Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The 2020 Democratic Primary Race for Harris County District Attorney

The two biggest local races on the Democratic Primary ballot are the races for Harris County District Attorney and Harris County Sheriff.  Although Sheriff Ed Gonzalez does have a couple of primary challengers, he's done a very good job during his first term and has managed to avoid any major controversy.  He's got my vote and I can't imagine this primary being too difficult for him to manage.

Obviously, the same cannot be said for incumbent District Attorney Kim Ogg, who has courted controversy at every turn, literally before she was even sworn into office.

I supported Ogg in 2016.   Although I didn't know her very well, I agreed with her platform on the future of prosecuting.  Employing the old adage that Judge Caprice Cosper once told me that "there are people in this business who you are mad at and people whom you are afraid of and it would behoove you to learn the difference," I felt that Ogg's beliefs more or less echoed this sentiment -- focus resources on going after violent offenders and start easing up on low-level, victimless offenses.  I believed in giving opportunities to those low-level offenders to keep their records clean so that a mistake early in life didn't cost them a future.  Although then-District Attorney Devon Anderson was a friend (and most of the prosecutors that I knew were happy to have her as their leader), I thought that her views on the Criminal Justice System were not in step with what they should have been.

So, back then, I voted for Ogg.

And it really, really pissed off a lot of my prosecutor friends.  There's one former friend that won't even speak to me after three years.  SPOILER ALERT:  I'm pretty sure Donald Trump candidacy had A WHOLE LOT more influence on Ogg's victory than my 2016 support of her did.

But, I digress.

While I liked what I was hearing from Kim Ogg's platform in 2016, what I failed to account for was Kim Ogg herself.  As I mentioned earlier, I knew her in passing and she had always been friendly.  She certainly didn't seem to be as cheerfully evil as former District Attorney Pat Lykos.  As someone who (along with eight of my coworkers) got fired by Lykos, I never thought that Ogg's political vindictiveness would be anywhere near  Lykosian levels.

Boy, I sure missed the mark on that one, didn't I?

Before even taking office, Ogg let roughly forty experienced prosecutors know that she would not be needing their services under her administration.  She found various and sundry reasons to justify her reasoning for the firings, but in the end, it pretty much came down to the fact that they were either a) perceived as being too loyal to Devon Anderson; or b) had pissed off a loyal Ogg crony.

Sadly, she was just giving a very stark preview of what was to come under her Administration.

For the past three years, the Ogg Administration has largely been governed by the principle of what is best for Kim Ogg, the individual.  From an absolute onslaught of self-serving press conferences (that more often than not turned out to be more puffing than prosecuting) to the shameless hiring of campaign workers "community outreach" specialists (like Clarence Bradford and Dwight Boykins) with Office funds, Ogg has been much more effective at promoting herself than she has been promoting Justice.  I'm not naive.  I get that this is part of being an elected official, but Ogg's use of Office resources to support her electability is gratuitous, shameless, and unseemly for the position.

On the flip side of the Ogg temper is what she's done to those who have crossed her.  One only has to look to last year's firings of Andrew Smith (who dared to stand up to her when she was feeling slightly . . . shall we say "perjurous?") and her own First Assistant, Tom Berg (who disagreed with her on a policy matter).  Both of these men were (and remain) respected attorneys with the highest of integrity, but they learned the hard way that disagreeing with Ogg makes a prosecutor per se a bad public servant in her book.

And let us not forget that her beef with the Houston Police Department (because HPOU President Joe Gamaldi had dared to criticize her publicly) led to her temporarily blocking the entire Houston Police Department's access to the Consolidated Criminal History Database.  Please let that sink in for a moment.  Kim Ogg got so mad at what the Police Union said about her that she blocked access to a computer database used for law enforcement.  There for awhile, I had more access to criminal records as a defense attorney than HPD. 

When I read the Houston Chronicle's endorsement of Ogg on Sunday, I literally laughed out loud when one of the first sentences described her as "stable."  Quite frankly, I can't think of a word that would describe her more inaccurately.  The Chron also stated that "her integrity is sound," which I find genuinely perplexing if one takes even a passing glance at her dealings with Amir Mireskandari.

Mireskandari was Ogg campaign committee chairman in 2016, and did such a great job for her that she appointed him as a "consultant" on financial crime cases.  I guess they were already filled up on "community outreach" personnel.  As it turned out, Mireskandari was apparently using his position within the Ogg Administration to make some pretty shady side deals with some poker gaming rooms for his own personal financial business.  This is kind of akin to letting the proverbial fox guard the henhouse. 

The Mireskandari Scandal led to cases being dismissed and ultimately Mireskandari being terminated from the Office.  Strangely, it doesn't look like Ogg ever investigated what crimes Mireskandari may have committed in the process.  That's kind of a strange contrast from the DA who once threatened to prosecute former prosecutors for disparaging her.  I guess the lesson here is that if you talk bad about her, you might get prosecuted.  Use her office to scam people out of money, no big deal.

The bottom line is that Kim Ogg is neither stable nor is her integrity sound.  It is laughable that the Chronicle would seem to think that.  It's like even the Chronicle editorial board doesn't actually read the Chronicle, either.

As most of you know, Ogg has three former prosecutors challenging her, and my belief is that each of them is a better choice than the incumbent.  Whether or not that will translate into a victory for them remains to be seen.

Former prosecutor Audia Jones quit the District Attorney's Office a year or so ago and almost immediately announced her candidacy to run against her former boss.  Of all the candidates, I probably know her the least, although I am a big fan of her husband, 180th District Court Judge DaSean Jones, whom I've known since he was an attorney.  Of all the candidates, Audia Jones is certainly the youngest and she does not have the years of experience that the others do, having served as a prosecutor for approximately three years.  Her platform is very progressive, and she has garnered the endorsement of several prominent progressive groups who support that platform.  Last week, she even got an endorsement from Bernie Sanders.

