Political experts believe the Chronicle's endorsement can be crucial in race for Harris County judge

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Friday, October 14, 2022
The Houston Chronicle editorial board makes an endorsement
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Political experts believe that the Houston Chronicle's editorial board's endorsement of the Harris County judge's race could be crucial in a close race.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The race for Harris County Judge is said to be a close one, and the Houston Chronicle's editorial board's endorsement could be deemed crucial, according to political experts.

Texas voters are heading to the polls soon, with one race generating great attention regarding who will take the top spot in Harris County.

"Across the state of Texas, we really don't have a lot of competitive races this cycle," Mark Jones, a Rice University political science professor, said.

"I think on Election Night, one of the races most election watchers are going to be watching is the Harris County judge race," Jones said.

Jones will release a poll on the judge's race in the coming days. The results, he expects, will be tight.

RELATED: 'This Week In Texas' puts spotlight on Harris County Judge's race

"Right now, it's a race that's too close to call," Jones said.

When it comes to what matters to Harris County voters, Jones says it comes down to the price of goods and crime. The current budget battle doesn't seem to matter as Jones explained that it could be complex.

Republicans haven't shown up to court in a month, preventing Hidalgo from passing a higher tax rate to increase police, health, and flood control spending. What does matter to voters, though, Jones says, is Hidalgo's staffers being charged in 2022 with helping steer the outcome of a multi-million-dollar contract.

"In the surveys, we've done one of the top issues after inflation and after public safety is public corruption," Jones explained.

The indictment of staffers is why the Chron's editorial board says it endorsed Hidalgo's opponent.

"It's not so easy to say these indictments are politics," Lisa Falkenberg, the Houston Chronicle's opinion editor, explained. "There's actually some evidence there. We came away from this screening without the answers that we wanted."

The board did have a meeting with both candidates.

It said Hidalgo didn't fill the hole on combating rising crime and the indictment of her staffers. They did add that it wasn't an easy decision because Hidalgo has done well with other items, including standing up to the governor over COVID-19 and early childhood education.

"We looked at these two candidates," Falkenberg said. "We looked at what they said we would do. We looked at what Lina Hidalgo has done, and that's how we reached a conclusion."

Jones said because the judge's race is expected to be tight, the Chron's editorial board's endorsement could be crucial.

"This is a race that's probably going to be decided somewhere between less than a percent and five percent," Jones said. "So, any two or three percent of the electorate that shifts one way or the other could be the difference between victory and defeat."

ABC13 reached out to both candidates. As of Friday, there has been no response from Mealer.

The Hidalgo campaign sent ABC13 a statement saying:

"The Chronicle Endorsement is certainly disappointing but also perplexing. The Chronicle won a Pulitzer for their editorials on voting rights this year. That is why their endorsement for someone who plans to purge voter rolls and who has the extremist Defend Texas Liberty PAC as one of her largest donors is puzzling. It's worth noting during the editorial board screening that Judge Hidalgo directly asked Mealer if President Biden won the 2020 election. Mealer wouldn't answer and instead deflected to the media's lack of reporting on "Hunter Biden."

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