Sunday, September 17, 2017

The 2018 Election Field (So Far) [Updated-9/27/17]

[Note:  This list is very lengthy and subject to modification.  My intent is to write in more detail about individual races between now and the primary elections next year.  I welcome and encourage comments on the candidates with the knowledge that some comments will be kind while others won't be.  Criticisms are fair.  Below the belt insults aren't and they won't be published.]


With this week's announcement from the Governor's Office that Judge Kristin Guiney had been appointed to the long vacant 232nd District Court Bench, a much clearer picture of the 2018 courthouse races came into view.  I've been wanting to write about the upcoming election for a couple of months now, but the landscape has been shifting (especially on the Democratic side of the ballot).

The 2018 election is going to be interesting, because there is a very significant number of judges who have elected to retire rather than seek re-election.  Of the thirteen Criminal District Courts on the ballot in November 2018, five of the current judges are retiring.  Judges Jeanine Barr, Jan Krocker, Susan Brown, Denise Bradley, and Jim Wallace are not seeking re-election.  Of the fifteen (out of sixteen) County Courts  on the ballot, five are retiring.  Judges Margaret Harris, Larry Standley, Robin Brown, Don Smyth, and Jean Spradling are not running again.

I would venture a guess that 2018 will be a sweep of some sort.  In recent history, the Gubernatorial (or "non-Presidential") election years have favored the Republicans.   The enthusiasm that swept Dems into office with Obama in 2008 wasn't present for them in 2010 or 2014, leading to Republican sweeps.  But the anti-Trump sentiment in Harris County was huge in 2016 and the Democratic sweep in Harris County was marked by very large margins of victory.  I'm genuinely curious to see how much influence that anti-Trump sentiment will have in 2018. 

As of this writing (which is admittedly very early on), Republican Governor Greg Abbott has no clear Democratic challenger yet.  Additionally, Republican Harris County Judge Ed Emmett's popularity remains strong (especially in the wake of his handling of Hurricane Harvey).  These two at the top of the ballot are tremendous boosts to the Republican Judges down-ballot  The biggest factor will be how actively President Trump is infuriating Democrats and how much that translates into voter turnout.

That's just my amateur prediction for the 2018 Election.  If you want a much better, credible, and reasoned analysis, I (as always) strongly encourage you to check in with my friend, Charles Kuffner at Off the Kuff.

With all of that being said, let's look at the races as they currently stand.  For purposes of this post, I'm keeping the information about the candidates to a minimum.  We've got lots of time to talk about them in the days to come.

The 180th District Court
The race for the 180th District Court features incumbent Republican Judge Catherine Evans against Democratic challenger DaSean Jones.  Judge Evans has been on the bench since October of 2013 and had previously served as a long-time Assistant District Attorney in Harris County.  DaSean Jones is a local attorney who practices in several different fields and he is also an Army veteran.

The 182nd District Court
With the retirement of Judge Jeanine Barr, Republican Jesse McClure has announced his candidacy.  Jesse is a prosecutor for the Texas Department of Insurance, currently on assignment to the Harris County District Attorney's Office.  Jesse's Democratic opponent is Danilo "Danny" Lacayo.  Danny is a former-Harris County prosecutor and currently works for the Harris County Public Defenders Office.

The 183rd District Court
Incumbent Republican Judge Vanessa Velasquez is seeking re-election and faces Democratic challenger Chuck Silverman.  Judge Velasquez is a former Harris County Prosecutor who has been on the bench since 2005.  If I recall correctly, this is the first time she's drawn a challenger in recent memory.  That challenger, Chuck Silverman, is an attorney who does not practice criminal law.  I can't find a page for his campaign, but it appears that he routinely runs for both civil and criminal benches.

The 184th District Court
Longtime Republican Judge Jan Krocker has announced that she is not running again.  Former 337th Judge and former prosecutor, Renee Magee is running as the Republican candidate.  Renee worked for the Harris County D.A.'s Office for many years before being elected judge in 2012.  She was a victim of the 2016 Democratic sweep, and I'm not sure what she has been doing since leaving the bench.  The Democratic candidate is defense attorney Abigail Anastasio.  Abigail is a former prosecutor and current defense attorney.

