Laziness heralded the day for the Texas Democrats shooting themselves in the foot at the close of the filing deadline, but it is unbridled stupidity carrying the banner for the Harris County Democrats next year. Again, not from the leadership, but from the average people. I will post a full list at the bottom of the post, but would like to talk about a few things first.
There will be six Court of Appeals slots up for election to a 6 year term, between the seats on the 14th Court of Appeals and the 1st Court of Appeals. These elections were remarkably close in 2008, meaning that changing demographics should probably make them just as competitive –if not more– in 2014. But will they be competitive? No. Because the Democrats, once again, were too LAZY to contest half of the slots. One candidate, Jim Sharp, actually won in 2008. He will be running for re-election, and Kyle Carter, a good District Judge, will run for another post. These two men will be great candidates! Another candidate, Gordon Goodman, has filed but I do not have any info on him yet, nor do any of my attorney sources have information on him.
When it comes to District Courts in Harris County, there are a full 36 posts up for election, between Civil, Criminal, Family and Juvenile courts. In 2010, every single one of these posts had a Democratic candidate, and as I recall most every candidate was well qualified and overall competent. Only 27 of these will be contested by the Democrats this time around, including four races where Democrats will be fighting one another instead of the incumbent Republican judges.
The same thing goes for County Courts. With 23 posts up for election, between Civil, Criminal and Probate courts, Democrats only bothered to contest 17 of them. Once again, one of these races features a competitive primary and all of them were contested in 2010. The Democrats, by their unmitigated laziness, allowed 15 Republican Judges to cruise to re-election without opponents. That number should have at most been ten, but it really should have been zero.
Also of note is that the Democrats could not attract a single candidate for Harris County Commissioner Precinct 2, a very winnable race. Though, to be fair, Big Jolly Politics notes that a Democrat-in-all-but-name will be running for the post as a Republican: Glorice McPherson. She ran against Steve Radack for Commissioner Precinct 3 last year, and has evidently moved in the meantime. I do not really approve of any of the Republicans, save Emmett, on the Commissioners’ Court, so McPherson is better than nobody–even though I’m not especially a big fan.
Additionally, the only candidate seen in the race for County Judge is a political novice who often runs for office as a Republican, Ahmad Hassan (think of him like Lloyd Wayne Oliver). Luckily, most of the 44 Judicial candidates we do have are very well-qualified attorneys, with a good number of repeat candidates and former Judges.
But the question, of course, is begged: how did we let this political travesty of uncontested races happen? Surely it was not the County leadership’s fault. There are A LOT of judicial posts, and it is naive to think a rather small office on a shoestring budget will have the capacity to carry the load. And from personal experience, I know that the leadership tried their best to avoid competitive primaries to the detriment of open seats. The astute will remember that my father, James Horwitz, is running for County Probate Judge #4 (he did not draw an opponent). I personally know that the county leadership deterred at least one other candidate away from the post and towards one with no candidates at the time. If a candidate chooses to go ahead despite the party’s recommendations, it is surely not the party’s fault.
So who’s fault is it? When it comes to the competitive primaries, it is the individual candidates’ fault, either for being incompetent or mean-spirited. In the former example, I would reckon there are some candidates who did not communicate with anyone in the county office as they were preparing their petitions, only to find out there were other candidates when they filed. In the latter example, I imagine there was some animus in play, specifically to deny former Judge Steven Kirkland a fair shot at winning the primary. Kirkland, many will recall, is an openly gay man who was elected to a District Judge bench in 2008, but lost the primary for renomination in 2012 after being challenged by Elaine Palmer, who engaged in a disgustingly homophobic and borderline slanderous campaign. I don’t know what the intentions are of Kirkland’s opponent, Lori Gray, but it is something to keep in mind.
The other group to blame is the Harris County Democrats, you and me. By and large, we were all too lazy to put our money our mouths are. When push came to shove, far too many would-be-politicos did nothing. For my part, there is already a Horwitz running for office (for the second year in a row, no less), and if I were an attorney of a few years, there might have been two.
If the Democratic base is too lazy to contribute a mere 59 Judicial candidates in a county of over 4 Million, I have serious fears about how many people will be motivated enough to get off their ass and vote next November. Of course, it isn’t just voting, but being competent enough to finish the ballot. While the first countywide Democratic Judge on the ballot in 2012 received over 51%, the votes for Democrats steadily declined as one went down the ballot. No doubt, because these worthless losers that had shown up to vote for Obama (and hadn’t voted in the previous four years) could not be bothered to spend 45 more seconds clicking a few buttons. Every succeeding race on the ballot saw Democrats receive about 0.1% less of the vote, until the Republicans started winning by just a few hundred votes halfway down the ballot. Good judges like Herb Ritchie and Josephina Rendon were defeated. Accordingly, it is imperative that Wendy Davis win Harris County with at least 53% of the vote in order for Democratic victory to hold all the way to the end.