories of Garcia opponents Louis Guthrie and Carl Pittman, so I figured this was as good a place as any to include it. I’m sure we’ll hear plenty more about it during the campaign.

Believe it or not, there was an actual debate between Mike Anderson and Lloyd Oliver. The mind reels. You can find links to footage of the debate here. I will note that Oliver did apparently manage to file a finance report this time, but it has not been posted on the County Clerk website as of this publication.

Vince Ryan seems to have learned from the example of his predecessor, Mike Stafford, who hadn’t raised much money for his 2008 campaign. I’d have thought Talton would have raised more by now as well, but then Ryan didn’t raise much as a challenger, either. That may just be how it is for County Attorney hopefuls.

Erica Lee not only has a July finance report up, she also has an eight day report, which covers the period of July 15 through July 18, up for viewing. She raised an additional $825 and spent $10,407 during this time period. Neither Jarvis Johnson nor JuLuette Bartlett-Pack, the GOP candidate, has a report of any kind that I can see. A. Robert Hassan, opposing Steve Radack for County Commissioner in Precinct 3, also has no report.

Cindy Vara-Leija does have a report filed, but like Oliver’s it is not viewable. As her filing date is given as July 16, I have no idea why this is so.

Chris McDonald is listed on the campaign finance reports page as being a candidate for Commissioners Court, but his actual finance report correctly lists him as a candidate for Constable in Precinct 2.

All right, that’ll do it till the 30 day reports. Is there anything in here that stands out to you?

UPDATE: Per the comments, I incorrectly identified A. Robert Hassan as the winner of the Dem primary for County Commissioner in Precinct 3. Gloria McPherson won that race, but like Hassan she has no report filed. The reports for Cindy Vara-Leija and Lloyd Oliver are now visible on the County Clerk site, and I have filled in the appropriate values for them. Still no reports for Jarvis Johnson or JuLuette Bartlett-Pack. Finally, in going over all this again I realize that I managed to overlook the Tax Assessor race in my initial roundup. I have included the totals for Mike Sullivan and Ann Harris Bennett as well. My apologies for the oversight.

UPDATE: Added in totals from Commissioner Precinct 1 at the request of Republican candidate Chuck Maricle. Commissioner El Franco Lee’s cash on hand total is $3,279,326, but I didn’t leave enough room in that column for a seven-figure total, so I abbreviated.

Endorsement watch: Sheriffs

The Chron endorses Sheriff Adrian Garcia for renomination.

Sheriff Adrian Garcia

When the incumbent took over four years ago, he faced a particularly daunting job. The sheriff’s office had been plagued by a series of controversies ranging from federal investigation of prisoner deaths in Harris County jails to legal battles about unjustified arrests. Newly elected Sheriff Adrian Garcia had his work cut out for him.

Since then, he has done an impressive job and again deserves to be the Democratic Party’s candidate for sheriff.

In his four years as sheriff, Garcia has guided the office through a hiring freeze with a steady hand and an eye fixed on solutions.

Much-needed reforms at the jail, such as outfitting nonviolent offenders with ankle monitors in lieu of incarceration, and allowing early release for nonviolent offenders in work or education programs, have helped reduce the jail population while also letting prisoners maintain or establish positions as functioning members of society.

Under Garcia’s leadership, Harris County has also ended the expensive practice of outsourcing prisoners to other counties and states.

Sheriff Garcia has done a lot to fix the problems in the office and in the jails, often working against the willful obstruction of County Commissioner Steve Radack. There’s still a lot more to be done, but we’ve come an awful long way in less than 3.5 years. The Chron also endorsed Republican Carl Pittman for the GOP nomination. I don’t know anything about those guys (not yet, anyway) so I don’t have anything to add to that.