politics in Harris County and Texas

Harris County DA debate recap: Pat Lykos v Mike Anderson

Mike Anderson
Pat Lykos

Have you ever had an idea for something and then pulled it off exactly as planned? You know that feeling you get when that happens? That is how I feel about the Harris County District Attorney’s debate that was held at the King Street Patriots’ headquarters last night. If you missed it, well, you missed a heck of an opportunity to clearly see the differences between these two candidates and not just on personality but on substantive issues. This race isn’t a beauty contest, it truly is about the future policies of the HCDAO’s office and thus, justice in Harris County.

The Setup

First off, kudos once again to Catherine Engelbrecht and the King Street Patriots. What an awesome group they are and they put on a first class event. Their volunteers are second to none – a special thanks to Erin Anderson for being the timekeeper. That isn’t a fun job when you have two candidates with strong personalities. There were times when I thought she was going to have to duck to avoid the blows when she held up the ‘Time Expired’ card. Also a special thanks to Dave Welch of the Houston Area Pastor Council for opening the meeting with prayer and the pledges. He reminded us that it was the National Day of Prayer and that our country desperately needs prayer.

Second, the moderators were tough but fair, exactly as we envisioned it. Scott Braddock and Paul Bettencourt challenged the candidates answers’ on several occasions, they allowed lengthy answers when they thought it was necessary and cut the candidates off when they started drifting away from the subject at hand. I’ve been to hundreds of smaller debates like this and most of the time the questions are softballs and there is no followup from the moderators. In fact, moderator is usually an incorrect term, questioner would be better. But in this case, Scott and Paul turned in a professional performance and elicited clear information from the candidates.

Third, the crowd. Excellent, if not standing room only. I’d put the crowd at between 225 and 240. There were a fair number of supporters for each candidate and a good group of undecided. One of the goals of this debate was to expose new people to King Street Patriots in an effort to break the media stereotype of this fantastic group. It irks me to no end to see them characterized as a bunch of racists – as done by this supposed Republican blogger in the Houston Chronicle this week. I’ve asked him to attend a meeting or two but it turns out that he lives in…get this…Chicago. Go figure. I think that we met that goal as Catherine noted that she saw a lot of new faces, i.e., people that normally do not attend. I do hope that these new attendees will help knock down that idiotic portrayal of these hard working volunteers.

Great attendance for the debate!

Okay, on to the debate. As you know, I don’t pick winners and losers of debates, I grade the candidates on what they need to do to move their campaigns forward. And this one is really easy, both candidates get a A. I know, you were hoping for one A and one F but it just didn’t happen. There was a wide range of questions and the candidates disagreed on many of them. Here are some thoughts on each.

Pat Lykos

I thought that she started off a little hesitant but finished the night strong. The first question was directed to both candidates, giving each two minutes to tell the audience why they were running. She stated that she wanted to continue the progress that she has made in reforming the office and making it into a state of the art, leading district attorney’s office. She reminded people that when she took over the office, it was a laughingstock, racist emails, porn on computers, and alcohol was common.

She easily got off the best line of the night when she said that the “courthouse was no longer a frathouse”. She was able to repeat that line several times throughout the evening and Judge Anderson had no counter to it. On a question about morale, she chastised the “good ol’ days” by saying that they should not be celebrating ‘victories’ in the courtroom with coolers of alcohol but instead  should have a ‘quiet satisfaction with a job well done’.  She was passionate in her defense of the office, stating that she was tired of people attacking the hardworking ADA’s and should keep their attacks focused on her.

I thought that she handled her defense of the ‘trace’ policy about as well as she could. It is unusual for a Republican, especially in a primary, to be for anything other than lock ’em up and throw away the key when it comes to ANY type of crime, no matter how big or small. This issue, as with the DIVERT program, will be a turnoff for many Republicans, regardless of their effectiveness in reducing crime and saving taxpayer money because they are tailor made for the 5 second negative soundbite.

She deftly handled the accusation that she was “soft” on the death penalty and I thought her strongest moment of the entire debate was in her defense of the “cold case” initiative that she has instituted. To me, she is absolutely correct when she says that even if a court lets a murderer go because previous administrations did not pursue them diligently, the right thing to do for the victim’s family is to try.

So she gets an A. If you supported her walking into the building, you supported her when you left. And clearly, her job is to hold the lead that she has.

Mike Anderson

Mike treats these debates as if the crowd is a jury. He has an awful lot of experience in front of juries and if you are in the audience, you can see why he was an effective prosecutor. He is passionate and knowledgeable, rarely stands behind the podium, and is forceful with his arguments. I thought that he was the opposite of Judge Lykos, starting strong and ending a bit weak.

A challenger has to land a knockout blow to win a debate and he was unable to do that. He got in plenty of hard punches, which might have drawn undecided voters his way. As usual, his best argument is on the DIVERT program, where he states that someone on the program could finish it, have their record expunged, then go out and kill someone and their punishment would be less. He brought out some statistics that seemed to show DIVERT wasn’t working (I’ll post separately on that) and scored a very hard blow when Judge Lykos said that you can do anything with statistics. He responded that they might just be numbers to some people, but for the victims family there is real pain.

