politics in Harris County and Texas

Harris County DA Race: Republicans should re-elect Pat Lykos

Pat Lykos

It is time to make a choice. Early voting starts Monday, here are the locations and times.  If you have not made up your mind about the Harris County District Attorney, perhaps I can help. I’m voting for Judge Pat Lykos and here is why.

Justice. First and foremost, that is the word that pushed, pulled, and shoved me from my position as an observer of the race to a fierce supporter of Judge Pat Lykos. Justice is more than allowing our law enforcement officers to arrest anyone at any time for any reason and locking them up and throwing away the key. I’m convinced, and the record supports me, that Judge Lykos understands what justice is and how, as the chief policy maker on justice in Harris County, she can affect how justice is achieved.

Her opponents disagree with me. Notice I said opponents because although only one person is on the ballot, former Judge Mike Anderson, most of her opponents are not supporters of Judge Anderson – they are haters of Judge Lykos. This second group is loud and vicious and they do not accept facts. They never gave her a chance in her first term, even as she made positive change after positive change. They would much rather throw back a six pack on duty, then head downstairs to fire off a few rounds at the gun range than they would acknowledge that the courthouse should not be a frathouse.

Judge Lykos has made many, many positive changes to make certain that a citizen in Harris County has a chance at justice. Her policy of not prosecuting “trace” evidence cases means that a defendant has an opportunity to have the evidence against her tested, while at the same time lowering the cost to taxpayers of incarcerating non-violent offenders. Judge Lykos’ innovative DIVERT program holds promise at reducing recidivism in DWI cases and lowering the death rate. Against much criticism from the crowd that wants to be back in control of the DA’s office, she is finding criminals that other administrations gave up on and bringing them to justice. She is partnering with other agencies around the county, establishing databases that reduce gang activity. She cleaned up a known gang infested, crime infested apartment complex that her predecessors allowed to run wild.

In short, she is keeping her campaign promises. When was the last time you saw an elected politician do that?

Her ballot opponent, Judge Mike Anderson, has not run an honorable race. I don’t know why that is because, as I said earlier, he seems to be a stand up guy. He has a good track record and was by all accounts a good prosecutor. The only reason that I can think of for his dishonorable campaign is his choice of campaign consultant but even then, he must accept responsibility for that low-life because he chose him. Even today, I heard radio ads designed to make it look like the DA’s office is currently a cesspool of corruption – a smear job not supported by ANY facts. Judge Anderson takes shots at the DIVERT program even as his friend, Judge Bill Harmon, allows his own friends to enter it but not ordinary citizens. In fact, rather than forcing people to take responsibility for their actions, Judge Harmon DISMISSES DWI cases and puts people back on the street because of his dislike for Judge Pat Lykos. And Judge Anderson publicly supports this.  I wonder what he will say when the word starts making the rounds about his role in the Hugh Foreman case?

And that dishonorable campaign goes to the heart of the matter. I truly believe that Judge Anderson believes that if you are investigated, you are guilty – how could I not believe that given his record in this race? That mentality is not what I want anywhere close to the courthouse. We are innocent until proven guilty – I truly do not think that Judge Anderson believes that, given his record.

The biggest charge against Judge Lykos is that the morale at the office is low. This circles right back to the fact that she broke the grip of the frathouse on the courthouse. Hey, you’d be mad too if you were used to three hour, three martini lunches and all of a sudden the new boss says no mas. Sucks to be you, I guess. But great to be a taxpayer, knowing that someone is watching out for your interests.

Here is what I have to say about the morale of these coddled juveniles we call ADAs (and ex-ADAs). Grow up. Take charge of your life. Stop acting like you are in seventh grade and stop following the crowd. It can only help you. As a taxpayer, I don’t give a rat’s rear end that you are sad because Judge Lykos took your beer bong away.

I hope you will join me in voting to re-elect Judge Pat Lykos as the Harris County District Attorney. Your life and the lives of your children may, quite literally, depend upon it.

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 Debate Tonight! Mike Anderson v Pat Lykos!