The 185th District Court
Longtime Republican Judge Susan Brown also is retiring from her Bench next year.  Former 176th Judge, former prosecutor and current defense attorney, Stacey Bond is running as a Republican for the Bench.  Her Democratic opponent is former prosecutor and current criminal defense attorney, Jason Luong.  

The 208th District Court [Updated 9/22/17]
Incumbent Republican Judge Denise Collins is seeking re-election to the 208th District Court.  Judge Collins has served on the Bench since 1992.  Her Democratic challenger is an attorney named Anthony Troiani, who I have never heard of.  The only information that I can find on him is that he is a personal injury attorney out of Brownsville.  I'm not sure exactly how or why he is running for a Harris County Criminal bench.  In an update and a switch, it is my understanding that Democratic candidate Steven Goins has moved to from the contested race in the 232nd to run for the 208th and that Anthony Troiani is no longer seeking a bench in Harris County.

The 209th District Court
Harris County's longest serving Criminal District Court Judge is Republican incumbent Michael McSpadden.  Judge McSpadden has ben on the bench since 1982 and was a Harris County prosecutor prior to that.  The Democratic opponent is former prosecutor and current defense attorney Brian Warren.

The 228th District Court
Republican Incumbent Judge Marc Carter is running for re-election to the 228th District Court, where he has served since 2003.  In addition to being a retired officer in from the United States Army, he is also a former prosecutor and defense attorney.  The Democratic candidate is Woodrow Dixon, a longtime defense attorney.

The 230th District Court
Republican Incumbent Judge Brad Hart is running for re-election to the court where he has served since 2013.  He is a former longtime Harris County prosecutor.  His Democratic opponent is former-prosecutor and current defense attorney, Chris Morton.

The 232nd District Court [Updated 9/22/17]
Newly appointed Republican Judge Kristin Guiney arrives just in time to campaign for the upcoming election.  Judge Guiney is a former-prosecutor and defense attorney, who also previously served as Judge of the 179th District Court.  As of this writing, the Democrats have a contested race.  Former prosecutor and current defense attorney Josh Hill is running against defense attorney Steven Goins is now running unopposed for the Democratic nomination and Steven Goins has switched to the 208th District Court race.

248th District Court
Republican Incumbent Judge Katherine Cabaniss will be running for re-election for the bench that she has held since 2013.  Her opponent is Hilary Unger, a criminal defense attorney who also handles juvenile cases.

262nd District Court
I was caught off guard when I heard that Republican Judge Denise Bradley wasn't seeking re-election.  Retired prosecutor and current defense attorney Tammy Thomas is running as the Republican candidate.  Her Democratic opponent is Defense Attorney Lori Gray.

263rd District Court [Updated 9/22/17]
With longtime Republican Judge Jim Wallace deciding not to run again, former prosecutor and current defense attorney Justin Keiter will be running against former prosecutor and current defense attorney Emily (Munoz) Detoto. [Update] I now have it on reliable information that defense attorney Charles Johnson is also running for the 263rd Republican nomination.  Whoever wins will face Democratic opponent Amy Martin who is also a Houston-area defense attorney.

313th District Court (Juvenile)
Incumbent Republican Judge Glenn Devlin is running for re-election.  He has held his bench since 2010.  The Democratic race for this bench is contested with attorneys Natalia Oakes and Tracy Good both seeking the nomination.  Because I don't practice much juvenile law, I don't know anything about either of the Democratic candidates.  I could not find a website or Facebook page for Good, but I believe he ran for this bench in 2014, as well.

314th District Court (Juvenile)
Incumbent Republican Judge John Phillips is running for re-election to a bench that he has held since 2002.  His Democratic opponent is attorney Michelle Moore.  I don't know Ms. Moore, but, again, I believe that is attributable to me not practicing much juvenile law.  I have been told that she is a Chief Prosecutor with the Harris County Attorney's Office.

