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Veronica Nelson

2022 primary results: Harris County

There were some issues, as there always are. Honestly, that’s one of the reasons I vote early – less time pressure in case something happens. There was also an issue with reporting the early ballots.

The Harris County Elections Administration has requested an extension on the 24-hour deadline to report the results of Tuesday’s primary elections, according to Texas Secretary of State John Scott.

State law requires that counties report results from both early voting and Election Day within 24 hours of the polls closing. Just after polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Scott’s office said that they were informed by Harris County election officials that the county would not be able to count and report the results.

“Harris County election officials have indicated to our office that the delay in ballot tabulation is due only to damaged ballot sheets that must be duplicated before they can be scanned by ballot tabulators at the central count location,” Scott said in a statement.

Failing to meet the deadline is a Class B misdemeanor, Scott’s office said.

“Our office stands ready to assist Harris County election officials, and all county election officials throughout the state, in complying with Texas Election Code requirements for accurately tabulating and reporting Primary Election results,” Scott said.

Don’t know what happened there, but I get a PDF of the results in my inbox every time they get posted to the web, and the first one arrived at 7:25, so whatever the delay was it didn’t take that long to fix it. Other places had their issues as well, often because of missing election judges. And I can’t wait to see how long it takes Potter County to finish its count.

County Judge Lina Hidalgo was headed for an easy win in her primary; she was at almost 70% of the vote in early voting. Erica Davis was just shy of 15%. Alexandra Mealer and Vidal Martinez were the two top Republicans. Marilyn Burgess was winning for District Clerk, but Carla Wyatt had a nearly identical lead for Treasurer over incumbent Dylan Osborne. You just can’t tell with these things sometimes.

Commissioner Adrian Garcia was also on the way to an easy win in Precinct 2, while Lesley Briones and Ben Chou were leading in Precinct 4. Jack Morman and Jerry Mouton were the top two for Precinct 2 on the Republican side.

Multiple District Court judges were losing their primaries. The ones who were leading included Hilary Unger, Chris Morton, Dedra Davis, Natalia Oakes, Leah Shapiro, and Frank Aguilar, the latter two by smaller margins that could vanish overnight. Amy Martin was trailing Melissa Morris by a small margin as well. Jason Luong was in second place and headed to a runoff against Andrea Beall, Chip Wells was in a similar position against Teresa Waldrop, while Greg Glass and Scott Dollinger were out of the running, with Glass’ opponents in a runoff and Tami Craft leading the field in Dollinger’s race. Veronica Nelson was above 50% in the three-way race for the new 482nd Criminal District Court.

The County Court judges were doing a bit better, with four out of seven leading their races. For the open benches, Juanita Jackson won in Criminal Court #10, Porscha Brown was above 50% for Criminal Court #3, and Monica Singh was leading for Civil Court #4, with second place too close to call between David Patronella and Treasea Treviño.

For the JP races, Sonia Lopez was leading in Precinct 1, with Steve Duble slightly ahead of Chris Watson for second place. Dolores Lozano won in Precinct 2, incumbent Lucia Bates was over 50% in Precinct 3. Roderick Rogers was winning in Precinct 5 and Angela Rodriguez was winning in Precinct 6.

That’s all I’ve got, with results trickling in. I’ll follow up tomorrow.

UPDATE: We’re going to be waiting for results for the rest of the day due to issues with the paper receipts and the printers.

Final roundup of interviews and judicial Q&As

Here they all are. As noted, I may return to some races for the runoff. For now, this is what we have. As a reminder, much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. Vote well.

Interviews

Duncan Klussman, CD38
Diana Martinez Alexander, CD38

Jinny Suh, Land Commissioner
Jay Kleberg, Land Commissioner

Sen. John Whitmire, SD15
Molly Cook, SD15

Aurelia Wagner, HD147
Danielle Bess, HD147
Jolanda Jones, HD147
Nam Subramanian, HD147
Reagan Flowers, HD147

Candis Houston, HD142
Chase West, HD132

Ben Chou, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4
Ann Williams, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4
Gina Calanni, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4
Lesley Briones, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4
Clarence Miller, Harris County Commissioners Court Precinct 4

Dylan Osborne, Harris County Treasurer (Incumbent)
Carla Wyatt, Harris County Treasurer
Marilyn Burgess, Harris County District Clerk (Incumbent)
Desiree Broadnax, Harris County District Clerk

