As a courtesy to our members who may not have access to election results throughout the state, we are sending out this election update focusing on criminal justice and state and local races. This is information that we have obtained from a variety of sources (internet news, personal reports, carrier pigeon delivery, etc.), but feel free to contact Shannon with corrections or additions.
Well, to cut and paste from our cable news-inspired description of the primary elections earlier this year: The results are in, and the “philandering xenophobic casino-owning reality TV star currently being sued for fraud” handily beat the “coattail-riding pathological liar currently under federal investigation for security breaches.” Meanwhile, all 30-some-odd Texas congressional incumbents of both parties won their primaries despite Congress’ public approval rating being at an all-time low.
Besides personalities, there were several policy issues up for debate via ballot initiatives in various states. The increasingly hot topic of bail bonds and pre-trial release was on the ballot in New Mexico, where voters amended the state constitution to let out more low-level offenders while authorizing judges to hold dangerous offenders indefinitely. Regarding the death penalty, Californians voted to reinvigorate and speed up their (essentially non-existent) death penalty, Nebraska voters reinstated the death penalty by a 60-40 margin after their legislature repealed it in 2015, and 67 percent of Oklahoma voters enshrined the death penalty in the state constitution. (And on a side note, GOP control of the White House, the Congress, and—soon—the Supreme Court makes death penalty abolition efforts increasingly unlikely at the federal level.) On the other hand, Oklahoma voters also passed two initiatives to roll back penalties for certain non-violent drug and property offenses, despite the organized opposition of Oklahoma prosecutors and law enforcement groups. Interestingly, some of Oklahoma’s new theft-related punishments will still be harsher than those in Texas, but the punishment reduction of repeated low-level “hard drug” crimes (possession of meth, cocaine, heroin, etc.) is a step beyond the pale compared to Texas law, and it was a step taken with the full encouragement and support of the libertarian “Right on Crime” advocates in that state.
But when it comes to the topic of drugs, the undisputed winner of this criminal justice election cycle is marijuana. Voters decriminalized recreational use of pot in four of the five states in which that issue was on the ballot (California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada), and medical marijuana is still available by prescription in the one state that rejected outright legalization (Arizona). Medical marijuana of various forms was also newly approved by voters in Arkansas, Florida, North Dakota, and Montana. The upshot of all this is that recreational marijuana use is now legal for adults in seven states and the District of Columbia, and medical marijuana is new legal in more than half (26) of the states, despite being illegal at the federal level. Keep all this in mind when talking about marijuana next session.
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Republicans swept all the high court races on the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals, with two new CCA judges taking the bench in January: Harris County District Judge Mary Lou Keel (R) (Place 2, defeating Judge Larry Meyers) and criminal defense lawyer Scott Walker (R) (Place 5, replacing the retiring Cheryl Johnson). Judge Mike Keasler (R) also retained his seat for another two years, at which point he will reach the court’s mandatory retirement age and have his replacement appointed by the governor.
Stop us if you’ve heard this before, Part II: In the State Senate, all incumbents of both parties who were up for re-election prevailed in their races and will return to office, leaving us with the same 20 R – 11 D split as last session. (Thank you, redistricting!) The new additions to Senate are:
- Dr. Dawn Buckingham (R-Austin), replacing the retiring Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay)
- Former State Rep. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), replacing the retiring Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler)
- Former State Rep. Borris Miles (D-Houston), replacing the retiring Rodney Ellis (D-Houston)
These changes are expected to nudge the Senate a tad bit further to the right, but not in way that will be very noticeable to the casual observer.
Stop us … oh, all right, you get the point: It was more of the same in the House of Representatives, too. Of 150 seats, only about a dozen were competitive this November, and the result of the turf battle over those districts was a Democratic pick-up of four seats in urban areas, making the partisan split in the lower chamber 94 R – 56 D. The losses cut the size of the nascent House Hispanic Republican Caucus in half (from six back to three), but ironically, the likely impact of the Democratic gains will be to make the House more conservative, not less. That’s what happens when Democrats take over the seats of less conservative Republican members, leaving the remaining Republican caucus more conservative in the absence of those moderate members. Nevertheless, the Speaker’s gavel will be Straus’s for the asking against next session—one that some learned observers predict may be his last, however.
