Harris County District Clerk Candidate Chris “Lightweight” Daniel

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).

“Someone get this lightweight out of my face before I kick his ass.”

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.

10 responses to “Harris County District Clerk Candidate Chris “Lightweight” Daniel”

  1. This is one Travis County Democratic political consultant’s take on crossing party lines in judicial races, which I have done a couple of times in the past and plan to do again in the general, when I will be voting for Melissa Goodwin (R) for the Third Court of Appeals:

    “Karyl, which party controls the bench has more to it than judging on cases. In elections, a lot of money flows into judicial races which affect all the other races on the ballot. Judicial campaigns are also the life blood of local party coordinated campaigns. No party is going to put up legal winners 100% of the time. I choose to look at the bigger picture which is why I will never support or vote for a Republican for judge.”

    And then after some feeble protests by criminal lawyers about the Constitution, this:

    “In Texas, judge are elected. That makes the process political. To assume otherwise is naive. Should the system be changed? Maybe but all systems are going to have drawbacks. The up side to elections are that if you have a Bozo, you have the option to do something about it instead of wringing your hands. Sorry if the electorate doesn’t always agree with you.”

    He’s normally a sweet guy. I don’t think he meant this unkindly. I think this is really the way it is. What can lawyers do about it in the courthouse?

  2. BTW, I shared this post on my Facebook page. I ran as a Dem (which I thought I was) against another Dem (for a quixotic two months) because the party had finally put up somebody so venal, selfish, and stupid that I felt compelled to do something. Even though I had no idea what I was doing. I was instantly labeled as a “Republican” by a kid/blogger/hired gun/fledgling campaign consultant, even though I did everything in Austin one could do to be identified by most objective people as a Democrat (like actually hang out at the Armadillo World Headquarters from the time I was in my early to mid teens, among many, many other things). This awful Dem eventually overcame an appointed Republican. Perry has made two terrific picks for the district court bench, who happen to be two of the three women to ever sit on a district court bench in “liberal” Travis County up to this date. The Dems even took over the Austin Women’s Political Caucus, causing them to break with the National organization, and vote for unqualified or abusive men over qualified women. The Republicans Perry has appointed have been terrific; one later defected to the party in power to keep her bench. So now here I am at midlife: The party I have always thought of as mine totally deindividuates individual candidates in judicial races; and Perry’s picks have been far better and more progressive than an equivalent number of Dem Party picks. This has totally rocked my world as, the campaign advisor is right, I was completely naive about the reality of party politics. I had so identified with one party that it wasn’t until its operatives went after me (screaming outside of my office — including the guy who was elected — he was the appointed magistrate so I was able to get the district judges to put a stop to that; screaming at women generally;; mischaracterizing me personally; blowing off my years of defending the death sentenced; the party chair leaning on me to withdraw my filing “so [I] could get [my] money back;” even cheating at cards, which used to be a capital offense and the ultimate act of gentlemanly dishonor — real gentlemen do not seem to exist in this process) — that I realized that “party unity” violated my core principles and beliefs of 50 years. The ugliness of the process can be terrifying, and terrifyingly juvenile — people knocking down or stealing other people’s signs, for example. Never put a picture on your campaign signs — another candidate recently did this and at least one of her teeth was consistently blacked out.

    Anyhow, I did learn that:

    — I knew nothing about the horrendous ugliness involved in the process before getting involved;;

    –It is the one place where it is okay for boys to beat up girls as viciously as they want to;

    –men young enough to be my son were totally disrespectful of me and my years of experience in the legal trenches;

    — my qualifications, knowledge, and experience meant nothing whatsoever to the party, as more than one elected official told me;

    — if you have ever crossed party lines, or never crossed party lines, or always been a Republican up until day before yesterday, none of it really matters to the party — they are just trying to predict who has the best chance of winning.

    So I came out in favor of my girlfriend Melissa Goodwin (R), who is a truly good person, and I feel myself somewhat adrift on the ideological plane of existence. Mobs scare me. I discovered why Will Rogers said he never met a man he didn’t like because it is true, with a couple of disturbing exceptions — individual people want the same thing pretty much, to love and be loved and feel safe and have their basic needs met, and individually they are adorable — it is when they begin to form and move in packs that bad things happen. And the reason we keep getting the same bad things on both sides from the process is that only someone as tough as shoe leather can get through something as awful as the political process to begin with, and a lot of people that tough have an overdeveloped sense of entitlement and really do not care about anything but their own power. Ick.

  3. It is truly frightening that Daniel has a chance of winning especially with the poll results showing the disapproval of Obama and White trailing in the governor’s race. What this means is that the intelligent voters of Harris County who know of only two words, “Democrat” and “Republican” and who hate the first word will elect someone who probably has never even been to the district clerk’s office and probably needs Mapquest to find it.

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