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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 $#%$”. 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 $#%$”. 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 $#%$.
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 $#%$”. 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 $#%$”. 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 ???
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%
- Pat Lykos – 44%
And that, my friends, is a wrap.
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