He struggled with a question about judicial bypass. If you don’t know, judicial bypass is a law that allows a minor to go to a judge seeking an abortion without parental knowledge or permission. Obviously this is controversial in Republican circles and Judge Anderson continues to say that the law says that he cannot mention anything at all about judicial bypass, including whether or not he has ever a judicial bypass request. He said that a Texas Supreme Court supported his interpretation about that – Judge Lykos said that there was no such decision. I don’t think this has anything to do with the duties of the DA but like I said, it is a potent issue in Republican circles.

In response to a question about the low morale of the office, he joked that if there was ever a time that an employee of that office needed a drink, it was now. He got a few laughs and chuckles from the audience. On the death penalty, he asked if Judge Lykos was tough on it, why she was allowing Mr. Buck to sit in jail without a date for death when all she had to do was walk over and give the 208th Court an execution date. I don’t think I heard an answer on that. I assume that he is talking about this case but for whatever reason, I didn’t hear if Judge Lykos responded or not. Maybe someone could help me out here.

So I’l give Judge Anderson an A as well. If you supported him walking in, you supported him walking out. If you were undecided and favor the long arm of the law, he possibly picked up your vote.

Odd occurrence

I hesitate to tell this story because the Anderson supporters will be upset. But, it happened, and it is very, very odd to me. You may or may not think so. It has to do with the “runaway grand jury” and the jury foreperson, Patricia Pollard. During the debate, this subject came up and Judge Anderson was very forceful in thanking the people on the grand jury for their public service and attacked Judge Lykos for investigating these good servants, as he pointed to someone in the front. I thought, does he have the members of the grand jury here supporting him? How odd. Wouldn’t that just reinforce the thought that the grand jury was biased and politically motivated? It would for me.

So after the debate, I’m waiting up front for people to fill out their ballot cards. This guy comes up to me and says, “you’re full of $#{997ab4c1e65fa660c64e6dfea23d436a73c89d6254ad3ae72f887cf583448986}$”. Now, I first met this guy at a forum in Pasadena when he was with a candidate from another race. He cornered me that night and talked to me for 20 minutes or so about how I was completely wrong about that grand jury being politically motivated and said that I was “full of $#{997ab4c1e65fa660c64e6dfea23d436a73c89d6254ad3ae72f887cf583448986}$”. I’ve seen him at several other functions since then and he always tells me that, I figure it is good natured and laugh about it, telling him back that he’s full of $#{997ab4c1e65fa660c64e6dfea23d436a73c89d6254ad3ae72f887cf583448986}$.

So last night, I’m standing there talking to Becky Bowyer and just as I finish talking, along comes my “friend” with his little saying. Right at that moment, this tall blonde woman standing next to me laughs and says, “yeah, you’re full of $#{997ab4c1e65fa660c64e6dfea23d436a73c89d6254ad3ae72f887cf583448986}$”. So I laugh back, not knowing who she is and say, yeah, a lot of people say that about me, that’s fine. So then she sticks out her hand to introduce herself and says, “I’m Trisha Pollard and you are full of $#{997ab4c1e65fa660c64e6dfea23d436a73c89d6254ad3ae72f887cf583448986}$”. It finally dawns on me who this woman is.

None other than the runaway, Wyatt Earp wannabe Patricia Pollard, 185th grand jury foreperson her grand self.

How’s about them apples, boy?

A kind reader sent this photo in of Trisha Pollard and Mike Anderson talking about ???

Mike Anderson whispers to Patricia Pollard

Ballot results

Everyone attending was offered a chance to fill out a ballot. There were a total of 102 ballots returned, with two of them blank on the DA race. I wish more ballots had been turned in but I suppose some people didn’t have time or haven’t made up their minds just yet. But, having 100 votes sure does make the math easy. Without further ado:

  • Mike Anderson – 56{997ab4c1e65fa660c64e6dfea23d436a73c89d6254ad3ae72f887cf583448986}
  • Pat Lykos – 44{997ab4c1e65fa660c64e6dfea23d436a73c89d6254ad3ae72f887cf583448986}

And that, my friends, is a wrap.


Harris County DA race: Mike Anderson receives HPOU endorsement

No surprise here:

For Immediate Release:                          Contact:  Allen Blakemore
Tuesday, February 14, 2012                 713-526-3399

 Anderson gains HPOU endorsement and releases video

 Houston – Mike Anderson, conservative Republican candidate for Harris County District Attorney, announced that he has gained the endorsement of the Houston Police Officers’ Union.

“I am particularly pleased to announce this endorsement.  The HPOU represents more than 5,000 Houston Police Officers,” Anderson said.  “When elected, I will restore a strong working relationship between local law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office.”

Ray Hunt, President of the Houston Police Officers’ Union said, “The current District Attorney has turned her back on the citizens and the entire law enforcement community.  She has put politics above the public’s safety.  It’s time for a change.  We recommend a vote for Mike Anderson.”

The Anderson campaign released an endorsement video featuring HPOU President, Ray Hunt.  It can be viewed here. 