315th District Court (Juvenile)
Incumbent Republican Judge Mike Schneider is running for re-election for a bench that he has held since 2006.  His opponent is former prosecutor and current attorney with the Harris County Public Defenders' Office, Leah Shapiro.

Moving to the Misdemeanor side of things . . .

County Court at Law # 1
Incumbent Republican Judge Paula Goodhart is seeking re-election to the bench that she has held since 2010.  Prior to becoming a judge, she was a long-time prosecutor and defense attorney.  Her Democratic opponent is Alex Salgado, who is currently a narcotics prosecutor at the Ft. Bend District Attorney's Office.

County Court at Law # 2  [Updated 9/19/17]
Incumbent Republican Judge Bill Harmon is seeking re-election to the bench that he has held since 2007, but he will face a challenge in the Republican primary from defense attorney Lori Botello.  Prior to moving to County Court, he presided over the 178th District Court from 1984-2006.  He also served as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney.  His Democratic opponent is Harold Landreneau, who is a defense attorney and former head clerk for Justice of the Peace Dale Gorczynski.

County Court at Law # 3
Incumbent Republican Judge Natalie Flemming is seeking re-election to the bench that she has held since being originally elected in 2010.  I'm not familiar with her Democratic opponent, Erica Hughes, but it appears that she is a personal injury attorney who practices in Prairie View.

County Court at Law # 4 
Incumbent Republican Judge John Clinton is running for re-election to the bench that he has held since being elected in 2010.  Prior to taking the bench, he was an attorney and long-time police officer with the Houston Police Department.  His Democratic opponent is Shannon Baldwin, who is a long-time defense attorney practicing in Harris County.

County Court at Law # 5 [Updated 9/27/17]
With incumbent Republican Judge Margaret Harris not seeking re-election, there is a contested race for the Republican nomination for both Parties in Court Five.  Former prosecutor and current defense attorney Xavier Alfaro and Felony Chief Prosecutor Aaron Burdette are competing for the Republican nomination.  Long-time defense attorney David Fleischer and defense attorney Armen Merjanianon are running against each other on the Democratic side.

County Court at Law # 6
Longtime incumbent Republican Judge Larry Standley has chosen not to seek re-election in 2018.  The Republican candidate is former County Court at Law # 16 Judge Linda Garcia.  Linda is also a former prosecutor and member of the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole.  Her Democratic opponent is long-time defense attorney KelleyAndrews.

County Court at Law # 7 
Incumbent Republican Judge Pam Derbyshire is seeking re-election to the bench that she has held since being elected in 1998.  There is a contested race on the Democratic side. Defense attorney Andrew Wright is running against someone named Frank Pierce.  I'm not familiar with Pierce personally, but I believe he is the same candidate profiled in this website on Ballotpedia.  I'm not sure how up-to-date that website is, but at the time of its writing, it said he was an adjunct professor at South Texas and an associate judge for the 2nd Administrative Judicial Bench.  That website also said he ran for a civil bench in 2012 as a Republican.

County Court at Law # 8
Incumbent Republican Judge Jay Karahan is seeking re-election to the bench that he has held since being elected in 2002.  Before becoming a judge, he was a prosecutor, a defense attorney, and also worked in the civil arena. His Democratic opponent is defense attorney Franklin Bynum.

County Court at Law # 9
Incumbent Republican Judge Analia Wilkerson is seeking re-election to the bench that she has held since first being elected in 1994.  Her Democratic opponent is former prosecutor and current defense attorney Toria Finch.

County Court at Law # 10
Incumbent Republican Judge Dan Spjut is seeking re-election to his second term as Judge of County Court at Law # 10.  He is a former police officer.  His opponent is Lee Wilson.  I'm not sure who Lee Wilson is, although I've done a fairly intensive Facebook and internet search.

County Court at Law # 11
Incumbent Republican Judge Diane Bull is seeking re-election to a bench that she has held since being first elected in 1994.  She is also a former prosecutor.  Her opponent is long-time criminal defense attorney, Gus Saper.

