After every election, Bill Maher typically does a segment where he presents a tongue-in-cheek “in memoriam” video as a tribute to all those most outlandish personalities who lost in their elections. Thus, to quote the words of Richard Nixon, we won’t have them to kick around anymore.
Just to sum up the results for those of y’all who have not been paying much attention to things, I will recap some of the big things that have happened. First, the expected winners were, by and large, the winners on Tuesday night in Statewide elections. Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis won their respective bids for Governor, John Cornyn easily beat back challengers for another nomination to the Senate, George P. Bush got the GOP nod for Land Commissioner and Stephen Brown got the Democrat nod for Railroad Commissioner. All three incumbent Supreme Court Justices who saw right-wing primary opponent were able to easily prevail.
In a few other races, the expected result happened, but in a very different manner. This was largely due to the fact that the Texas Tribune poll released about a week ago was total garbage. It was not worth the fictional paper it wasn’t printed on, to quote a friend. In these races, David Alameel and Kesha Rogers indeed will proceed into a runoff for the US Senate Democrat primary, as will David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick for the Lieutenant Governor Republican primary. However, the Tribune poll seriously miscalculated who would come in first and by how much. Instead of Rogers holding a commanding plurality lead, she hovered near 20% while Alameel was just a few perilous points so close to winning outright. Instead of the preconceived notion that Dewhurst would receive 40-something percent compared to Patrick’s 20-something, the roles were reversed.
Longtime readers of this blog will recall that I am not much for predictions. Well, to be fair, I used to predict things all the time, but I was notoriously wrong too many times to count. Accordingly, in an effort to save face, I will not field my own electoral predictions, which are only slightly less reliable than the Tribune polls.
Rather, I want to note what I am looking for and what I am hoping for; admittedly, they are nearly mutual exclusive categories. Within those categories, I would like to look most specifically at both the Republican & Democratic primaries, as well as both Statewide races and those in Harris County. Within these four categories, there are quite a few overlapping key points, however.
1. HOW BIG IS THE STUPID VOTE?
This is one for the Democratic primary. I am using the official academic term, of course, to describe these so-called stupid voters. They are the voters who will cast their lots for Kesha Rogers (US Senate), Lloyd Wayne Oliver (District Attorney) and Lori Gray (115th District Court), in that order. Albeit, plenty of otherwise unintelligent voters may coincidentally vote for the non-egregious candidates, but there is no way to discern them from Adam.
The election for Harris County District Attorney being held this fall should not be happening. Indeed, we just had an election for the post in 2012, wherein longtime prosecutor and Judge Mike Anderson, a Republican, was elected. Sadly, a few months later, Mike Anderson passed away after a battle with cancer. Governor Rick Perry, charged with filling vacancies in District offices, tapped Mike Anderson’s widow, Devon Anderson (another longtime prosecutor and Judge), as a successor to serve until the next election. She is running in this special election, and has not drawn any challengers in the Republican primary. The Democratic primary, however, has attracted two candidates. One, Kim Ogg, is a highly qualified and serious candidate with a great platform. The other is none of those things.
The daughter of longtime State Senator Jack Ogg, Kim Ogg is a former felony prosecutor who later became the executive director of CrimeStoppers. In that position, she presided over a drastic reduction in gang-related violence throughout the County. Ogg also has an impressive platform that has wowed us. From giving individual prosecutors more discretion to reversing the office’s asinine “trace-case” policy (in which individuals with trace amounts of cocaine are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law), she has demonstrated her competence on the campaign trail.
After the incumbent District Attorney, Mike Anderson, passed away this last August, Harris County began preparing for a Special Election in November 2014 to fill the remaining two years of his term. In the interim, Mike Anderson’s widow, Devon Anderson (hereafter, “Anderson”), was appointed by Governor Perry to fill the vacancy.
Anderson, a former Judge, will be running for re-election, though one should probably expect a challenger in the Republican primary. Meanwhile, the Democrats already have a good candidate announced: Kim Ogg. She is from a prolific political family, has extended expertise in both law & criminal justice (former director of Crime Stoppers) and will make a great candidate who stands a good chance of winning the election. Contrary to public opinion, the DA should not simply be the high executioner who shows no mercy, it is a position about justice and equity. In other words, perfect for a progressive person such as Ogg.
But these are the Democrats we are talking about, which naturally means adding a tablespoon of incompetence. Since we are talking about the Harris County Democrats in specific, probably two tablespoons to be safe. And I do not mean the leadership of the County Party, I mean the people who show up and vote in the primaries.