Welcome our new prosecutors
The following is our most up-to-date list of winners from this election cycle—excluding incumbents who had no primary or general election opposition—plus other new officeholders appointed within the past year; winners/appointees are listed in bold, incumbents are in italics.
Angelina County: Cary Kirby (R) (replacing Ed Jones (R)).
Archer County: David Levy (R).
Baylor County: Cody Robinette (R).
Burleson County: Susan Deski (replacing Joey Skrivanek).
Cameron County: Luis Saenz (D).
Coke County: Nicholas Arrott (R) (replacing Nancy Arthur).
Fisher County: Michael Hall (D) (replacing Rudy Hambric).
Freestone County: Brian Evans (R) (replacing Chris Martin (R)).
Frio County: Joseph Sindon (D) (replacing Hector Lozano (D)).
Harris County: Vince Ryan (D) defeated Jim Leitner (R).
Henderson County: Clint Davis (R).
Hood County: Matt Mills (R) (replacing Lori Kaspar (R)).
Jack County: Brad Dixon (R) defeated Mike Mask (D).
Jim Wells County: Michael Guerra (D) (replacing Jesusa Sanchez-Vera (D)).
Karnes County: Jennifer Dillingham (D) (replacing Herb Hancock).
Kimble County: Donnie Coleman (R) (replacing Allen Ahlschwede (R)).
Kinney County: Todd Durdin (replacing Bob Adams).
Liberty County: Matthew Poston (R) (replacing Wes Hinch (R)).
Mitchell County: Sterling Burleson (R) (replacing Ty Wood).
Montgomery County: J.D. Lambright (R).
Ochiltree County: Joe Meraz (R) (replacing Barrett Dye).
Palo Pinto County: Jimmy Ashby (R) (replacing Phil Garrett (R)).
Pecos County: Frank Lacy (R) defeated Jesse Gonzales, Jr. (D) (replacing Ori White (D)).
Potter County: Scott Brumley (R).
Presidio County: Former 83rd DA Rod Ponton defeated Chuck Stephenson as a write-in candidate.
Red River County: Val Varley (R) defeated Jack Harrington (D).
San Patricio County: Former ACA Tamara Cochran-May (R) defeated David Aken (D).
Shackelford County: Colton Johnson (R).
Stonewall County: Riley Branch (Ind) defeated Kollin Shadle (D).
Terrell County: Ken Bellah (D) (replacing Marsha Monroe).
Upton County: Paige Tambunga Skehan (R) (replacing Melanie Spratt Anderson).
Willacy County: Annette Hinojosa (D) (replacing Bernard Ammerman (D)).
Wilson County: Tom Caldwell (R) (replacing Dayna Fallwell (R)).
2nd DA (Cherokee County): Former DA Elmer Beckworth (R) (replacing Rachel Patton (R)).
24th DA (Dewitt/Goliad/Refugio): ADA Robert Lassmann (R) (replacing Mike Sheppard (R)).
26th DA (Williamson): Shawn Dick (R) (replacing Jana Duty (R)).
29th DA (Palo Pinto): Kriste Burnett (R) (replacing Michael Burns (R)).
32nd DA (Nolan/Fisher/Mitchell): Ricky Thompson (R) (replacing Anna Reed (R)).
34th DA (El Paso/Hudspeth/Culberson): Jaime Esparza (D).
35th DA (Brown/Mills): Micheal Murray (R).
47th DA (Potter/Armstrong): Randall Sims (R).
50th DA (Knox/Baylor/Cottle/King): Baylor CA Jennifer Habert Dick (R) (replacing David Hajek (R)).
53rd DA (Travis): Margaret Moore (D) defeated Maura Phelan (R) (replacing Rosemary Lehmberg (D)).
63rd DA (Val Verde/Kinney/Terrell): Michael Bagley (R) defeated Fred Hernandez (D).
79th DA (Jill Wells/Brooks): Carlos Omar Garcia (D).
81st DA (Atascosa/Frio/Karnes/La Salle/Wilson): Former ADA Audrey Louis (R) defeated Rene Peña (D).