Judicial Q&As

Kyle Carter, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 2
Cheri Thomas, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 2

Judge Chuck Silverman, 183rd Criminal District Court
Judge Abigail Anastasio, 184th Criminal District Court
Katherine Thomas, 184th Criminal District Court
Judge Jason Luong, 184th Criminal District Court
Andrea Beall, 185th Criminal District Court
Lema Barazi, 189th Civil District Court
Judge Scott Dollinger, 189th Civil District Court
Judge Greg Glass, 208th Criminal District Court
Kim McTorry, 208th Criminal District Court
Samuel Milledge, 228th Criminal District Court
Judge Chris Morton, 230th Criminal District Court
Judge Tristan Longino, 245th Family District Court
Angela Lancelin, 245th Family District Court
Judge Hilary Unger, 248th Criminal District Court
Judge Amy Martin, 263rd Criminal District Court
Dianne Curvey, 280th Family District Court
Judge Barbara Stalder, 280th Family District Court
Judge Chip Wells, 312th Family District Court
Teresa Waldrop, 312th Family District Court
Paul Calzada, 312th Family District Court
Judge Natalia Oakes, 313th Family District Court
Glenda Duru, 313th Family District Court
Judge Leah Shapiro, 313th Family District Court
Ieshia Champs, 315th Family District Court
Alycia Harvey, 482nd Criminal District Court
Veronica Monique Nelson, 482nd Criminal District Court

David Patronella, County Civil Court At Law #4
Manpreet Monica Singh, County Civil Court At Law #4
Treasea Treviño, County Civil Court At Law #4
Porscha Natasha Brown, County Criminal Court At Law #3
Judge Kelley Andrews, County Criminal Court At Law #6
Judge Andrew Wright, County Criminal Court At Law #7
Erika Ramirez, County Criminal Court At Law #8
Judge David Singer, County Criminal Court At Law #14
Judge Michael Newman, County Probate Court #2

Chris Watson, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1 Place 2
Steve Duble, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1 Place 2
Ron Campana, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1 Place 2
Blair McClure, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2 Place 2
Dolores Lozano, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2 Place 2
Judge Lucia Bates, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2
Herbert Alexander Sanchez, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2
Ashleigh Roberson, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Place 2

UPDATE: Naturally, I woke up this morning to see another set of Q&A responses in my inbox. They will run tomorrow.

Endorsement watch: Jaworski and more

The Chron finishes off the statewide races by endorsing Joe Jaworski in the primary for Attorney General.

Joe Jaworski

No question, Joe Jaworski would be a compelling candidate for Texas attorney general even if he weren’t the grandson of Texas legendary lawyer Leon Jaworski, best known for being Richard Nixon’s handpicked Watergate prosecutor who ended up arguing successfully for the release of damning tapes that outed Nixon’s involvement in the scandal and led to his resignation as president.

But it sure is poetic to have the grandson of a man famed for his conscience, for being the “chief defender of the nation’s scruples,” as Texas Monthly put it in 1977, running against Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican infamous for his lack of scruples, perpetual scandals and never-ending indictments.

“That’s not enough to vote for me,” Jaworski, 59, a mediator, former Galveston mayor and three-term city councilman, said about his grandfather’s legacy. “But it’s a damn good reason to consider me, because his integrity is in my DNA.”

And consider him we did, along with the rest of the impressive candidates on the Democratic slate, which includes Harris County criminal court-at-law judge Mike Fields, Brownsville attorney Rochelle Garza and Lee Merritt, a nationally known civil rights lawyer.

All of them say they can beat Attorney General Ken Paxton and restore integrity to an office that hasn’t seen it in seven years. They share many priorities, including protecting voting rights and women’s right to choose. Several vowed to use the office both legally and as a bully pulpit to advocate for legislative reforms including expansion of Medicaid.

[…]

Jaworski says he’d waste no time turning “Paxton’s voter fraud” division into “Jaworski’s voter access division,” because, as he told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, “you ought to be able to call the government when your voting rights are being impeded or damaged.” He’d also take small but important steps to champion the voting franchise, including sending letters to all Texas high schools reminding them of the Texas law that requires access for eligible seniors to register to vote.

He’d create a civil rights division at an agency that shamefully lacks one. On border security, rather than targeting individual immigrants and families, he’d go after the cartels that operate exploitative human smuggling operations, in part by funding special assistant U.S. attorneys across the border — a tactic he says was last used by then-AG John Cornyn.

