Friday, February 21, 2014

Primarily Speaking, Part II

It’s a long ballot this primary season. Yesterday we only got through the statewide races. We still need to cover judicial and local/county races. And I’m ignoring for now the races with no challenger in the primary. (Technically that includes my uncontested race for precinct chair; I’m told that at the close of voting day, that makes me official. Yay me!)

By way of review, among other sources, I’ve been looking at endorsements from several sources. CCHC is the Conservative Coalition of Harris County, and is a self-funded grassroots group, including several people I know personally; they try hard to get to know the candidates and share what they find. They do a silent ballot, and offer the percentage of the vote; 70% or more means endorsement. TFR stands for Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, which gives scrutiny to taxes and other fiscal issues. TCR stands for Texas Conservative Review, and HRBC stands for Houston Realty Business Coalition. These both claim conservative credentials. I vary in how much I agree with them, but they give me additional data. I also have personal resources: DA stands for a couple of friends in the DA’s office who share their inside opinions on judicial races with friends who ask. PC is a neighboring precinct chair with quite a lot of experience, so I add her endorsements to the data. 

Texas is set up with a two-part Supreme Court, consisting of the Supreme Court, which handles mainly civil cases, and the Criminal Court of Appeals, which is the “supreme court” for criminal cases. 
going through the avalanche of info

In Harris County (which includes the Greater Houston Area), the courts are divided into district courts, with numbers based on whatever number came up when the division was made. Different courts typically have a specific assignment, like criminal courts, or family courts. 

Usually when there’s a primary challenger, it’s because there’s an open seat: a judge has retired or been appointed to another court. Candidates don’t necessarily know who their challengers are prior to signing up to run. So sometimes we find a number of really good people in one race. We’ll eventually get to a couple of those.

Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court:
I am struggling to make a decision here. Nathan Hecht is the incumbent, recently appointed by Governor Perry. He has been a justice on the court since 1988. Among my sources, DA, TFR, and HRBC support Hecht. His opponent is Robert Talton, whom I became aware of during his tenure as a Texas representative. He was a brave standard-bearer of conservative causes. He left the Texas House to run for US House, a race he didn’t win. Because I recognized his name, my first reaction was to lean toward him. He also gets 60% support from CCHC, as well as support from TCR and PC. However, there ought to be a good reason to take out an incumbent. Last time around, David Medina had come to our Tea Party and talked about his position on the Supreme Court. He had been appointed by the governor as well. I liked him. I thought he was the better candidate, from what I could find. But he lost—because he’d been appointed rather than elected to the position. While I don’t think appointments just need to be rubber stamped, I think judges need to be taken on their actual merits. I can’t find a significant reason for removing Hecht, who has served well as an elected Supreme Court Justice for so long. So I am inclined, right now, to vote for Nathan Hecht.

Supreme Court Justice, Place 6:
The two choices are Joe Pool and Jeff Brown. CCHC gives Brown 100% support. He also gets support from all of my other sources. No one gives anything positive about Pool. I can’t add any additional knowledge to this race. So I’m voting for Jeff Brown.

Supreme Court Justice, Place 8:
Phil Johnson gets 100% support from CCHC, plus support from TFR, HRBC, DA, and BC. Only TCR supports Sharon McCally. I am inclined to go with Phil Johnson.

Court of Criminal Appeals 3:
Bert Richardson gets 85% support from CCHC, plus DA, TCR, and HRBC support. PC supports Barbara Walther. I haven’t met either one, but I think I’ll go with Bert Richardson.

Court of Criminal Appeals 4:
This is an open seat with three people running: Richard Dean Davis, Kevin Patrick Yeary, and Jani Jo Wood. All of my sources support Yeary, with CCHC giving him 100% support. Incidentally, the Houston Chronicle thinks Yeary is a nice guy but prefers Wood. I don’t know what criteria they use, but I seldom agree with them, so an endorsement might be a point against. I think I’ll vote for Kevin Yeary.

Court of Criminal Appeals 9:
David Newell and W. C. “Bud” Kirkendall are running for this position. I met David Newell at a judicial candidate forum recently and found him quite impressive. I haven’t met his opponent. David Newell gets 90% support from CCHC, plus support from DA, HRBC, and TCR. PC goes for Kirkendall. I think I’ll go with my personal opinion and go for David Newell.

That finishes the statewide races. Now we’ll go to more local/regional.

State Senate District 7:
This position opened up when Dan Patrick decided to run for Lieutenant Governor. Paul Bettencourt and James Wilson are running for the position. Paul Bettencourt, former Harris County Tax Assessor, was nicknamed the Tax Man, and was known for going out of his way to inform people on how to get their property assessments lowered. Locally, we’ve liked him a long time, and he has name recognition. James Wilson used to work with the legendary Phil Gramm. He seems like a nice guy. But he doesn’t have the fire to overcome Bettencourt’s name. I hope he’ll do some other good work in the future. But I’m voting for Paul Bettencourt—who also got 100% support from CCHC, plus HRBC, PC, and TCR.

State Representative District 150:
I’m not in this district, and wouldn’t comment, except that I want to give a good word for Representative Debbie Riddle, who has been a treasure. It’s hard to overstate how hard-working she has been, and responsive to the very issues important to us grassroots conservatives. Her opponent, Tony Noun, was scheduled to speak at a recent Tea Party meeting and didn’t show. I can’t figure out why he’s running.

State Representative District 132:
I’m not in this district either, but it’s close to mine. I have a lot of friends in this district. It’s an open seat, because of the retirement of Bill Callegari. Of the four candidates, I think I like Michael Franks best, a lawyer, very logical and well spoken. However, I think the leading candidates are Justin Perryman and Mike Schofield. People feel strongly positive about both; Schofield is new to the district, but has been active nearby for a long time. Perryman has a resume that looks like a character on NCIS—varied and talented, with some military, some business, some out-of-country experience. There may be some family challenges going on there, however. All I can say is, good luck deciding.

County Treasurer:
The incumbent is Orlando Sanchez. He has been quietly effective as a conservative in liberal-run Houston for many years. I know very little about his opponent, Arnold Hinojosa. Sanchez gets the support of all my sources (100% CCHC), and my support as well.

District Clerk:
Chris Daniel came from among us in the grassroots. I think he was a law student his first time as a state delegate, the same time I was. I think he’s done a good job as District Clerk. I like his opponent, Court Koenning, who offers suggestions for technological improvements. However, most of those improvements are already underway, within the constraints of the actual budget, but making what looks to me like real progress. So I’m going to stay with Chris Daniel. All of my sources agree (82% from CCHC), except PC, who likes both and won’t endorse.

OK, we’ve gotten through the statewide judicial races and most of the local non-judicial races. But the interesting races, the ones, I’ve wanted to write about in order to think through them fully, are still to come. There are some additional county judicial races as well, but I need one more post to cover the 247th Family Court, the 311th Family Court, and the Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 Place 2 race. And after all those, I’ll render my decision about the County Republican Chair. I don’t usually post on Saturdays (or Fridays either, this year), but it’s a long ballot, and now is the time, if it’s going to be useful to people getting ready to vote. So stay tuned for Part III.

1 comment:

  1. I talked with my son Political Sphere this weekend, and he said he's glad I came to the conclusion that Nathan Hecht was the right choice for chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court. He has read actual briefs the justice has written, likes him a lot. And others do as well, sometimes referring to him as "the Scalia of the Texas Supreme Court." So, that's a strong endorsement.