Mike Anderson is the conservative Republican candidate who is ready to return credible leadership to the office of Harris County District Attorney.  Mike spent 16 years as an assistant district attorney and 12 years as judge of the 262nd Criminal District Court, including two years as the criminal district court administrative judge.  He is married to Devon Anderson, a respected former prosecutor and district judge.  More information is available on the web at www.AndersonDA.com.

Remember, incumbent DA Pat Lykos says that she did not seek the endorsement of any of the union bosses. Now, if you can prove otherwise…

Harris County DA race: Lykos interview, Anderson radio ad

Do yourself a favor. Head over to Charles Kuffner’s Off the Kuff and listen to the full 44 minutes of his interview with Harris County DA Pat Lykos. Kuff is the big dog of local blogging for a reason – he’s pretty good at it when he sets his mind to it. And I think that he must have set his mind to this one because it gives the listener some very good insight into DA Lykos and her motivations.

I had to laugh several times when she interrupted him to keep talking about forensics and justice. She  did the same thing to me. Her exhuberance exuberance for justice and truth shines through. Just take a listen.

Kuff notes that he’s already interview Mike Anderson and will publish that shortly. I’m looking forward to that one as well, to see if his passion for rehabilitation and victim’s rights comes through. As I said earlier, if his team can find a way to communicate that passion to primary voters, it will improve his chances of winning.

Unfortunately for those of us that would like to see a race on the issues, the Anderson campaign is fully aware that in Harris County Republican primaries, issues take a back seat to negative campaigning. They issued a press release yesterday that they are going on the air (if you call KSEV radio’s miniscule listenership “on the air”):

For Immediate Release:Contact:  Allen Blakemore
Monday, February 13, 2012713-526-3399

 Anderson Begins Radio Campaign Houston – Mike Anderson, conservative Republican candidate for Harris County District Attorney, began airing his first radio ads today.  The ads are airing on KSEV Radio. 

“While uncertainty still exists about the exact date of the 2012 Republican Party Primary Election,” said Mike Anderson “our campaign is fully engaged and on a path to victory.

“News reports continue to deliver bad news to the people of Harris County that the incumbent District Attorney is leading the office on a destructive course.  Public trust and confidence erodes with the passing of each day.

“This lack of leadership cannot be allowed to continue,” Anderson concluded.

The radio ads are also available at www.AndersonDa.com.

Sigh. No substance, just a bunch of sensationalist headlines pulled from attack media pieces. Oh well, we all know this stuff works because most primary voters don’t take the time to think for themselves and study the candidates. And I’m not saying that if they did, they’d vote for DA Lykos – perhaps they would but it is just as likely that they would vote for Anderson because his reputation and background is very solid. I’d bet that DA Lykos’ team will not counter this but will instead focus on the reform and positive change that she’s brought to the office, asking voters if they really want to return to the “hang ’em and ask questions later” days that Anderson seems to be pining for in this ad.

Anyways, that’s is your DA update for today. Do listen to the Kuff interview – you’ll thank me.

Pat Lykos, Mike Anderson debate, campaign finance

In case you missed it last night on Houston PBS’ Red, White, and Blue, the two candidates for Harris County District Attorney made a joint appearance. And while it wasn’t officially a “debate”, it was as good as one and better than most. If you are interested in this race, I encourage you to watch it and form your own opinions about it. It is only 29 minutes long and is chock full of information.

I thought that overall, Gary Polland and David Jones did a good job of bringing out relevant information. Obviously, Polland is a Lykos supporter and asked a very irrelevant question about “judicial bypass”, trying to get that issue on the table for Republican voters. But beyond that, it was informative. If you ask me who “won” it, I’d give the edge to Lykos because she came armed with facts and was able to refute most of the charges that are leveled against her. But Anderson held his own and wasn’t embarrassed, although I was surprised to learn that he sat in on a presentation from DA Lykos about the “trace evidence” or “crack pipe residue” program that is controversial and didn’t object to it at the time. Interesting.

On to campaign finance. Here are the bottom line numbers from the reports:

Cash on Hand 12-31-2011

What I find more interesting in these reports are (a) the large contributors and (b) the total number of contributors. Here are the large contributors:

Large contributors to HCDA race

I have asked the Anderson campaign if Richard Anderson is related to Mike Anderson and will update this if I get a response (UPDATE: not related, friends from law school). Prolific GOP contributors Bob and Doylene Perry have donated $55,000 to DA Lykos. And while Mr. Anderson has raised a considerable amount of money in a short time, most of it is from large donors. DA Lykos has far more individual, small contributions – her report lists 25 pages of contributions to Mr. Anderson’s 13. Which prompts me to ask: where are the contributions from the angry ex-ADA’s (or current ones)? You’d think from reading comments on blogs and at Chron.com there would be thousands of small donations to Mr. Anderson – but it isn’t so.

Here are the reports so that you can read them yourself:

Mr. Anderson:

Mike Anderson Campaign Finance 12-31-2011

DA Lykos:

Pat Lykos Campaign Finance 12-31-2011