Remember, you can vote at any polling location during Early Voting, but on Election Day (Tuesday, March 1st), you can only vote at your designated polling spot.
There aren't too many contested primaries in the Criminal Justice elections this year. I'm going to break them down by Party, although I covered all of the races earlier in this post. I won't be mentioning the non-contested races.
County Attorney -- yeah, I know that the County Attorney isn't really part of CJC life, but since Jim Leitner is running, I've got to talk about it. Leitner is facing off against Chris Carmona. Leitner has been touting his experience as 1st Assistant under Pat Lykos at the D.A.'s Office, but he's neglecting to mention how widely disliked and distrusted he was in that position by those he supervised. He also apparently neglected to mention how he's not really all of that strong of a Republican -- having worked for Democratic Sheriff Adrian Garcia (before being terminated by Republican Sheriff Ron Hickman) and supporting Democrat Kim Ogg's campaign for D.A.
178th District Court--four candidates are running on the Republican side: Xavier Alfaro, Phillip Gommels, Nile Copeland and Bash Sharma. Really, only Alfaro or Gommels should be considered. Copeland appears to be a Lloyd Oliver in training, as he tends to hop between Democratic and Republican primaries, and position to position. Copeland also does not seem to practice any criminal law. I'm not real sure who Bash Sharma is. His name and face are not familiar so he must not do an overabundance of criminal practice.
Both Alfaro and Gommels practice exclusively criminal and both are qualified for the job. Alfaro is generally well known and has been around longer than Gommels. He has the edge when it comes to experience.
Recommendation: Xavier Alfaro
339th District Court--two Republican candidates are vying to challenge Democratic Incumbent Judge Maria T. Jackson in November: Assistant District Attorney Mary McFaden and defense attorney Antonio Benavides. Both have been licensed approximately the same amount of time, but Mary has been a prosecutor and exclusively handling criminal law her career, while Benavides seems to cover many different aspects of law. Mary is also a chief prosecutor which gives her the edge on experience.
Recommendation: Mary McFaden
Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 2 -- 232nd District Court Judge Mary Lou Keel is running for the Court of Criminal Appeals. She has two opponents, and quite honestly, I'm not even familiar with their names. I do know Judge Keel, though. I've tried cases in front of her as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney. She defines being fair and "by-the-book." Her knowledge of the law and her unbiased application of it make her an excellent candidate for any judicial bench. I'd hate to lose her in Harris County, but she would be outstanding at the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Vote for Judge Keel and get the word out to your friends in other counties to vote for her.
Recommendation: Judge Mary Lou Keel
Harris County District Attorney -- Former Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Justice Morris Overstreet is running against Kim Ogg. Oh yeah, and of course, Leaping Lloyd Oliver. Based on his past experience and positive campaign message, I would recommend Overstreet over Ogg. Ogg, who ran for District Attorney in 2014 has had some troubling issues in her campaign and her legal practice that concern me. Kim seems to adopt that Pat Lykos-style of campaigning of jumping on and supporting every bandwagon that she believes plays to her political advantage, regardless of the legality of that bandwagon. Although pandering has become an expected activity in political campaigns, promises of prosecutions to get votes is a scary trait that she exhibits often on the campaign trail.
Recommendation: Morris Overstreet
174th District Court -- current Democrat, Judge Ruben Guerrero is not running for re-election and three candidates are running to replace him on the Dem side: Garland McInnis, former-Judge Hazel Jones, and Raul Rodriguez. Jones lost her bench in 2012 after serving only one term. Her reputation on the bench wasn't extremely bad, but it wasn't very good, either. She had strange policies on attorneys working out of court hours on their clients' cases and her knowledge of the law wasn't considered to be strong. I've known Garland McInnis for a long time now. He is smart and would make a good judge, but he has been out of the criminal law loop for awhile now while working at the County Attorney's Office. Raul Rodriguez has maintained a steady criminal law practice for as long as I can remember and I believe that experience with criminal law is what matters.
Recommendation: Raul Rodriguez
176th District Court -- former 176th judge Shawna Reagin is running to retake the bench she lost in 2012. She's running against Niki Harmon, a municipal court judge. Although Reagin was a controversial on the bench for her demeanor, I never had a personal problem with her and generally found her to be a good judge. She is most definitely qualified and has vastly more experience with felony cases than her opponent.
Recommendation: Shawna Reagin
177th District Court -- two candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination to
Recommendation: David Singer
178th District Court -- with sitting Democratic Judge David Mendoza not running for re-election, Assistant District Attorney Kelli Johnson is running against Democrat Lori Gray, As I've said before, I'm biased because Kelli is a friend, but her experience speaks for itself. She's been a prosecutor practicing exclusively criminal law since 1999. She would make a fantastic judge.
Recommendation: Kelli Johnson
179th District Court -- former-Judge Randy Roll is running to retake the bench that he lost in 2012 after serving for one term. His opponent is Assistant District Attorney Stephen Aslett. It is very telling that Aslett got the Houston Chronicle's nomination over the former judge, and I've had some serious questions about the validity of some of Roll's campaign claims about his judicial record. Roll was known for being a little over-aggressive in encouraging plea bargains in his court during his time on the bench, which raised eyebrows from both the defense and the prosecution. Aslett, on the other hand, seems to have the right mentality for running.
Recommendation: Stephen Aslett
351st District Court -- defense attorneys Greg Glass and George Powell will be facing off in the Democratic Primary to see who will be taking on longtime Judge Mark Kent Ellis. I know both Greg and George and consider them both friends. They are both equally qualified to be judge in my opinion.
Recommendation: Both choices are good
That may be the shortest write up I've ever done in the primaries, but that's probably a good thing. I'm looking forward to the fields for November getting settled. I think that whoever ends up as the Republican nominee will pretty much decide what happens here in November.
Now Go Vote!!!!