Jaworski also plans to advocate for legalization of cannabis for recreational use in Texas, a priority that might seem minor, all things considered, but that carries weightier significance: Removing “wasteful, petty prosecution from the books,” he says, would “usher in long-overdue social and criminal justice reform.” We agree.

I’ve known Jaworski for a few years, going back to his time as Galveston Mayor and his 2008 run for State Senate. He’s terrific, and it’s not possible to overstate how much better he’d be in the job than the piece of crap felon who’s there now. The other candidates merit consideration as well, with Rochelle Garza being the standout among them. It’s a legitimately tough choice.

They go on to endorse in four more judicial races, and if their intent was only to do the criminal courts, then I believe they’re done. We’ll see about tomorrow. Three of these races were challenges to incumbents, the other is for the new 482nd bench. In order:

Judge Chris Morton in the 230th.

Morton, 49, was elected in 2018 and has presided over high-profile cases in his first term. When the man accused of murdering Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal appeared before him in October 2019, he ordered him held without bond. Last August, he issued an order shielding Texas House Democrats — very briefly, it turned out — from civil arrest by the House sergeant at arms, following the lawmakers’ quorum-busing walkout. And when prosecutors charged a Cy-Fair ISD mother for child endangerment, after she was seen letting her 13-year-old out of her locked trunk at school, he resisted the easy call and told prosecutors they hadn’t made their case.

Agree with them or not, those rulings suggest to us an independence that suits a judge well. And while [challenger Joseph] Sanchez is right to urge more focus on reducing the backlog in Morton’s court, the count there is below the average number in Harris County courts. We recommend Morton in the primary.

My Q&A with Judge Morton is here. I did not get responses from challenger Sanchez.

Judge Hilary Unger in the 248th.

Harris County criminal district court judges are increasingly under scrutiny for bond decisions in cases where the defendant, once out of custody, commits a new crime, including murder. Judge Hilary Unger of the 248th District Court is one of them, given a string of incidents where defendants in her court bonded out and went on to commit serious crimes.

Some would argue that such cases make Unger, 59, unworthy of re-election. We disagree. She is the best choice for Democrats in the March 1 primary for two reasons: Her overall record on the bench is a strong one, and because we do not believe her challenger would do better.

Unger supports the bail reform movement, and insists that nearly every defendant deserves a hearing to consider his or her terms for pre-trial release. But her court has the 10th-highest (out of 23 courts) pre-trial detention number, which suggests she weighs those decisions carefully. She would have fewer defendants in detention if she indiscriminately gave personal recognizance or low bonds. She’s also improving her clearance rate, which in the past three months has been 101 percent.

My Q&A with Judge Unger is here. Her opponent is Linda Mazzagatti, who works in the district attorney’s general litigation office, and has not sent me Q&A responses.

Judge Amy Martin in the 263rd.

Judge Amy Martin has earned Democrats’ support in the March 1 primary after one term on the bench in this criminal district court. Martin, 45, was a defense attorney representing mostly impoverished clients, and with experience in death penalty cases, before she was elected in 2018. We endorsed her then, believing that background would serve her well on the bench.

It turned out to be a solid bet. She’s accessible, big on pre-trial diversion programs for people with mental health or substance abuse cases and has ideas for how to expand those efforts to include people on bond.

Despite those progressive ideas, Martin also has sounded warnings that the “spirit of bail reform” that was behind mostly ending cash bail for misdemeanors has bled over into the way felony judges approach bail. In our conversation with her about her approach to setting bonds, we found her thoughtful, balanced and, well, judicious.

I did not get Q&A responses from either Judge Martin or her opponent Melissa Morris, about whom the Chron also said nice things.

Veronica Nelson in the 482nd.

Democrats are choosing among three candidates with the winner set to face Republican Maritza Antu, the current judge in the 482nd who was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to preside over the new court and is unopposed in her party’s primary.

Of the three Democrats seeking the seat, we were impressed with two, Veronica Nelson and Alycia Harvey. We urge voters to choose Nelson, 40, a staff attorney for the county criminal and civil court judges.

She is a former Harris County prosecutor who, over 10 years, gained valuable trial experience as chief prosecutor in the misdemeanor and felony divisions.

As a staff attorney for the judges, she said she spends a lot of time “teaching judges how to be judges.”