Pat Lykos
Mike Anderson

Okay, yeah, I  know, I’ve beat you over the head about this over the last week or so. But that is only because I truly think that the outcome of this race will decide the fate of the Harris County Republican Party in November. There is no Judge Ed Emmett on the top of the ticket to pull the down ballot candidates over the finish line. There is no Paul Bettencourt on the ballot to rally voters and get them excited about the ticket.

One of the candidates for District Attorney will have to be that leader. And this year, we have a clear choice between candidates because Pat Lykos and  Mike Anderson have very different visions for the office and how justice is served best in the county. I hope that you do not take this race lightly. Talk to your friends, find out what they think. Research the candidates, know what they stand for. Attend tonight’s debate or one of the others scheduled and find out for yourself what they stand for. Then pick one and help your pick win.

Whatever you do, do not go to the polls and blindly follow one of the slate mailers that have been bought and paid for by the candidates. You will do all of us a disservice if that is your idea of voting responsibly.

There is still time to submit a question for the moderators to consider. Heck, even I submitted one because there are a couple of things that I’d like to know before I vote. Click here for more information on the debate and to submit your question.

Okay, that’s all. Last call as it were. Hope to see you there.

Event Information:

Location: King Street Patriots Headquarters

Address7232 Wynwood, Houston, Texas (click for map)

Time: 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm (doors open at 6:30 pm)


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Harris County DA race, runaway grand jury, pioneer woman

A few links for the weekend about the Harris County DA race.

Mike Anderson

First, Charles Kuffner did post his interview with Republican primary challenger, Mike Anderson. Mike continued to make the charge that the DIVERT program and the DA’s “crack pipe trace evidence” policy are illegal. He even stated that the DIVERT program has been ruled illegal. He talked about his time as a drug court judge and how he had seen lives changed. Overall I thought he did a good job of promoting his campaign.

One of the things that I didn’t like about his interview, and of some of the comments that he has made elsewhere, is that the DA’s office is forcing investigators to put “laydown” cases against prominent people aside and not prosecute them. He stated that he had just today talked to several investigators about this and they were frustrated. If this is true, then he has an obligation to bring them to the public’s attention. I’m tired of all of the charges and innuendo in this race that are not backed up by evidence. It is easy to say that the DA’s office is corrupt – prove it. If the DA is protecting prominent individuals and Mike knows about it, he needs to put it forward with real names, not just innuendo. It reminds me of the anonymous blog comments saying that public safety is suffering but that the commenter can’t say anything because he or she will lose their job or be denied a promotion. Sad to think that people with such weak spines are “protecting” us.

The second link is from PBS’s Red, White, and Blue program last night. In it, ADA Rachel Palmer’s defense attorney David Mitcham destroys the runaway grand jury and criminal defense attorney/blogger Mark Bennett agrees that the grand jury was motivated by something other than the truth. Just watch (start at the 7m 24s mark for the fun):

Pat Lykos

The last link is a look at DA Pat Lykos as a “pioneer” woman. I’ve been meaning to do something similar and might still but for now, this piece in “Women & Guns” has a lot of the information about her that I’ve found out since I’ve tried to get a better perspective of who she is and why so many people do not like her.  The vast majority of the “charges” are coming from people that do not like Lykos personally. It is a shame when these types of attacks are used to oust someone from office.

Her actual record is very good and she has done a lot to reform that office. This makes for bitter employees. And the “law and order” types are not happy when someone seeks justice because they want revenge, as in shoot now, ask questions later.

I saw one local activist criticize her because he didn’t think she would look good on a swimsuit calendar. Another criticized her because she smokes. Another because she is “old”. Yet another because she prefers whiskey over wine and ladies do not do that. It is hard for women to make it to the top in any field but law enforcement is even harder. I can tell you that before I started deep research, I was not a fan. I now have a lot of respect for her and the journey her life has taken.

Anyway, back to the article. This is one of my favorite parts:

While holding her job as a Houston Police Officer, Pat worked her way through college at the University of Houston and law school at the South Texas College of Law. When she was assigned to night shifts, she took classes during the day; when she had day shifts, she went to night classes.

