The only race for a Criminal Court Judgeship on the Republican Primary ballot in Harris County that ended with a runoff is that for the 180th Court. All during the primary season, I heard nothing but negative things about one of the candidates, Danny Dexter.
In fact, the information about him was so negative that I was very surprised when I heard him talk about his record as a prosecutor on Monday night at the SJRW Candidate Forum. So surprised that I emailed him to ask him about it – I would have asked him after the meeting but as usual, time was short. I did not expect a response because he did not respond to the Judicial Q & A that I offered to all candidates. To my pleasant surprise, he did respond.
First though, I need to put this into some type of context. The 180th race had three candidates, Mr. Dexter, Marc Brown, and Emily Munoz. I interacted frequently with both Mr. Brown and Ms. Munoz but never ran into Mr. Dexter. Most of the information I was able to gather on Mr. Dexter came from campaign finance reports, which showed that he paid the despicable Terry Lowry $10,000 and from former Assistant District Attorney Murray Newman via his Life at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center blog.
Now, if you don’t know by now what I think of Mr. Lowry, you are new to Big Jolly Politics. Go to the search box and type in Terry Lowry – that will help you understand why it was and is very easy for me to accept Murray’s assessment of Mr. Dexter. And Murray’s assessment is not good – in fact, it is so bad that it makes even me question whether or not Murray can be objective on the subject. Remember, I detest Terry Lowry’s methods and the way he is dividing the HCRP, so for me to step back and wonder is telling. Read Murray’s original report here. It was very uncomfortable to read Mr. Dexter’s personnel file from the Harris County District Attorney’s office.
So when I heard Mr. Dexter state that he was proud of his record as an ADA, I was taken aback. How could he possibly be proud of the record that I read?
Fortunately, he responded to my inquiry about this discrepancy. I think I owe it to you and to Mr. Dexter to put out his side of the story. Here is his first response:
Dear Mr. Jennings:
Thank you for your interest in this race.
As to the release of personnel records on Murray’s blog, I would point out that obviously only certain portions of my records were selectively highlighted to discredit me. I was not dismissed from the office. I resigned. My resignation letter is in the file, as are other positive things about my tenure at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office that have not been mentioned by my opponent or his Internet surrogates. Suppression is a dangerous game to play with public documents but this perhaps says more about the culture at the District Attorney’s Office during the time certain people were employed there than it does about me.
Now, I have not read these vile attacks on my character. I have not read these blatant misrepresentations of my record. I have only been informed of them and their substance – or lack thereof. I will also point out that it has been stated that I fought the release of my personnel file. This too is false. I had no problem with my record being released. I only asked to also review it since it had been some time since I had seen the materials. I did not seek to delay the release of my records or ask that they be hidden of edited. I knew there was a possibility that my opponents would cherry pick items out of it to use against me and that voters would never get an accurate, honest of fair appraisal from those working against me. That, I am told, is politics.
A complete reading of my file will show positive performance reviews and a trial record of which I am proud.
I am responding to this now because you asked. I have no intention of getting into the mud and getting into a back-and-forth on this.
It has been my stated goal to run a positive campaign. That’s what I have done. That’s what I will continue to do. I have not once attacked my opponent. I have not once attacked my opponent’s character. I have not once questioned his record or used surrogates or malicious attack dogs with an agenda to do any dirty work. I have simply gone to voters with my case. I have been respectful, polite and attempted to be a happy warrior. That approach has earned me all the major endorsements in this race.
Respectfully, what disturbs me most is that someone asking to be a judge — a judicial umpire who is supposed to apply the law to ALL the facts — would selectively take someone’s record and use it for their own political gain. My question is this – What does that say about the quality of justice our community will get from that judge? Does it say that if someone uses such tactics to get elected that they would then use them on the bench when ruling on cases? That is for the voters to decide.
Mr. Jennings, I am not a politician. I’m someone who worked in the private sector and decided I wanted to give something back to the community that has given so much to me and my family. I went to law school later in life, became a prosecutor and worked hard. I rubbed some of my former colleagues the wrong way and they retaliated because the culture of the office at the time allowed them to do so. I was only interested in justice. I wanted to do a good job and I believe I did. I’m not one of those people who watch the scoreboard. I didn’t feel it was my job as a prosecutor to rack up “wins.” I believed it was my job to seek justice. That attitude meant I focused on what was in front of me. I did not play games and was not interested in being anything but a mature and fair advocate for justice. That put me at odds with what was then a powerful group within that office.
I have found these attacks on my character extremely disappointing, especially since they have been carried out so dishonestly and by people who spend a lot of time talking about justice. But again, I’m told, that’s politics.
So, my opponent, his paid political attack dog and his Internet surrogates looking to benefit from his possible ascension to the bench can continue their misrepresentations, lies, slanders and half-truths. I have faith in the voters of this great county.
I am guided by my faith in God, my belief that life is sacred and my desire to see that justice is done. I do believe our courthouse is a sacred place where people are protected and our Constitution is honored. Those are not just words to me.
I do not believe the courthouse belongs to prosecutors, ex-prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges or bureaucrats. I believe it belongs to the people and I believe justice is best served when everyone who works there remembers that. I think there are many people who have forgotten that. They dismiss it. I think there are those whose warped sense of ownership has soured and turned to elitism — the kind of elitism that has seized government at all levels. It is the kind of elitism that results in the people not being served. It’s the kind of elitism that produces bad justice.
I want to serve the people. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I will not be the kind of judge who looks at a case and just sees what I want to see. I will look at things for what they are. Justice is not selective. It is blind. Our community would be better served if some would remember that.
Again, thank you for your interest.
I do hope you take the time to read his entire response. As much as I detest Terry Lowry and the fact that Mr. Dexter paid him $10,000, I think it is more important that you get the whole story, not just my version or Murray’s version.
I did have a followup question for him because of his mention of a paid political attack dog. When reviewing the campaign finance reports, I found that he outspent Mr. Brown almost 8-1:
And so I asked:
Thank you for responding, even if it did surprise me. Surprises are nice. 😉
Two points. First, I’m sure that you are aware of my disdain for Terry Lowry and his approach to politics, which does not endear me to your campaign. That said, I will not hide the truth from my readers and would like to publish your response – without editing. I think it is critical to get both sides of any story and your response via email is the first defense I have seen.
Second, could you clarify this statement:
So, my opponent, his paid political attack dog and his Internet surrogates looking to benefit from his possible ascension to the bench can continue their misrepresentations, lies, slanders and half-truths.
I think I know who the Internet surrogates are but I have no idea who you are referring to as his paid political attack dog. He hasn’t spent a lot of money according to his campaign finance reports, with most of it being spent on KSEV radio and signs. He did pay Mary Jane Smith six hundred dollars or so but she isn’t known for attacks and that isn’t very much money. Can you clarify?
Thanks again for the response, it does help offset the one-sided story that I see.
To which he responded:
I appreciate your offer of publishing my original response to you unedited.
As for clarification on the statement you mentioned, respectfully, there is nothing to clarify. I have been informed by numerous people that my characterization of my opponent’s paid attack dog is painfully accurate and the opposite of how you characterize her. I’ll leave it at that. She is not on the ballot but has engaged in tactics she is well known for in this very race.
As I said, it is not my intention to get in the mud with my opponent or his surrogates who do not tell the complete truth. This is all I’ll say on the subject.
My conversation — the one that really matters — is with the voters of this great county and I’m going to carry that forward with respect for them, respect for the community, respect for conservative ideals and respect for the job I am seeking. Unfortunately, my opponent is taking a different approach. That is his choice.
Thank you again for contacting me.
I hope this helps in getting out Mr. Dexter’s side of this story, which, by my estimation, before now has been extremely one-sided against him, and I am a part of that because of my disdain for Terry Lowry’s influence upon the HCRP.
You must decide for yourself on this and all races. I hope this information adds to your knowledge of the candidates.
UPDATE 3/18/10 9:30am: Mr. Dexter’s opponent in this race, Marc Brown, emailed the following:
Inasmuch as Dexter has called me a liar I need an email address so I can send you a scan of memo from his personnel file detailing that he was told that he had three months to find another job outside of the District Attorney’s Office. You decide if that is being fired or not.
And here is a copy of that memo from July 2004:
It appears to me that Mr. Dexter, if he resigned as he stated, did so under threat of dismissal, which is not uncommon. You’ll have to decide if that is important to your vote, taking into consideration the other, positive attributes that Mr. Dexter outlined above.