County Court at Law # 12
With the retirement of Republican Judge Robin Brown, the Republican candidate for County Court at Law # 12 is retired Houston Police and attorney Officer John Spjut.  There is a contested race for the Democratic nomination between former prosecutor and current defense attorney Juan Aguirre and defense attorney Cassandra Hollemon.

County Court at Law # 13
With the retirement of Republican Judge Don Smyth, there is a contested race for the Republican nomination for County Court at Law # 13.  Former prosecutor and current defense attorney Jessica Padilla will be running against defense attorney Stephen Touchstone.  The winner of the primary will face off against Democratic candidate and longtime defense attorney Raul Rodriguez.

County Court at Law # 14
Incumbent Republican Judge Mike Fields will be running for re-election to the bench he has held since first being elected in 1998.  Additionally, he is a former prosecutor.  He is running against longtime defense attorney David Singer.  Singer ran against Fields unsuccessfully in 2014.

County Court at Law # 15
With the announcement from Republican Jean Hughes that she is not seeking re-election, there is currently not a formal announcement of candidacy from a Republican representative (to my knowledge), although my understanding is that former Judge Roger Bridgwater is going to run.  Whoever the actual candidate ends up being, he or she will be facing off against defense attorney Kris Ougrah.

So, that is a list of everyone in the criminal courts.  As you can see, there are a lot of great candidates.  I've got a lot of good friends running against each other, so I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to handle that.  In the meantime, here's the list.  I'll modify it and add links to it as things change.  Anything I missed or got incorrect was an honest mistake.  Let me know and I'll correct it.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

I believe John Wakefield is running as a republican for CCCL 6?

Murray Newman said...

Wakefield is running for a bench. I forgot which one. I'll check with him and modify it.

Also, I've had several other folks tell me that they've heard other people are running for other positions. Some of the people they've mentioned specifically told me that they weren't fully committed yet so I haven't added them.

Anonymous said...

I believe Andrew (I need a haircut ) Wright is running for court 6.

TriggerMortis said...

I fear its going to be the most lopsided and bloody elections we've ever witnessed in this country. People who haven't voted before and those who haven't voted regularly will turn out in record numbers to vote against Trump and the republican agenda. Republicans all across the nation are retiring or are not seeking re-election because they see the writing on the wall. And Lord help us if Mueller's investigation produces indictments, that could cripple the republican party to the point of no return.

Eric J. Davis said...

Lee Wilson is Board Certified in Criminal Law. He is a very knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who practices all types of criminal law (Federal, appellate, writs, DWI, etc.). He use to office with Carols Garcia (the juvenile magistrate). He has one of the best dispositions I have ever seen. When I was starting my criminal defense practice, Lee Wilson was one of my "go to" people to ask questions in criminal cases. He always had time to answer questions for me.

Damon said...

I am announcing my candidacy for the one ring to rule them all.

Damon said...

I am announcing my candidacy for the one ring to rule them all.

Anonymous said...

Does McSpadden even sit on his bench anymore?

Anonymous said...

Justin Keiter.

Really?

Well, I guess Judge Wallace and his stellar personality does need a replacement, so there is that.

#NeverKeiter

Anonymous said...

I hate to see some judges lose a job but there are certain coordinators that need to go.

Anonymous said...

Can you update these posts with the approximate length these current and former prosecutors served at the DA's office? I'm sure there are a fair share of those who served for 10 more years, as well as those who didn't even make it to their 3 year commitment. I know time at the DA Office is not the only qualifications measuring stick, but it's a good start.

Anonymous said...

Keiter would be great

Anonymous said...

Keiter, stop posting anonymously!!!!

Anonymous said...

if anyone knew Justin Keiter or what an asshole he is, he'd never be elected. Keiter would have black robe syndrome from day 1.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure Juan Aguirre is running as a Dem ?

Lee Wilson has run many times before.......



Anonymous said...

I just checked and you are right, Juan is running as a Dem and I am surprised.


Anonymous said...

How has Keiter been able to get 200 felony appointments since Jan. 1 while some of us are lucky to get one a month?