She said prosecutors should more often ask for bond hearings, and that judges can be blamed unfairly. Bond is far higher for murder charges than it used to be, she says, and no matter how high judges set it in some cases, defendants are making bail.

My Q&A with Nelson is here and with Harvey is here. I did not get responses from the third candidate, Sherlene Cruz.

The full list of Chron endorsements is here. I’m hoping they will still do the Family court races, but I’m not expecting it. The Erik Manning spreadsheet tracks a gazillion endorsements, so maybe that will help some. Good luck sorting it all out.

Judicial Q&A: Veronica Monique Nelson

(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. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Veronica Monique Nelson

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

My name is Veronica Monique Nelson and I am running to be the first elected Judge of the 482nd Criminal District Court in Harris County, Texas

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 482nd Criminal District Court hears felony offenses ranging from State Jail to 1st Degree offenses within Harris County, Texas. The Court handles all pre-trial and trial procedures including pre-trial release, bail hearings, pre-trial motions, docket settings, bench and jury trials, motions to adjudicate and revoke probation hearings, post-conviction writ hearings, Pre-Sentencing Investigation hearings, issuances of orders and findings of fact and conclusions of law, assignment of attorneys for indigent clients, overall docket management and the courts’ Local Rules.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

The 482nd is a brand new District Court bench created by legislators to begin having dockets in September 2021. When the 482 nd District Court bench became available, I was approached by numerous judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys encouraging me to run for the open bench due to my experience and current position as being an ideal person to bring integrity and knowledge to this position. After careful thought and consideration, I believed I would be the best person to serve on this bench as I have the most judicial experience and temperament. My goal would be to bring new programs and ideas to the felony court that have already proven to work well in both our misdemeanor courts and other jurisdictions, in addition to handling the case back log that currently is clogging all courts in Harris County.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Legal Studies major where I studied both Domestic and International legal systems including best practices in sentencing, drug rehabilitation versus extended drug sentencings, and mental health crisis within the judicial system. After graduation I attended Law School at the University Of Alabama School Of Law where I received best paper in Sentencing Guidelines, Family Law and Criminal Law.

I have been practicing criminal law for over sixteen years (2 years at a Public Defender’s Office as an intern and 14+ years in Harris County) and have extensive trial experience ranging from class C speeding tickets to non-death Capital Murders. I have been a Chief Prosecutor in both misdemeanor and felony District Courts, which means I have supervised junior attorneys while also maintain my own caseload and handling daily dockets. While District Court Chief in the 182nd and 180th , I was able to have over 100% clearance rate due to the reasonableness of my recommendations. While at the District Attorney’s Office, I was a senior prosecutor in the Juvenile, Intake, Trial Bureau and Mental Health divisions. So I have experience dealing with youthful offenders and those with mental health issues. In addition I have taught prosecutors, law students, officers, and judicial officers, on various topics ranging from probable cause, search warrants, mental health orders, juvenile magistration, and case filings.

In 2019, I was selected by the current county court judges to be the first African American Staff Attorney for the Harris County Courts. In that position, I am able to continue my studies of best practices all while guiding/training the judges on various topics ranging from Pre and Post-conviction Writs, Judicial Canons, O’Donnell Consent Decree and Bail, Mental Health orders, any new Legislative Updates, Docket Management, and Managed Assigned Counsel.

5. Why is this race important?

This race will set a foundation with a unique opportunity for voters to select the first elected Judge to a brand new District Court bench. The elected Judge’s experience, integrity, philosophy and knowledge of the position will be vital to the future of this court within the criminal justice system. Harris County judicial system has made great progress in that past three or four years but there is still work that needs to be done to ensure “justice for all” isn’t a catchy phrase but a reality. A reality that is backed by the confidence and support of the community served.  Now more than ever, voters understand how important it is to have judges who are fair, competent, unbiased, and uphold the integrity of the office. In order to have a strong foundation for the 482nd , the Judge should be well versed in the job and the upcoming matters both in and out of the courtroom.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

