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, 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 Pat Lykos to Rangers: Come on in and sit a spell!

Harris County DA Pat Lykos

As reported this past Friday, Harris County DA Pat Lykos has invited the Texas Rangers to come down and do a real investigation surrounding the activities of her office and the runaway grand jury from the 185th District Court. This morning, she notified her staff:



From: Salazar, Angela On Behalf Of Lykos, Patricia R.
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012 8:46 AM
To: All DA Employees
I have invited the Texas Rangers to conduct an investigation.

Subsequent to the “report” of the 185th Grand Jury foreman alleging an
“investigation” by this office, we have been the subject of
inflammatory attacks.  This has resulted in a frivolous motion being
filed in a capital murder case.  More can be anticipated.  This
disruption of the orderly administration of justice cannot be

I know you will continue to serve justice and protect the people of
Harris County, and not be distracted in carrying out our mission.

We will lend the Rangers every assistance.

Patricia R. Lykos
Harris County District Attorney

Lots of people are speculating as to why she would do this since the Rangers were already “investigating”. Well, for one, as I noted already, they weren’t “investigating”, they were following up on a complaint. Now they will be investigating and guess what? The investigation isn’t a limited one – I’d guess that they might want to step back, look at the big picture here, and then follow wherever the trail leads.

Remember all those leaks from the grand jury? Hmm? You know you do, especially those of you that received them. Or maybe someone might have filed a false complaint? Ya think?