I voted for Mike Anderson. It pained me, and my father threatened to stop talking to me because of it, but I could not bear the thought of someone like Lloyd Wayne Oliver becoming DA, even more than I could not bear the thought of someone like Anderson becoming DA.
I expected most of my (Democratic/Liberal) friends & colleagues to come to a similar decision, albeit as painfully as I did. However, while most did, in fact, vote for the Republican candidate, the rationale was absolutely appalling. Far too many of my contemporaries, who otherwise vote liberally, have been duped into this folly of believing a District Attorney is about exacting punishment and revenge, and therefore it is perfect for the GOP. The DA is not about punishment, it is about equity and fairness.
In England, there once existed an institution named the Court of Chancery. Its main purpose was to be an equitable companion to the aloofness and harshness of Common Law. While the Court of Chancery did not, per se, deal with much of the same material as a District Attorney would deal with, the concept was still, in my opinion, pretty much the same.
Great Britain, once upon a time used these equitable remedies to straighten out the de facto injustices caused by their legal system, both in criminal and civil cases. Today, in the United States, we have things like punitive damages and (with the exception of moron Texas) no loser-pay laws in litigation, meaning the courthouse doors are open to everyone. Finally, we have the modern District Attorney.
Again, I am familiar with the history of the law, and know that the District Attorney, in its modern day prosecutorial role, is not intended to be an equitable figure, but that is what has occurred. I realize, in many ways, the prime function of the DA is to persuade juries to the side of the State, but that does not mean the DA is a figure of the vigilante mobs, elected on promises of exacting retaliation “for the victims” or “for justice“. Rather, like just about everything else in our common law system, the position is about the accused, and not the attacked.
The District Attorney, in its modern embodiment, is invaluable in cuing plea deals, and deciding exactly which course of action to take on a case. Thus, the idea of “prosecutorial discretion.” For example, even though a [first time] DWI is considered a Class B Misdemeanor in Texas, and the punishment is 180 days in jail, many defendants can get off without doing any jail time, and some can even see their records expunged after the completion of a pseudo-probationary program (the DIVERT program, a creation of Ms. Lykos).
The DA, in this capacity, is the arbiter of equity. The law is cold, black & white, and aloof. But the DA, who is human, should be warm, grey, and involved. If extenuating circumstances are involved, the penalty will often be mitigated. This is why a lunatic who murders a police officer, and a woman who strangles her abusive husband in his sleep, are not charged with the same crime, even though it may seem the law would warrant such action. It is the same reason Jean Valjean’s petty larceny does not warrant the same penalty as post-Hurricane electronic store looters.
Therefore, my heart cries when I find my otherwise-liberal friends talking about how they want a “hard on crime”, “law & order” DA, but will stick with Democratic Judges. In fact, it is this type of cross-ticket voting that kept Bradford out of the office to begin with. The DA is not, and most definitely should not, be a bully pulpit for modern day public punishment. It should be the keepers of equity in an otherwise inequitable system. One in which first time offenders may be channeled into probationary programs instead of being locked up like hardened criminals, in which drug addicts may be treated for their disease, rather than punished for their infraction.
Politicians should be the true retaliatory figures, and the true “law and order” types. For they are the ones who write the laws. If the public truly wishes for blood, than the legislatures would be the ones to stiffen the penalties. As the keepers of the grey in a black & white world, the DA should not be seen as the inquisitor.
Yes, I voted for Anderson, but if given another option, I wouldn’t have. For the DA is not about punishment, it is about protection.
The Chronicle is reporting on what may very well be the only Harris County poll of the election cycle. Let us look:
Barack Obama (D)–46%
Mitt Romney (R)–41%
Gary Johnson (L)–2%
Jill Stein (G)–1%
Paul Sadler (D)–44%
Ted Cruz (R)–42%
Adrian Garcia (D)–51%
Louis Guthrie (R)–32%
Remington Alessi (G)–2%
Mike Anderson (R)–41%
Lloyd Oliver (D)–36%
This is a pretty useless poll because it does not accurate state how much influence those who vote for the President will have upon downballot races. Obviously, the top two spots will be won by the Democrat, but it gets a little tricky down the ballot. The Sheriff and District Attorney elections are the two elections that are infamous this cycle for split-ticket voting, so they tell us absolutely nothing about how the other countywide elections, or judicial elections, will go.
A poll on the County Attorney race, which does not look feasible at this time, would give us exponentially more data to work with.