First, my legal education, courtroom experience and knowledge, along with my current position, uniquely qualify me as the best candidate for this position.  I would be able to make an immediate impact both on and off the bench. Second, my commitment to working for the community as a public servant and through community service.  As mentioned above, I have been a public servant since 2005 both as a law student and lawyer.  In law school, I was awarded the Order of the Samaritan which is the highest public service award bestowed by the University of Alabama School of Law. To earn this award, a student must complete at least 90 hours of volunteer work, with at least 50 of those hours spent doing pro bono/law-related service.  My community service has also continued through sports, as I volunteered with many travel softball organizations.  Within the last year, I have educated individuals at the Judson Robinson Jr. community center on various legal topics.   I have also had the privilege of serving as a volunteer guest lecturer at TSU Law School. Lastly, my upbringing, as a former collegiate and professional athlete as well as an NCAA Champion.  My background in athletics helped me develop several skills that are important for this position. Playing sports my entire life has taught me to 1. Work with people from diverse backgrounds, 2. Successfully multitask 3. Exhibit the appropriate judicial temperament, treating people with integrity and respect, especially in under pressure situations, and 3. Cultivate successful relationships.  My background has given me the training, knowledge and unique perspective that will allow me to be ready for the bench on the first day.

Filing update: How many contested judicial primaries are there? (Part one)

Pretty much all of the updates I’ve given about who has filed for what have been for legislative or executive offices. These are the highest-profile races, and they’re also easier to keep track of. But as we know, there are a crapton of judicial races on the ballot in Harris County, and as has been the case in recent cycles, there will be a lot of competition for them. Since Dems swept the judicial races in 2018, that means (with a couple of limited exceptions) challenges to incumbents.

I’ve gone through the list of judicial races for Harris County, and these are the contested ones that I can find. I’ll post the state court races here, and will do a separate post for the county and JP courts. Strap in, we have a long ride ahead of us.

14th Court of Appeals, Place 2: Kyle Carter and Cheri Thomas. Carter is the incumbent judge for the 125th Civil District Court. Thomas was a candidate for a different 14th Court of Appeals position in 2020, but lost in the primary runoff.

14th Court of Appeals, Place 9: Chris Conrad and William Demond. Demond was a candidate for Court of Criminal Appeals in the 2020 primary. I can’t find anything about Conrad.

183rd Criminal District Court: Gemayel Haynes and incumbent Judge Chuck Silverman.

184th Criminal District Court: Incumbent Judge Abigail Anastasio and Katherine Thomas.

185th Criminal District Court: Andrea Beall, Kate Ferrell, and incumbent Judge Jason Luong.

189th Civil District Court: Lema Barazi, Tami Craft, and incumbent Judge Scott Dollinger. Craft ran for 14th Court of Appeals in 2020, losing in the general election. Her webpage still references that campaign.

228th Criminal District Court: Incumbent Judge Frank Aguilar and Sam Milledge.

230th Criminal District Court: Incumbent Chris Morton and Joseph Sanchez.

245th Family District Court: Angela Lancelin and incumbent Judge Tristan Longino.

248th Criminal District Court: Linda Mazzagatti and incumbent Judge Hilary Unger.

263rd Criminal District Court: Incumbent Judge Amy Martin and Melissa Morris. Morris ran against Sen. Borris Miles in the 2020 primary for SD13, and was endorsed by the Chron in that race.

270th Civil District Court: Denise Brown and incumbent Judge Dedra Davis.

280th Family District Court: Dianne Curvey and incumbent Judge Barbara Stalder. Curvey has been a candidate for judge before, more than once, and as her website notes she is also known as Damiane Banieh.

312th Family District Court: Paul Calzada, Teresa Waldrop, and incumbent Judge Chip Wells.

313th Juvenile District Court: Glenda Duru and incumbent Judge Natalia Oakes.

315th Juvenile District Court: Ieshia Champs and incumbent Judge Leah Shapiro.

482nd Criminal District Court: Sherlene Cruz, Alycia Harvey, and Veronica Nelson. This is a new court, created by the Lege this past session. The incumbent judge, Judge Maritza Antu, was appointed by Greg Abbott.

That’s the end of part one. In part two, I’ll look at the county and Justice of the Peace courts, which also have a ton of contested races. Please note that if you don’t see a court in this post and you know that it’s on the ballot, it means that the incumbent is unopposed in their primary. There are a couple of unopposed challengers running for Republican-held appellate court benches as well. If I didn’t link to a campaign webpage or Facebook page, I couldn’t find one with a basic Google search. I mentioned the past candidacies of the challengers that I know ran for something in the past; if I missed anything, it was an oversight. Look for the next post tomorrow or the following day, depending on how long it takes me to put it together. And as always, let me know what you think.