Thoughts on the Houston and Harris County elections

I’m going to take a break from talking about the presidential election and shift to the local elections here in Harris County and Houston.

First up, I may as well talk about the local election that gathered national attention: Devon Anderson, the Republican incumbent district attorney, who was challenged by Kim Ogg, running as the Democratic candidate in a rematch of the 2012 election. This time, however, it would be Kim Ogg emerging the victor in a relatively close race (54% of the vote). The controversy surrounding Anderson’s jailing of a rape victim to compel her testimony is believed to be a major reason behind her defeat; Anderson’s attacks on Ogg, including one on the latter’s sexuality, almost certainly didn’t help.

Second, we have the even closer race for sheriff of Harris County. Ron Hickman was originally elected to Precinct 4 Constable as a Republican. Hickman was appointed to sheriff when Adrian Garcia resigned to run for mayor of Houston (a race which Garcia lost to Sylvester Turner). Hickman’s challenger was Ed Gonzalez, who ran as a Democrat. Gonzalez’s strategy of highlighting Hickman’s failures as sheriff paid off and he won with 52% of the vote.

Next, there was an election I did not vote in, but I am nevertheless happy at the result. Over a century ago, Houston Heights was actually a separate city, which had elected not to allow stores to sell beer and wine. That ban remained in place even as Houston annexed the area. However, after this election it’s history, and HEB quickly announced they would move forward with plans to build a new store on the former site of Fiesta on North Shepherd at 24th Street.

There was also the resounding defeat of HISD Proposition 1. The ballot language was confusing on this one, and I have to wonder if it was on purpose. How would you vote on something like this?

Authorizing the board of trustees of Houston Independent School District to purchase attendance credits from the state with local tax revenues

What this actually meant was “authorize Houston ISD to send $162 million to the state of Texas when it can barely afford to run its own schools”. This “attendance credits” nonsense is just verbiage to confuse the voters; thankfully they didn’t fall for it. A resounding majority (60%) voted against, and I’m proud to be one of them. The logic behind voting against is that it’s the only hope to get some reform for our school finance system here in Texas. And it needs reform. It’s outrageous that Houston ISD, which has so many students in families under the poverty line and which can scarcely afford to finance its own schools, is somehow viewed as a “rich” district under the law and expected to send an obscene amount of money to other Texas counties. I’m glad this proposition did not pass and I hope some good becomes of it.

Last but certainly not least, the race for Precinct 1 Constable. Another rematch from 2012: Alan Rosen was seeking re-election as the Democratic candidate, with Joe Danna running once again as a Republican. This time, there were no other candidates, which seemed to play to the favor of Rosen, who slayed it with 65% of the vote. (Back in 2012 Rosen won with just under 59% of the vote, with just under 6% combined going to candidates affiliated with the Libertarian and Green parties, leaving just under 36% for Danna.)

Whether Joe Danna gets the hint this time remains to be seen. His candidacy never really ended after the 2012 election, with a lot of the campaign signs staying up even after the 2012 election was over. Mr. Danna had a bit of a disadvantage this time, too: the “we don’t need a volunteer” card wasn’t in play since Alan Rosen had now been working a paid position for the past four years. Whether the voters remembered that from 2012, or were just happy with the status quo, the result is the same.

(As an aside, it was a pretty good night for law enforcement positions county-wide with not only the aforementioned sheriff spot, but also five of the eight constable positions, won by Democrats. The Precinct 7 Constable position was unopposed.)

Does a professional have to be paid to have credibility?

After my recent election-related post, the Houston Chronicle published a piece regarding the Precinct 1 Constable election. And I couldn’t help but notice this quote:

“We don’t need a volunteer running the constable’s office,” [Danna] said. “We need a full-time, professional peace officer, and that’s what I’ve been for 18 years.'”

The reference here is to Alan Rosen’s status as a reserve officer, which is a volunteer position. The implication is that Alan is less qualified simply because he is a volunteer, not being paid for his current job. As someone with a lengthy volunteer history, I find the implication a bit offensive; one can take pride in one’s work and do it in a professional manner, even if not being paid for it.

I originally was not going to bring this up, but it is worth noting that Mr. Danna’s daughter and the treasurer of his campaign, Monica Danna, was the lead organizer of WordCamp Houston 2010 and in fact was just mentioned in this blog not too long ago for her dubious handling of the proceeds from that event, which were to be awarded as a college scholarship. The difference between my criticism of Ms. Danna as an organizer and Mr. Danna’s attack of Alan Rosen, however, is that my criticism was based on an evaluation of the merits of Ms. Danna’s performance and the facts I had available at the time. I further believe that Mr. Danna could and should have made a better choice for the treasurer of his campaign.

Originally, my criticism of Ms. Danna’s handling of the WordCamp Houston proceeds was based on the assumption that she and the other organizers simply sat on the funds without looking for a student for the scholarship to be awarded to. I have since learned that there was an attempt to publicize the search for a student to award the scholarship so, but if I was looking for this and never saw it, I question whether or not it happened. My formal inquiry as to where and when this was publicized has yet to be answered, and may have been ignored. (I will follow up on these later developments in more detail in a later post, but I suspect whichever organizer(s) ultimately received the inquiry may be intentionally withholding answers until after the election, realizing full well it’s relevant to political commentary. I’m not going to fall for that, and any publicist with the experience level comparable to that of Ms. Danna should know better than to do that.)

If Monica Danna cannot handle simple publicity better than a rookie flack, she has no business running an event like WordCamp Houston or the treasury of a political campaign, even if it is her father’s.

If Joe Danna lacks the good judgment to not attack his opponent based merely on whether that opponent’s current job is paying, he has no business being the leader of a law enforcement agency, and dare I say it, may well have no business even carrying a badge and a gun himself.

And my response to Mr. Danna’s tweet, stating in part: “Pct. 1 needs a law enforcement professional; NOT a volunteer/investor”? It reads as follows: Precinct 1 needs a law enforcement professional, not a politician. Alan Rosen is a law enforcement professional; Joe Danna is a politician, and not even that great of a politician at that.