As Republicans we pride ourselves of being the party of family values. Lately we also have been repeatedly beating the drum of election integrity. Both are laudable positions to take and deserve to be championed with zeal. However, taking those positions places a duty upon us to act in a manner in accordance with those beliefs. Two events in the past 60 days raise great concern regarding the manner HCRP is acting in regards to these two issues.
Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court. That presumption doesn’t always apply outside of court. Some matters are so heinous that prudence dictates acting with caution. Child pornography is one of those instances. Sadly, Harris County Republican Party has a current precinct chair – an active one at that – who is currently a defendant in Montgomery County for promotion of child pornography.
The case number is 21-12-16965, defendant Alex Hargrave. I certainly hope that if Mr. Hargrave is not guilty he zealously fights the charge and prevails. A charge is not a finding of guilt. However, this is promotion of child pornography. Regardless of political affiliation, people of common decency should find the matter repugnant, and the party of family values should be concerned one of their active precinct chairs has this specter hanging over them. Although HCRP requires credentialed login on the county party web page to access the precinct chair list an internet search found a list of the 2020-2022 precinct chairs, and is displayed at the end of the article. This means anyone can cross reference the picture above to the precinct chair list and make the connection.
Giving benefit of the doubt is, at a minimum, asking him to temporarily step back from any committee assignments while the matter is pending. We are a society that believes in the rule of law and a finding of not guilty is a finding of redemption against a charge. Should that occur, by all means carry on.
However, despite the information being out since 12/14/2021 HCRP hasn’t said anything regarding the matter. Is this the behavior of the party of family values? This is the type of incident that permanently alienates a segment of the voting population. It’s not difficult to release an official statement to the effect of we are aware and shocked by the allegations, and if true condemn the behavior in the strongest terms possible.
Election integrity is another important value for HCRP to champion. If we cannot trust our elections how can we trust our government? Yet, here, too, HCRP is beset with unsettling news that is public record. A jury trial just wrapped up on a fraud case regarding the upcoming Republican primary election. Again, this is a jury trial where the dirty laundry is being aired out in public before a jury.
The cause number is 202201417, styled Ketterman, Julie versus Harris County Republican Party. You can enter in the case number and find the case here. The short version of the fact pattern is Julie Ketterman and Rachel Leal-Hudson are, now were, both candidates for judge of the 313th family law court. It was alleged, and a jury found, that Leal-Hudson committed fraud in regards to the requisite 250 signatures to appear on the ballot. Julie Ketterman timely challenged the matter with Cindy and HCRP and the challenge was declined. Litigation ensued, and in a jury trial the jury found that Leal-Hudson committed 10 counts of fraud relating to the signatures. This finding lead to a court order enjoining HCRP from certifying her position on the ballot.
With election integrity a hot button issue optics are important. When the challenge was presented to HCRP they had to make a decision whether to accept or deny the challenge. What’s so disturbing, from an election integrity standpoint, is Cindy’s statement, “Determining if your allegations of perjury and fraud by Ms. Leal-Hudson is beyond the scope of my authority as County Chairman. In fact my review is limited to the face of the candidate’s application and attached petitions.” Either we believe in election integrity or we do not. If the challenge had been accepted, the only significant difference in the trial is the burden of proof would lie with Ms. Leal-Hudosn. With the matter heading to court, optics are important.
As a general matter Republicans are in a difficult spot in Harris County; with this cycle presenting us an opportunity to make some inroads. The crime situation being out of control, and Houston assuming a position as the murder capitol of the nation tilts the sentiment, at least in the criminal court judicial races, towards the Republicans. However, by not acting prudently regarding the two matters noted herein it undermines any benefit the generalized dislike for crime has on the electorate.
People make mistakes and everyone deserves forgiveness if they ask to be forgiven, especially if their actions testify to a change in behavior. If Mr. Hargrave is not guilty, then I certainly hope he puts on a strong defense and that a jury sides with him. However, HCRP has to make decisions in near real time. That requires making hard decisions with the ability to correct after the fact.
If we are the party of family values and election integrity we need to act like it. The democrats will gladly point out when we do not.
After the comments below HCRP did send me a copy of a resignation letter dated November 7, 2021. Although the Texas Secretary of State still lists Mr. Hargrave as a precinct chair it appears he did effectively resign on November 7, 2021 and that simply has not been communicated to the Secretary of State. The letter contains a significant amount of private information unrelated to the post here. If I were to post the letter it would be very heavily redacted, and I am not going to publish the screenshot.