10 Democratic judges lost primary election; 1 heads to runoff

Mycah Hatfield Image
Thursday, March 3, 2022
10 Democratic judges lost primary election; 1 heads to runoff
As a whole, Harris County criminal court judges came under fire for issues relating to releasing violent offenders on low bonds.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- The primary election proved to be a shake up for judges in Harris County. In the primary election, four incumbent criminal Democratic district court judges were beat by their opponents.

Chuck Silverman, Abigail Anastasio, Amy Martin and Greg Glass all came up short.

Glass made headlines in September of 2021 when Houston police officer William 'Bill' Jeffrey was killed in the line of duty. Jeffrey and other officers were serving a high-level narcotics warrant to a 30-year-old suspect at the time. Another officer was shot during the encounter as well.

SEE RELATED STORY: Houston police officers shot: 1 officer killed, 1 injured while executing warrant in NE Harris Co.

Court records showed Glass did not deny bond to the twice-convicted felon like prosecutors requested on a prior charge. Instead, Glass lowered it.

"This kind of, in some ways, taints all of the sitting judges, so by being an incumbent judge, there is a belief among a subset of Democratic primary voters that that person is lax on crime," Mark Jones, political science professor at Rice University, said.

Jason Luong, who currently serves as judge in the 185th district court, will face current Harris County prosecutor Andrea Beall in a run off. Beall led the race by 13% in the primary.

"Most of these challengers are current or former prosecutors," Jones explained. "They can signal, 'I am going to be tougher on crime,' while being fair in the sense of they are still Democrats. And, instead of giving low bond to everybody, giving low bond to non-violent offenders but rationing up bonds for the violent offenders."

Six other incumbent Democrat judges will not return to the bench in 2023.

Some Harris County judges are feeling the wrath of voters, concerned about what we've been calling the broken felony bond system. But will it be enough to change our justice system?

Tristan Longino and Barbara Stalder, who serve in family court, and civil district court judges Scot Dollinger, Franklin Bynum, and David Singer, who serve in misdemeanor criminal court, were all unseated.

Jones said several factors contribute to the shake up of judges: bond, where the candidates were on the ballot, and whether they are male or female.

"In a low information race, when you have a woman running against a man in the Democratic primary, odds are the woman is going to win because there are significantly more women who participate in the Harris County Democratic primary. When they get to a race and they don't know anything about the candidates, they tend to vote based off gender," Jones said.

Eight current Democratic criminal court judges won their race in the primary. Frank Aguilar, Chris Morton and Hilary Unger beat their opponents. Desean Jones, Danilo Lacayo, Brian Warren, Josh Hill and Lori Chambers Gray ran unopposed.

"It's an educated and relatively informed group (of voters in the primary), but really no one can be informed about all of the judges we have on our Harris County ballot," Jones said.

Even without straight ticket voting, Jones said voters tend to stick to their parties and does not expect many if any of the open seats to be turned over to a Republican in the November election.

He expects a higher voter turnout in the fall but said they are typically less familiar with the candidates and stick to their party.

"It's possible that a few of the more lenient Democratic judges do get some blow back via campaign by Republicans reaching out to Democrats, but by in large, when people get to this part of the ballot, unless someone has done something pretty egregious to rise to that level of public attention, in November they are either going to check the D or the R," Jones explained. "They aren't going to check the name."

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