politics in Harris County and Texas

Harris County Sheriff race: Heuszel takes straw poll

Well, I guess I can’t say that I’m shocked because I told you that Harris County Sheriff candidate Harold Heuszel had substance but when I received the results of the straw poll held after the forum at the Downtown Houston Pachyderm Club today, I was surprised. Here are the results:

Harold Heuszel 34.8{997ab4c1e65fa660c64e6dfea23d436a73c89d6254ad3ae72f887cf583448986}
Louis Guthrie 32.6{997ab4c1e65fa660c64e6dfea23d436a73c89d6254ad3ae72f887cf583448986}
Daniel Lemkuil 10.9{997ab4c1e65fa660c64e6dfea23d436a73c89d6254ad3ae72f887cf583448986}
Ruben Monzon 10.9{997ab4c1e65fa660c64e6dfea23d436a73c89d6254ad3ae72f887cf583448986}
Carl Pittman 10.9{997ab4c1e65fa660c64e6dfea23d436a73c89d6254ad3ae72f887cf583448986}


Randy Kubosh

Straw polls are but a snapshot in time from the people that happened to be at a specific meeting but it is still good news for the Heuszel camp, I assure you. I’d guess that perhaps 80 or so people attended the meeting but only club members were allowed to vote. It is easy enough to be a member, just click here and sign up. They meet weekly and are the fastest growing club in the city under the leadership of new president Randy Kubosh.

As for the forum itself, each candidate was given 4 minutes to introduce themselves, timed by Ken Shortreed, candidate for the 215th Civil District Judge seat. After the introductions, candidates answered questions from the audience – each candidate was given an opportunity to respond to each question. Here is my take on each candidate, in the order they were standing during the question period. I’ll skip their opening statements because I’ve already told you about them with the exception of Mr. Lemkuil.

Louis Guthrie

Louis Guthrie – There is something about Mr. Guthrie that I like (not an endorsement). He has a “command” presence when he speaks. It is hard to explain, you’d have to be there to see it and perhaps you wouldn’t get the same impression but you’re paying me to tell you what I think. He speaks with an air of authority, maybe that is it. Anyways, he demonstrated a solid grasp of the issues that were asked and was quite open and honest when asked about consolidating many of the smaller LEO agencies in the county into the Sheriff’s office – it ain’t gonna happen because the Harris County Commissioner’s Court won’t let it, even though there are efficiencies to be gained.

He also reiterated that the Republicans are going to take Harris County back in November because of an anti-Obama wave (I’m not so sure about that but he is).  About the problems with the Harris County 911 system, he said that they had a lack of manpower and that the center was mis-managed. He would not remove LEO’s from the center – he thinks that is a bad idea and it should be staffed with LEO’s so that they can prioritize the calls. On a question about the 287G program to deal with illegal aliens, he reminded the group that he lobbied for the program in 2008.

His website is LouisGuthrie.com.

Harold Heuszel

Harold Heuszel – Our poll winner turned in another substantive performance. As I noted earlier, his is getting more and more comfortable with the role of a candidate and his easy going style no longer seems timid. In somewhat of a reversal of roles from the first forum I attended, he was the one attacking current Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia the most, stating that he wasn’t here to beat the other guys but to beat Adrian Garcia.

In a statement that would get him fired from ESPN, he told us that we could trust him ethically, that there was no “chink in his armor” for the Democrats to exploit in November. He agreed with Guthrie that combining LEO agencies wouldn’t get past Commissioner’s Court and added that he didn’t know if it was a good idea anyway – it might save a small amount of money but would lessen the impact of voters. He told us that the department was severely undermanned, with one deputy for every 5,000 citizens. I didn’t realize it was such a high ratio. He was a bit skeptical that Secure Communities would be a good replacement for the 287G program, noting that it takes a week or more to get fingerprints into the FBI’s database.

His website is HaroldHeuszelforSheriff.com.

Ruben Monzon

Ruben Monzon – I get the feeling that he has so much knowledge about law enforcement and management that he sometimes thinks the questions are elementary. The good thing about that is that he gives short, direct answers. The bad thing is that he gives short, direct answers and it leaves those of us that are in elementary befuddled.

He brings up his experience a lot and it is vast. One of his best answers at this forum was about how we can address the growing drug cartel violence, talking about infiltrating these groups and the need for someone who understands them. On local issues, he isn’t as well versed, saying that the 911 system’s main problem was a lack of good management. I think that there is probably more to it than that. But it is clear that the man knows how budgets affect field staff and how to prioritize available money- he just needs to work on putting his experience in context with the HCSO – if he and his team can work on that, he’ll reach more people.

His website is Ruben Monzon.com

Daniel Lemkuil

Daniel Lemkuil – I haven’t seen Daniel since he ran for a family court judge seat in 2010. He told us this was his first time to speak in this race and went through his qualifications – he is a past president of the club, he’s been a “consumer” of the jail system (clients!), and he has a MBA and understands budgets, specifically zero based budgeting. He stated that under the leadership of Sheriff Garcia the institution was so run down it had become a joke.

I think he made a mistake on the 911 system, saying that HPD ran one and the HCSO ran one. I think that there is only one system for the county and that the problem is more along the lines of cell phones, prioritizing, and routing to the nearest agency. As for why the middle ground voters that usually decide elections would choose him over Sheriff Garcia, he stated that his fiscal message appeals to all sides and that would bring them aboard. In saying this, he joins Carl Pittman as the only candidates that think the current budget is bloated and can be cut. About not being a LEO, he told us that the position of Sheriff is more of a managerial position – they don’t do the investigating, arresting, and booking, they put resources in the right places and provide discipline to insure that public safety is paramount.

Carl Pittman

Carl Pittman – I thought Carl did a solid job answering the questions and was surprised that he finished in the “second tier” of the staw poll. He was his usual confident self, the kind of confidence that Marines carry daily. Maybe it just wasn’t the right day for his supporters to come out.

He touted his very long list of endorsements and, when answering the question about why voters would choose him, he once again talked about being able to go into any neighborhood in the city without alienating people and that he would be a bridge that brought people over to his side. One of his answers made me laugh and was picked up by both Guthrie and Heuszel. The question was about combining the HPD and HCSO jails and Carl said that there might be an opportunity for efficiency but that he would make the City of Houston put the money upfront in an escrow account because they are broke and are notorious about not paying their bills. Too funny.

His website is CarlforSheriff.com.

You owe it to yourself (and the rest of us) to make it to one of these forums. There will be plenty of them before the primary – if we ever have one! I think that you will see that we have some fine candidates vying for the opportunity to take on Sheriff Garcia.

And just because I can’t resist pictures of children and candidates, here is one with candidate for the 339th Criminal District Court Brad Hart and his two children, Savannah and Hunter. One of my favorite pictures from the 2010 campaign was of Savannah tuckered out when her mom Cary was running.

Brad Hart with his children Savannah and Hunter.