I am genuinely curious to see how Jones does in the primary.  The progressive movement is certainly vocal and active across the country, especially within the Criminal Justice System.  However, I think that it remains to be seen how that translates into votes in Harris County.  It is a platform that will definitely appeal to younger voters, but I don't know whether or not it will be enough to unseat an entrenched incumbent like Ogg.

Former prosecutor and highly respected defense attorney Todd Overstreet is also running against Kim Ogg.  Overstreet is a friend and a very popular figure within the Criminal Justice Center.  He is a very skilled litigator who runs an extremely successful law practice.  I'm not entirely sure why he would want to take on the job of District Attorney, but he is unquestionably a man who follows his own path in life.  On the campaign trail, he has indicated that he believes in a slightly more conservative approach to criminal justice than the other candidates.  This has resonated with many former prosecutors from "the old days" but I'm not sure whether or not that will be enough to unseat Ogg.

It should be no surprise to anyone that reads this blog, that my personal endorsement for Harris County District Attorney is Carvana Cloud.

As I've said before and will say again and again and again, Carvana is someone who is uniquely qualified to be the District Attorney.  Her platform is the same progressive platform that led me to vote Democratic in 2016, and her ability to actually execute that platform as an effective and truly stable leader is what makes her the best candidate for the office.

Carvana is a proud Houstonian from Acres Homes, a neighborhood that has embraced her every bit as much as she has embraced it.  She is a bilingual graduate of Kinkaid High School and a former prosecutor.  I first met her when I was still a prosecutor and even back then, she exuded the confidence, integrity, and charisma of an effective prosecutor and leader within the office.  She left under the Lykos Administration after Lykos targeted her for her support of her Lykos's opponent in the 2008 general election, but returned as a Division Chief under Ogg.

Ogg recruited Carvana out of private practice to be a Division Chief in her new administration and subsequently promoted her to Trial Bureau Chief.  In that sense, I guess you could say that even Kim Ogg has endorsed Carvana's abilities to prosecute, administrate, and seek justice -- and she did so twice!

But the most important reason that I am endorsing Carvana Cloud is that Carvana wants to be the District Attorney to serve the Office and the people of Harris County that it represents.  She is there to help, not there to use the Office to promote her own personal agenda and petty grievances.  She is living proof that a progressive prosecutor can be an outstanding prosecutor.  She is loved by her former co-workers at the District Attorney's Office and she is loved by the Defense Bar.

Carvana Cloud would make a truly exceptional District Attorney.

My Vote:  Carvana Cloud


Anonymous said...

Let's be honest about something...

If Ogg loses in the Democratic Primary and Carvana wins the general election, I have a feeling your blog will become much less entertaining. As much of a train wreck as Ogg has been for the citizens of Harris County, the criminal justice system and every other person or entity that has any contact in any way shape or form with any part of Southeast Texas, she has provided endless fodder for you and the local news folks. A competent, talented prosecutor with integrity and an innate ability to lead would just bore us all to tears.

In all seriousness, I would be very proud to vote for Carvana.

Anonymous said...

Watching MSNBC and a slick commercial for Ogg in the Dem primary runs at 11:30 pm.
Surprised? It was Brian WIlliams and a panel providing an excellent analysis of the Dem debate, but lefties or political junkies watch shows liked this and Ogg is not a progressive.
Who watches a show like this? Folks who are going to vote in their respective primary, that's who. Kim Ogg, monied, shrewd and strategic. I never said she ran a good office.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:52 -

Her employees who are in the commercial better hope Ogg wins. Why would you appear in a campaign commercial as a low level employee?

Anonymous said...

Who appeared in the commercial? I'm surprised she has any allies left!?!?

Anonymous said...

If Bernie is the nominee a whole bunch of people are going to be kicking themselves for not running as republicans.

Anonymous said...

If it’s action shots I doubt they knowingly appeared in a commercial.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:44 What does that have to do with the primaries? Do you think Harris will reverse its trend of the last 20 years just because a certain Dem gets the nod? Dems will dominate Harris county, just like they did in the last cycles. Republicans need to wake up before they loose the adjoining counties, too. Fort Bend should have been a blaring warning.

Since primaries are largely about getting party loyalists, does Kim have any left backing her? Slick ad notwithstanding, it seems like Audia scooped up most of her lefty faction supporters and Cloud is drawing more the moderate and LEO crowd. Looks like a runoff to me.

Anonymous said...

Serious question, Murray. What's your pitch to someone who agrees with your criticisms of Ogg, thinks Carvana has several qualities that might make a good district attorney, but who is not on board with Carvana's embrace of extreme leftwing policies?

Anonymous said...

There's a new Kim Ogg for DA sign plastered on the windows of the walkway over Jefferson from the White Hall hotel to the DAs office. I suppose it's a private building and she could pay for the rental space, but it just seems shady.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:47, 9:44 here. The point was if Bernie is the nominee, he will have no coattails without straight ticket voting. Who the winner of the D primary was might not matter much in down ballot contested races in November. Got it, or do you need me to draw you a picture with a crayon.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:27 So you don’t understand voting trends and you’re an asshole?

TriggerMortis said...

Ogg sounds a lot like another narcissistic psychopath...Trump.

Anonymous said...

Anon7:49, of course I am an asshole! That is a requirement for everyone who reads this blog and I wear that title like a badge of honor. As for voting trends, I have been studying them since before you were born. I have a pretty good understanding for both long term and an short term trends. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

This has aged well

Murray Newman said...

Anon 7:08 a.m.,

Just because the election didn't turn out how I hoped doesn't mean that what I wrote about Ogg was wrong.