Harris County elects first Republican judges since 2016: 'Democrats aren't tough on crime'

Pooja Lodhia Image
Thursday, November 10, 2022
Harris County elects first Republican judges since 2016
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Crime and criminal court judges have been one of the most talked about topics in Harris County. Here's how it impacted judges' races in this election.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- If you live in Harris County, you've probably heard a lot of talk about crime and criminal court judges.

Conservative groups have poured money into commercials, working to sway voters into electing Republican judges, and they noticed.

"I think some people are getting released (from jail) when they shouldn't be. So, I would have liked to see some more change in that, and that's what a lot of discussions that I've seen have revolved around," voter Myles Shaw said.

Democrats just lost two criminal district courts and three county misdemeanor courts. It's not a huge upset, but it is significant, given how well the party performed in other races in Harris County.

And this was the first time Harris County voters have elected any Republican judges since 2016.

"There was certainly a lot of money spent to reinforce the crime message," Nancy Sims, a University of Houston political science lecturer, said. "It was reduced to a soundbite of Democrats aren't tough on crime. Given the amount of money that was spent, it wasn't a very effective campaign."

And she believes there may have been something else at play. With such a long ballot and no straight-ticket voting, names mattered.

"If you're just reading the names, there was an indication that African American names were not as successful on the ballot in these five races as they were in other races," Sims said. "My initial perception on these five races is that their feeling was that an African American judicial candidate might be softer on crime."

This was also the first year Texans voted without a straight ticket option. It makes it less likely for one-party sweeps like we saw in 2018 and 2020 tougher to come by, and races like this could get more competitive.

"In the next two years, it's just going to go into overdrive," voter Abiel Tseghi said.

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