Texpatriate endorses for County Clerk

Every election night, the members of this board gather around our computer screens and begin clicking refresh every few seconds, for hours on end. We got to the website of the County Clerk, who first publishes local election results every time residents of Harris County go to the polls. Given that, with the exception of absentee and provisional ballots (which are not counted on election night anyways), the entire county votes on electronic ballots, and have been for many years, counting the votes should be relatively simple. But the office of the County Clerk, Stan Stanart, somehow takes its sweet time. Hours and hours later, those following online will surely be familiar with hasthag of “#FireStanStanart,” for the apparently general failure of duties.

It’s a cute slogan, but we would be awfully superficial to demand voters break from an incumbent because you don’t get election results for a few more hours. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident of ineptitude in office. While it is true that many of the county’s records have been updated and the electronic filing has now become the norm, this isn’t really because of any bright maneuvering on the part of Stanart. A few orders of the Texas Supreme Court’s Chief Justice have actually been needed to move Harris County into the 21st century, and even these transitions have been handled poorly.

But the County Clerk isn’t just about overseeing filings; as the first paragraph would suggest, he also serves as the Elections Administrator for the county. This board believes that such a position should be appointed and non-partisan, but as long as it isn’t, it should be served by someone at least willing to play a neutral part. Simply put, Stanart is not that person. He has possibly unethically blurred the lines between office and politics on numerous occasions. Most recently, he sent out a mailer, reiterating his role as Elections Administrator, urging constituents to vote the Republican slate. Over the summer, he showed up in a prominent role at rallies opposing things such as non-discrimination for gays and lesbians, which have nothing to do with his job.

Stanart’s Democratic opponent, Ann Bennett, is a good fit for the position. Though she has run for a plethora of positions in the past, she has more than 14 years experience as a Court Coordinator at the county level. Obviously, she is more than capable of working through the intricate ins-and-outs of the role.

Others have derided Bennett’s alleged lack of specifics in how she would rectify Stanart’s wrongs. We are simply flabbergassed that anyone could be so vacuous as to make such an asinine claim. Merely not committing possibly unethical behavior or engaging in general ineptitude would be a welcome shift, in and of itself. But Bennett would do more. Not looking at just climbing the political ropes, she would have the familiarity needed for a County Clerk, in order to oversee any changes needed for the department in coming years.

Accordingly, this board endorses Ann Bennett for County Clerk.

The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz & Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey of Boston, Luis Fayad of College Station and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials represent a majority of the voting board.

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The Pratt saga goes on…

The Houston Chronicle reports that the saga involving now-former Family District Judge Denise Pratt may continue for some time, despite her recent resignation. As both Kiah Collier (who generally writes all pertinent Chronicle articles on this topic) and myself have previously noted, Pratt resigned from office and announced she would immediately suspend her re-election efforts last Friday. In the March primary, Pratt garnered a bare plurality against four challengers, and advanced into a runoff with Alicia Franklin.

Among the many things Pratt has been accused of are meddling with court documents by backdating orders as well as unilaterally dismissing nearly a thousand pending cases with no just cause, in some cases allegedly in retaliation against her political enemies. Greg Enos, a Galveston county attorney and publisher of The Mongoose (Editorial note: Remember, Greg: TEXPATE ≠ GOP blog), has been behind at least three complaints against Pratt, which twice prompted the Harris County District Attorney’s office to investigate the former Judge. Possibly facing indictment last week, Pratt left office in shame. Jubilant, Republicans proclaimed that Franklin would be appointed by Perry to serve out the remainder of the term, win the primary and get re-elected come November (Pratt occupied a DISTRICT Court, meaning the Governor and not the County fills vacancies). The only problem with this is that Pratt has demonstrated she is not going softly into the night.

Click here to see why Pratt may still be in it!

Commissioners’ salaries go up

The Houston Chronicle reports that the Harris County Commissioners’ are discussing hiking the salaries of most county officials. The notable exceptions are the Judges with a local jurisdiction, whose salaries are tied to that of the District Judge, set by the State Legislature. Similarly tied is the salary of the County Judge.

However, the Constables, County Attorney, County Clerk, County Commissioners, County Treasurer, District Attorney, District Clerk, Sheriff and Tax Assessor-Collector will all receive modest increases in their salaries. When I say “modest,” I truly mean somewhat miniscule. For example, the County Commissioners accused of these nefariously dealing with regard to “voting themselves a raise” would simply see 11% hike, which would be near the top of the raises. Towards the low end, the District Clerk would only see his salary go up by little more than 5%.

Click here to read more!

Dear Mr. Stanart,

To the Honorable Harris County Clerk, Stan Stanart,

I am writing this open letter because I am perplexed as to why I have gotten no correspondence back on my application for an absentee ballot. On September 6th, the first day I was legally able to, I mailed my application to vote by mail, meticulously abiding by the standards of both your office and the Secretary of State. I sent the letter first class, certified postage and included a typed note asking to confirm receipt at my email address. It has nearly been two weeks, and I am beginning to worry. It is quite important to me that I get to vote, so it is imperative that someone from your office contact me as soon as possible to discuss why I have not received any correspondence.

Thank You,

N.M. Horwitz, resident of Harris County, Texas