We already knew it but now it is official – former Harris County Republican Party Executive Director Court Koenning is going to try and oust incumbent Chris Daniel in the Republican Primary next year. And he’s starting with a bang – endorsements from Sen. Dan Patrick and noted slate mailer Dr. Steve Hotze:
July 1, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Email: [email protected]
Koenning will seek GOP nod for Harris County District Clerk
HOUSTON – Conservative activist and longtime public servant Court Koenning formally announced today he is seeking the Republican nomination for Harris County District Clerk in the 2014 GOP Primary.
Koenning, 40, enters the race with a groundswell of support from firebrand conservative leaders like State Sen. Dan Patrick and Dr. Steve Hotze.
“The District Clerk is the guardian and access point for the legal records that tell the tale of our lives – for better and worse,” said Koenning. “The men and women in that office work hard. But, respectfully, we need an upgrade in leadership there. That’s what I want for the people of Harris County and I look forward to a spirited campaign in the months to come.”
Koenning said the District Clerk should also be a strong voice for the people at the courthouse, in county government and in the legal community. He said his record best prepares him to be that advocate.
Koenning is both the owner of a political strategy and public relations firm and Heartland Financial — a property and casualty insurance company with millions of dollars of assets under management. In addition to being an accomplished business owner, Koenning also has a long record of public service.
Koenning currently also works on special projects for Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack. He has previously worked on the staffs of Patrick, then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn and former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm. He also served on the first campaign staff for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and his association with Patrick dates back nearly 20 years. Before he served as Patrick’s chief of staff in the Texas Senate, he steered the outspoken radio host to his stunning victory over three establishment Republicans in the 2006 GOP Primary.
Koenning also served as executive director to the Harris County Republican Party during a period of historic growth for the party. It was during all these campaigns and efforts that he came into contact with leaders like Dr. Hotze.
“I do endorse Court Koenning for Harris County District Clerk,” said Dr. Hotze, president of Conservative Republicans of Texas. “Court has been a long time friend for over 17 years. He has overcome adversity in his life. He has a wonderful wife, Dawn, and two beautiful young children. Court has so much to offer as a leader with whom we can work in county government.”
The adversity to which Hotze refers is a 2010 plane crash Koenning was involved in as a pilot. The crash, at a small landing strip north of Houston, happened as Koenning was landing his single-engine plane. As the aircraft started to crash, Koenning said a quick prayer to God for his safety. He later awoke in a hospital and started a long recovery that included three weeks hospitalization, 13 surgeries and five months recuperating.
Sen. Patrick, who was at Koenning’s side as he recovered, enthusiastically endorses him for Harris County District Clerk.
“Court is a conservative leader who knows how to build a team and execute a plan. We need to elect men and women who not only can do the job their office demands, but who can also help build a conservative Republican team in Harris County for years to come,” Sen. Patrick said. “Court is the man for the job today who will also help us to build the Republican team of tomorrow.”
Over the next few months Koenning will roll out fresh ideas and a vision on how the District Clerk’s office can once again be a model for the state.
Court is married to Dawn Koenning, who is a fundraiser for philanthropic organizations. Dawn and Court have two young sons, Carson (7) and Cade (4). They are active members of First Presbyterian Church of Houston.
For more information, email Court’s campaign at:
I’m somewhat surprised that Dan would enter this fray – you’d think that he has enough on his plate what with running for Lt. Gov. and all. And I’m very surprised by the Hotze endorsement given that Chris’ campaign consultant is Allen Blakemore and Blakemore is Hotze’s right hand man. I don’t think this indicates a split in the Hotze/Blakemore arrangement – more likely it has come about because of Hotze’s investment in Dan’s radio station. Or maybe he just thinks Court is the best man for the job.
I caught up with Chris this afternoon and he was also surprised by the Hotze endorsement and Dan’s public endorsement. He said that he’d heard that Dan was supporting Court in the background but didn’t expect him to go public. I asked him about the other two big slate mailers, Terry Lowry and Gary Polland, and he said that he was hoping to get Polland’s endorsement and that he was pretty certain that he would get Lowry’s endorsement because “Lowry is a man of principle when it comes to endorsements” and that Lowry can see the good work that has been happening at the District Clerk’s office.
As for the issues, I briefly scanned Court’s website and found this:
Work to eliminate the Public Defender’s Office
The District Clerk should be an outspoken leader for the people at the courthouse. The current District Clerk has been mute on one of the biggest and costliest issues in our local court system – the establishment of the Public Defender’s Office. Prior to the creation of the Public Defender’s Office a few years ago, all indigent cases were handled by court appointed attorneys from the private sector. The process worked just fine. Now, we have an office full of government lawyers on the public dime doing what private lawyers were doing more economically and more efficiently. Funded with a grant a few years ago, it is time we end the Public Defender’s Office before Harris County taxpayers are stuck with more bills we don’t need. An outspoken District Clerk could be an effective voice on this issue.
Click here to read Court’s op-ed on eliminating the Public Defender’s office. The article appeared in the November 13, 2009 edition of Texas Conservative Review.
Now that is interesting in a couple of ways. First, notice that Court’s thoughts on the office were in none other than Gary Polland’s newsletter. And that Polland makes quite a living off of court appointments – the Public Defender’s office has the potential to cut that income stream off. Hmm. Might be tough for Chris to get that endorsement again. Second, Court’s current boss, County Commissioner Steve Radack, voted FOR the creation of the Public Defender’s office. Very interesting.
I asked Chris about this one and he told me that it wasn’t his role to be for or against the office, that Commissioner’s Court was the proper place to take that argument. He also made the point that his main concern was that all parties have equal access to the justice system and that he did not want anyone that used the services of the District Clerk to think that he was biased in any way.
As I said in the earlier post, this race is going to be fun to watch. Probably not so much fun to run in, as both candidates will be slinging stuff that might or might not stick but will smell either way.