When she became eligible, she took the exam for sergeant, finishing No. 1 at a time when few women were even allowed to take the promotional test. But the (male) Chief of Police told her that he would not have a woman as a sergeant because a woman couldn’t do the physical things on the streets that a man could. He told Pat that if he was forced to promote her to sergeant, she would be working a different shift every month so that she would be 80 years old before she got out of law school. He told her to take the exam for detective. Pat took the detective exam and she was promoted to detective. The following day, she turned in her resignation. “It was my way of sending a message to them.”

She’s still that same feisty person today. As a father of two young women, I appreciate the path that she has blazed. That doesn’t mean that she should get a free pass as DA but it does let you know why so many people hate her for no good reason.


Harris County DA race: ADA retention – UPDATED

Mike Anderson

In case you haven’t heard, the Harris County District Attorney, Pat Lykos, is being challenged in the Republican primary by Mike Anderson. One of Mr. Anderson’s claims is that the DA’s office is losing Assistant District Attorneys at an alarming rate. A second part of the same claim is that the losses represent a loss of experience such that the county hasn’t seen before. The campaign website for DA Lykos refuted the first part of that charge with a matrix of data that claims to show that attrition in the office is normal. Although I trust campaigns to put forth correct data, I decided to use the Ronald Reagan philosophy of trust but verify. So I filed a PIA with the DA’s office asking for the same data that the Lykos campaign proffered but adding a request for average experience. And to prevent further claims that I’m involved in some sort of conspiracy with the DA’s office, I copied a blogger that accused me of that, the campaign consultant for Mr. Anderson, and several other people. Ask them – if they tell you otherwise, you’ll know that you can’t trust them.

In terms of timing for PIA requests, I received this one relatively fast – I filed it on Thursday, 2/9 and received a response today, Wednesday, 2/15. Not bad. It pretty much matches the Lykos website, plus one here, minus one there. I have forwarded the raw data to all those copied – again, if they tell you otherwise, you’ll know that you can’t trust them.

Here is my summary of the raw data:

Harris County ADA Departure Experience

And a chart of the same:

Harris County ADA Departure Experience

Obviously Mr. Anderson is incorrect on the first part of his charge, especially when you consider that the DA’s office has grown through the years: i.e., losing 40 ADA’s in 1994 had a much greater impact than losing 40 ADA’s in 2011. So let’s just toss that claim into the garbage bin with most other campaign charges.

But that second part, the part about experience, looks to be true. Do not consider 2008 – remember, DA Lykos did not take office until 2009. A lot of long term ADA’s quit or were asked to leave both before and after DA Lykos won the election in November 2008 but before she took office. Regardless of what you think about her, she can’t be blamed for people leaving the office before she started. Yes, I know that some folks were terminated in anticipation of her taking the helm, but the issue is people leaving the office because of her management style, not because they opposed her in the election.

The data shows that the ADAs that left the office in 2009 and 2010, under DA Lykos’ management, did have more experience than the historical average. In 2009, about 52{997ab4c1e65fa660c64e6dfea23d436a73c89d6254ad3ae72f887cf583448986} more than the historical average, in 2010, about 40{997ab4c1e65fa660c64e6dfea23d436a73c89d6254ad3ae72f887cf583448986} more. The data shows that 2011 returned to “average” in that the experience was roughly at the average.

So there you go. Does Anderson have a real issue here? Perhaps. As you can see from the chart, there have been spikes like this in the past. So this could be a real issue but you’ll have to decide that.

At any rate, if I were running one of those “Politifact” sites, I’d give Mr. Anderson’s charge in this one a “half-true” rating.

UPDATED 2/18/12 9:30 PM: As you can tell by the comments, some people think that total years of experience lost is important. After thinking about that, they are probably correct. So, I added that information to the stats and charted it. Here is the revised table and chart:

This look at the data shows that in her three years at the helm (2009-11), there has been an unusually large exodus of experience. Again, I discount 2008 because the issue is supposed to be about DA Lykos’ management style and if she wasn’t there, how could she be held accountable for that?