The Houston Chronicle reports that the first assistant of the D.A.’s office, Belinda Hill, will become the acting District Attorney. Further, the Chronicle insinuates that Hill may very well be the Governor’s replacement District Attorney until a special election may be held in November 2014 to fill the remaining two years of the term.
The previous District Attorney, Mike Anderson, passed away on Friday, after a brief battle with cancer. Hill, first first assistant, has an impressive resume herself. After serving as a prosecutor for 13 years, Hill, a Republican, served as judge of the 230th District Court (felony criminal cases) from 1999 to 2013 (when she resigned to take the first assistant position).
Seeing as that this woman is a Republican, the Governor will most likely have no problems with appointing her as the next District Attorney. A point on the vacancy is that if the title includes the word “County,” then the Commissioners’ Court selects and appoints the replacement officeholder. However, if the title includes the word “District,” then the Governor is given that power. While that may not make much sense, the solution is actually quite simple.
While Texas law mandates that all counties have officeholders such as Judges, Tax-Assessors and Sheriffs, District Judges and District Attorneys may represent more than one county. This tradition is a mostly antiquated occurrence in today’s day and age, being present mostly in tiny counties in unpopulated rural areas. Because ‘Districts’ could, ostensibly, encompass multiple counties, the Governor needed to be the supreme arbiter when vacancies occurred mid-term.
The astute may remember that this is the second District Attorney vacancy we have had in five years. In 2008, District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal resigned after racist emails he penned came to light. In this case, however, the resignation took place only a few months before his normally scheduled re-election. In that case, a sprinted Republican primary arose between Kelly Siegler, the more Rosenthalesque, and Pat Lykos, the more pragmatic. Lykos ultimately prevailed over both Siegler and C.O. Bradford, the Democratic nominee.
However, in the 2008 case, Perry passed over the first assistant, Bert Graham, in favor of another choice. Instead, Perry selected a well-respected Federal prosecutor, Kenneth Magidson, as the new District Attorney. Although Magidson is a Republican, he is mostly apolitical. So apolitical, in fact, that President Obama nominated him as an United States Attorney.
Accordingly, all bets are off as to who Perry will choose. Of course, the 2008 Rick Perry is much different than the 2013 Rick Perry.