District Clerk Chris Daniel to face primary challenge

And so it begins. As I noted back on February 1st, credible rumors predicted that Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel will have a primary challenger next year. The Houston Chronicle’s Kiah Collier has the “official” coming out party for former Harris County Republican Party Executive Director and now Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack’s communications guy, Court Koenning.

Local Republican Party mainstay Court Koenning, who has expressed interest in running for a county post for several years, said he plans to announce a bid for Harris County District Clerk early next month.

Koenning, 39, a special assistant to Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack and former executive director of the Harris County Republican Party, has filed the necessary paperwork to get on the Republican primary election ballot in 2014, where he will face incumbent Chris Daniel.

Daniel, who says he will run for a second term, is an attorney and mechanical engineer who ousted incumbent Democrat Loren Jackson in 2010. The district clerk oversees an office that keeps records for about 75 courts, prepares daily court dockets, summons jurors and receives child support payments.

Koenning, who was chief of staff to state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, before going to work for the county, said he decided not to run for the post in 2010, despite having been encouraged to do so, because he thought the office was being run well under Jackson, a family friend. Jackson was known for bringing technological upgrades to the office, including launching the development of an all-digital filing system.

Lots and lots of interesting backstory on this one so it will be fun for a guy like me. Most intriguing will be the role that Commissioner Radack takes – will he unleash his machine in support of his employee or will he stay neutral? Radack isn’t the most predictable guy in politics – who’d a thunk that he would switch from being a critic of Houston Mayor Annise Parker to supporting her, albeit mostly behind the scenes? Also remember that it was Chris Daniel that went to court and kept Radack’s candidate for District Clerk off the ballot in 2010.

Most of the people that I talk to on a daily basis in the HCRP think that Chris is doing a bang-up job, so I still have to ask what issues Koenning will use. The post mentions technological improvements and getting more people to participate. On that last one, I haven’t looked at any statistics yet but Chris has told me much the same thing as he stated in the post, namely that participation is actually up during his term. We’ll have to get facts to sort that one out. On the technological side, I think that the legend of Loren Jackson is way overblown and that in reality, many of the programs Jackson claimed as his were in the pipeline from previous administrations. Just as some of Chris’ improvements came from Jackson. I doubt the public actually cares about that.

What they will care about is the bias that Jackson and Koenning seem to share for certain groups over regular old voters:

Koenning, who also owns public relations and insurance firms, said judges, lawyers, bail bondsmen and other people “who depend on that office to do their job” and are encouraging him to run are “very concerned” about how Daniel has run the office.

Now, aside from the fact that Radack apparently needs to keep Koenning busier at his county job, look at who will benefit from a Koenning administration: judges, lawyers, bail bondsmen and other people “who depend on that office to do their job”. I’ll bet that ordinary citizens called to serve on juries or those that have other business with the District Clerk’s office will keep that in mind when they head to the voting booth. Remember when Jackson put in a special “express” window for that same group? I do.

Of course, Harris County Republican Party primary politics being what they are, this race, like most others, will boil down to who pays to get the endorsements of the slates. Chris spent a lot of money on them in the past but that has nothing to do with the future – loyalty doesn’t exist in that group, the only thing that matters is how much can you pay me today.

I think this is going to be a fun race to cover. And unlike the Chron, I can at least find a picture of Koenning that doesn’t look like it was taken at his high school prom.

Court Koenning
Court Koenning
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  1. says

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it. My last jury service was smooth and efficient. New assembly area is nice. Online scheduling is easy. Are there problems I can't see? I'm supporting Chris Daniel.

  2. says

    Absent some truly compelling evidence of the need for change, I'm supporting Chris Daniel. That is not a slam at Court Koenning, just a common sense recognition that the decision of the powers that be that the District Clerk's office should be held by one of their fellow insiders is not sufficient reason for change.

  3. Analyst says

    Court Koening is a nice guy running for the wrong reasons. Chris Daniel is a nicer guy who has stood up and done the right thing for the right reasons. When I first met Chris Daniel, I had no interest for or against him, but the more interaction I have had with him over time, the more impressed I have become in terms of both competence and character. With most elected leaders, it tends to go the other direction. Chris is a stand up guy who listens to good people. That’s all it takes to be a good leader.

  4. Sally Belladonna Baggins Stricklett says

    Keep Chris. There is no " calling" to do this job. It's a stepping stone… and so what political hopefuls do, is scan for opportunity in a relatively unadvertised position to get their foot in the door. He's not compelled to fix anything, or change anything, he just wants elected. I see no reason to accommodate him.

  5. BB says

    Remember that Court also tried to get appointed to replace Eversole, so he could serve his masters Radack and Patrick there. He’ll take any office he can get – all while on the county payroll.

    Thomas Jefferson once said, “Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.” This applies perfectly to Court Koenning.

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