The Bay Area Republican Women, the Clear Lake Area Republicans, and the San Jacinto Republican Women clubs held a forum for the candidates for Harris County District Attorney in the Republican primary this past Thursday night at Bay Oaks Country Club. They also had forums for the party chair and tax assessor collector races and I will comment on those in a separate posting.
What can I say? This was a fantastic forum if you truly desire to see the differences between candidates. I cannot imagine two candidates whose visions for a specific office differ more than Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos and challenger for the job Mike Anderson. Both candidates are passionate about their vision for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. Both candidates have a vast amount of experience in the criminal justice system. Neither candidate will back down under fire.
First, I gotta tell you that blogging is supposed to be fun and sometimes I forget that. Not this night. I had a blast – let me tell you why. I decided to give Murray and his army of anonymous Lykos haters (and now they hate lil ol me) something to crow about by asking Bob Price to take my picture with DA Lykos. Here is the result:
I had envisioned hilarious charges coming from the anonywusses but the joke was on me! I tapped her on the shoulder and asked her if she would be in a picture with me and I’ll be danged if she didn’t recognize me! Some kind of Lykos lackey I am! So much for all those conspiracy theories. Too funny, me with the big head and all, DA Lykos not having a clue who I was. But the fun wasn’t over, not at all. After the forum was over and I was walking out, I said hi to Don Hooper, another target of the anons, and his wife, ADA Rachel Palmer Hooper. Now, you have to understand that I’ve never spoken to Mrs. Hooper other than a cursory hello a couple of times at other meetings. But I was feeling good, so I asked her what it was like to have a suite on the 6th floor and not have to produce any work (you’d have to know the back story to understand that). So she starts laughing and we all walk out the doors laughing together. As we did so, we passed a couple standing outside, a male and female. The female, a redhead, had been staring daggers through me all night long, so I asked the Hoopers if they knew who she was. They started laughing harder, telling me that the couple was Bert Graham, projected to be Anderson’s #2 should he win, and Shirley Cornelius, one of the ADA’s that left the office and then charged wrongdoing and now a grand jury is looking into her charges. I laughed all the way to my car, as I’m sure the Hoopers did. Talk about a conspiracy! Big Jolly was walking and laughing with the Hoopers! Again, you’d have to know the back story and the charges that I’m in cahoots with DA Lykos against Mike Anderson to fully appreciate the humor in this but I think it is hilarious.
Okay, on to the forum itself. I’m not going to comment to much on it but what I have done is give you the ability to make your own decision! Yes, I do the work, you get to do the commenting. I had my trusty recorder there and have broken down the forum into opening and closing statements, questions from the clubs, and questions from the audience. You’ll have to listen to them all to get all of the fireworks and trust me, there were plenty of fireworks. These two people do not like each other. Most of the people supporting Anderson do not like DA Lykos or anyone that even seems friendly towards her – hate is an appropriate word. The majority of people supporting DA Lykos are not like that at all, they are very respectful of Anderson. I doubt I’ll get any disagreement with those two assessments from people familiar with the campaign.
As for the substance of the debate, I thought Mike scored a lot of points with his criticism of the DIVERT program, even though he misrepresented an appeals court’s statement about it. His consultant has obviously helped him sharpen his focus, putting it in terms of a drunk driver killing someone but the judge and jury would never know about a prior drunk driving incident if the guy had gone through the DIVERT program. That message scored big points with a lot of people attending. That was his highlight of the night. His low-light came when he called DA Lykos a liar. You just don’t do that in civil debates, especially when you come back two minutes later and admit that you had no direct knowledge of the alleged lie but someone told you about it. Not good, and a lot of the people picked up on that. Mike was fiery, treating the crowd much as he would a jury, walking back and forth, making eye contact, totally focused on justice for the victim. Several times he stated that prosecutors should be concerned with victims, capturing his vision for the office in a nutshell.
DA Lykos sees the office as one that should seek justice. She talked at length about the programs that she has instituted to reduce crime. Her motto was “no more victims”, focusing on reducing recidivism and violent crime. She also defended the attorney’s in her office several times, telling Mike at one point to stop sliming them. It does seem as though the anti-Lykos forces think that the attorneys that didn’t leave are inferior and incompetent, so it seemed appropriate for her to defend them from Mike’s attacks. She was also effective in using the office’s growing national reputation effectively.
Overall, if I had to declare a “winner” of the debate, I would give the nod to Mike for a couple of reasons. First, that DIVERT argument hit hard. Second, his supporters turned out to lend him a hand. Both Bert Graham and Donna Goode (another prosecutor that left the office) got to ask questions of DA Lykos and obviously used Mike’s themes. That said, I don’t think he made the case to replace an incumbent. His main argument remains that DA Lykos wasn’t a prosecutor and therefore cannot run the office. That was the theme in 2008 also but now that she has been there over three years, he should be able to point to specifics proving that. As best as I can tell, there are no specifics for him to use. The office seems to be running just fine under her leadership. He’s going to have to make that case or drop it because several long time Republicans are now saying, so what?
The hard part is figuring out who will win in a primary between these two. I wrote in my notes that night that Mike has a passion for prosecution and Pat has a passion for justice. In a general election, Pat would crush Mike like a June bug hitting the front end of a Peterbilt. But in a low turnout Republican primary, you might have enough law and order types turnout to give Mike a chance. As I was packing my cameras away, I heard a guy behind me saying he didn’t care about all of those “bullshit” programs, he just wanted people in jail. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw DA Lykos surrounded by several young mothers, admiration in their eyes.
Now it is your turn:
Pat Lykos Opening Statement
Mike Anderson Opening Statement
Club question 1
There are reports that the Harris County Jail is one of, if not the largest mental health facilities in the State of Texas, due to the mental condition of many people incarcerated there. What can and should the District Attorney’s office do in the performance of its work to address this condition?
Club question 2
What can and should be done by prosecutors to reduce the incarceration rate, and avoid the risks of recidivism, among first time juvenile or adult, non-violent offenders, and how would you address this issue if elected?
Club question 3
Are there unique challenges to the prosecution of crimes created by the fact that there are 34 different municipalities in this county, in addition to the different precincts within the county government, and how would you address those challenges if elected?
Club question 4
What unique skills and experiences do you bring to this job, and how would you use those skills and experiences in managing the office, if elected?
Audience question 1
Dee Carroll asked about Mike’s DIVERT charge.
Audience question 2
Donna Goode asks DA Lykos what support she has from law enforcement and why she deserves it. Fireworks.
Audience question 3
Moderator Ed Hubbard would not allow Don Hooper’s question to Mike about DIVERT. Here is that exchange so that you can get a feel for the animosity between these two:
After that exchange, candidate for SD11 Daniel McCool asked about treatment of domestic abuse victims.
Audience question 4
Bert Graham asks DA Lykos how she can run the office since she’s never been a prosecutor.
Mike Anderson closing statement
Pat Lykos closing statement
A few pictures from the evening: