Gloves off in county judge debate

HOUSTON In front of a polite crowd of 150, Democratic challenger David Mincberg wasted no time attacking the Republican incumbent.

"Mr. (Ed) Emmett solicits money from people who do business in Harris County and turns around and votes immediately on their contracts," said Mincberg during the debate.

And Judge Emmett fired back.

"I'm the only person who's on this stand who's presented an ethics plan at all," he said. "In fact, David's called my plan terrific."

KTRK's political consultant says Judge Emmett's profile got a significant boost during the lead up and immediate aftermath of Hurricane Ike. His constant presence alongside Houston Mayor Bill White gave him hours of free television exposure just weeks before re election.

"I thought until Hurricane Ike, it looked tough for Judge Emmett, but I think he's now certainly competitive and has an edge," said Dr. Richard Murray form the University of Houston.

Despite talking about a wide range of issues, Friday's debate focused a lot of attention on the question of ethics, with Emmett explaining his work history and Mincberg pouncing.

"I've never been a lobbyist," said Mincberg. "I had to register as a lobbyist 10 or 12 years ago because I ran a trade association, but I've never lobby."

"Registered as a lobbyist but not a lobbyist, to me just epitomizes folks who have made a career out of being politicians," countered Mincberg.

As the two men fight for your votes, Dr. Murray says the biggest influence is an election they can't control.

"But the biggest unknown factor, besides what happens locally, is what goes on the last four weeks of the presidential election," said Dr. Murray.

Dr. Murray says how Barack Obama and John McCain do will greatly influence the outcome in Harris County. While Texas is a solidly Republican state, the county itself has been slowly turning more Democratic.

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