A sweep by either party in Harris County’s 2010 elections will be disastrous. The people of Harris County can no more afford to lose Vanessa Velasquez (Republican incumbent for the 183rd District Court), or Mike McSpadden (Republican incumbent for the 209th District Court), or Larry Standley (Republican incumbent for County Criminal Court at Law Number 6) than to elect John “Years of Trial Experience” Clinton (Republican running for County Criminal Court at Law Number 4) or lose (Democratic) District Clerk Loren Jackson.
(For the elected judges, judicial candidates, and other readers whose IQs may fall two or more standard deviations below the mean: the above paragraph means that I am endorsing Vanessa Velasquez, Mike McSpadden, Larry Standley, and Loren Jackson, and that I am doing whatever the opposite of endorsing is to John “Years of Trial Experience” Clinton.)
As Murray Newman writes of Loren Jackson, “Only a die-hard Republican who was completely unfamiliar with the job Jackson is doing would think of voting against him.” I was going to write, “Only a political hack who didn’t care about the District Clerk’s Office. . .”, but Murray’s way works just as well, and he got there first. The Republican running for District Clerk, Chris Daniel, is, at any rate, just that sort of political hack, unfamiliar with the job for which he has applied.
Chris Daniel’s hackness is apparent from his endorsement page. He’s running for a job that directly affects trial lawyers more than anyone else, but among the parade of political horribles endorsing him, there’s not a single trial lawyer. He’s endorsed by people who sell their endorsements (Lowry, The Link Letter [notice the vintage AHCL comment at the link—now a valuable collector’s item], Hotze, Polland, others?), as well as by a number of guys whom he calls “Hon.”: Hon. Robert Adams, Hon. Paul Bettencourt, Hon. Kevin Brady, Hon. Michael Wolfe,¹ and so forth.
Now, Daniel can call anyone he wants “Hon.”,² and it’s a nice honorific, but in Texas it’s usually reserved for judges, so voters could be forgiven for believing that Daniel has the endorsements of judges, whose opinion about who should be District Clerk might carry some weight. Is Chris Daniel lying? It’s not-quite-false-but-not-quite-true; deliberately deceptive, I think, but not quite a lie. All of Daniel’s “Hon.”s might be elected officials (I guess school trustees are “elected officials”), but none of them appear to be judges.
(The Republican candidate for the 308th Family District Court uses the same honorific, and many of the same endorsers, including “Hon. Chris Daniel.”)
So those are Chris Daniel’s endorsements. What about his campaign promises?
Among other things, Daniel proposes making jury duty easier by building a parking garage. I’m in favor of making jury duty easier; the problem is that building stuff is not part of the District Clerk’s job. County Commissioners Court is not going to approve a multi-million dollar expenditure so the District Clerk can keep a campaign promise. (Edit: Also, the County already owns a parking garage less than two blocks from the new jury-assembly building; it would not be possible to build one closer.) But if your only tool is a mechanical engineering degree, well, every problem looks like a construction project. That Daniel thinks this is a “simple solution” shows that he has no idea how county government works.
Early on, it was apparent that the Republican candidate for District Clerk—whoever it would be—would, if he was going to have anything to say on the campaign trail, have to lie and argue that the former (Republican) District Clerks were responsible for the reforms that Loren Jackson had instituted.
So here’s Chris Daniel in that interview with David Jennings: “The limited District Clerk filing system is a symptom that the current system is not wholly the idea of the current office holder.” Daniel inadvertently tells the truth: the fact that the e-filing system that Harris County uses doesn’t work well is proof that Loren Jackson’s (Republican) predecessors are responsible for it. Because if Loren Jackson had been elected two years earlier, we would already have an e-filing portal that worked, and it would work for free.
The current Harris County e-filing system, you see, is part of Texas Online, the monopoly given to NIC, Inc. by the Office of Court Administration, and accepted unquestioningly by the Republicans who served as District Clerk before Jackson. (Because, after all, what is more Republican than creating artificial monopolies to benefit corporations?) But there’s no reason for mechanical-engineer Chris Daniel to know this, or to tell the truth about it if he did. Because this part of the District Clerk’s Office that doesn’t work very well is something that was already screwed up when Loren Jackson came into office.
Daniel calls himself a “mechanical engineer with a legal background.” That “legal background” consists of going to law school, signing up to take the Texas Bar, posting his bar admission ticket on his website, then getting cold feet. He also touts his “legal experience in using both the local and Federal filing systems” as a reason that he can bring Harris County’s filing system into the 21st Century. Are Daniel’s claims of legal background or experience lies? I’ll count them, too, as not-quite-false-but-not-quite-true.
The system for electronically filing documents with the District Clerk’s Office is woefully lacking and ludicrously expensive; Loren Jackson has a plan to create a new e-filing portal (and make it free), but it’s not entirely in his hands. The Office of Court Administration, for example, opposes the plan—not because it wouldn’t work but because it would disrupt NIC’s monopoly.
Even with OCA opposition, the District Clerk could implement a better e-filing system, but—as Daniel would understand if he weren’t clueless—this is more a problem of local politics than of mechanical engineering: the District Clerk would have to get the civil and family court judges to enact new local rules allowing creation of a local e-filing portal (which Loren Jackson has done); then he would have to get the Texas Supreme Court to approve those local rules (which Loren Jackson is working on—sign the petition here).
Loren Jackson is the most fiscally conservative elected official in Harris County, and possibly in the state. He has saved the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars while creating jobs; he has made his office run more efficiently and effectively; and he has made justice more accessible by making it easier for lawyers to do their jobs. You want the smartest guy in the room working for you? Re-elect Loren. You want an honest family man? Re-elect Loren. You want proven conservative leadership? Re-elect Loren.
Chris Daniel, by contrast, is a lightweight, a political hack who knows next-to-nothing about the job he seeks, who is willing to throw away the truth (and change his religion³) to get elected, and who isn’t competent to run a website . . .
. . . much less the District Clerk’s Office.
No doubt about it: Chris Daniel is the (larger font) wrong guy for the job.
¹ Foreshadowing upcoming closeted-gay-Republican post.
² More foreshadowing of upcoming closeted-gay-Republican post.
³ Foreshadowing upcoming candidate-denying-Scientology post.