83rd DA (Pecos/Brewster/Jeff Davis/Presidio): Sandy Wilson (R) defeated Jaime Escuder (D) (replacing Rod Ponton (D)).
88th DA (Hardin): David Sheffield (R).
97th DA (Archer/Clay/Montague): Casey Pohlemus (R) (replacing Paige Williams (R)).
105th DA (Nueces): Mark Gonzalez (D) defeated James Gardner (R) (replacing Mark Skurka (D)).
106th DA (Dawson/Gaines/Garza/Lynn): Philip Mack Furlow (R) (replacing Mike Munk (R)).
109th DA (Winkler/Crane): Ector ADA Amanda Navarette (R) (replacing Dorothy Holguin (R)).
110th DA (Floyd/Dickens/Motley/Briscoe): Lubbock ADA Wade Jackson (R) (replacing Becky McPherson (R)).
119th DA (Tom Green/Concho/Runnels): ADA John Best (R) (replacing George McCrea (R)).
142nd DA (Midland): First Asst. DA Laura Nodolf (R) (replacing Teresa Clingman (R)).
145th DA (Nacogdoches): Nicole Lostracco (R).
159th DA (Angelina): Joe Martin (R) (replacing Art Bauereiss (R)).
173rd DA (Henderson): ADA Mark Hall (R) (replacing Scott McKee (R)).
216th DA (Kerr/Bandera/Gillespie/Kendall): ADA Lucy Wilke (R) (replacing Bruce Curry (R)).
220th DA (Bosque/Comanche/Hamilton): ADA Adam Sibley (R) (replacing B.J. Shepherd (R)).
229th DA (Starr/Duval/Jim Hogg): Omar Escobar (D).
235th DA (Cooke): John Warren (R) (replacing Janice Warder (R)).
286th DA (Cochran/Hockley): Christopher Dennis (R).
329th DA (Wharton): Dawn Allison (R) defeated John Roades (D).
Grayson County CDA: Joe Brown (R).
Harris County DA: Kim Ogg (D) defeated Devon Anderson (R).
Jackson County CDA: First ADA Pam Guenther (R) (replacing Bobby Bell (R)).
Kenedy & Kleberg County DA: John Hubert (R) defeated Nathan Fugate (D).
Taylor County CDA: ADA James Hicks (R) (replacing James Eidson (R)).
Again, we have cobbled together this information from a variety of sources, but we can’t always guarantee its accuracy. If you have a correction or addition you would like to share with us, please send it to Shannon. And if you notice that you have a new neighbor, be sure to pick up the phone and welcome him or her to the ranks!
While we’re talking about election results, allow us to bring to your attention one final election for 2016. TDCAA will hold its Annual Business Meeting at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, November 30, 2016, in the ballroom of the La Torretta Resort in Montgomery, Texas (in conjunction with the Elected Prosecutor Conference). The business meeting will include elections for various positions on TDCAA’s Board of Directors. All elected prosecutors are voting members of the association and are welcome to attend. To learn more about what positions are open and who is running, please visit http://www.tdcaa.com/announcements/notice-tdcaa-annual-business-meeting-0. And if you haven’t registered for the Elected Conference already, please do so ASAP! Check out the agenda and related information at http://www.tdcaa.com/training/elected-prosecutor-conference-0, and note that we will also be offering an informal, off-agenda Legislative Preview on that Friday morning.
APA diversion training and grants
The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA), working in collaboration with the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Center for Court Innovation, has opened an online application for prosecutors to request training and technical assistance under the BJA/APA Prosecutor-Led Diversion Initiative. This initiative is a Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) national training and technical assistance program designed to help prosecutors plan, implement, and evaluate new prosecutor-led diversion options. To be considered as part of the first wave of eight sites to be selected, please complete an application by Friday, November 18, 2016. For more details, visit http://www.tdcaa.com/announcements/application-prosecutor-led-diversion-initiative-grants.
The APA is also offering a free training on diversions next week in Arizona. For details, see http://www.tdcaa.com/announcements/prosecutor-diversion-training-phoenix-november-14-15.
DPS lab alcohol testing notice
The Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Laboratory Service is revising the methods it uses to analyze alcohol in biological specimens. These detailed changes are outlined in a document they provided to us this week and which we have posted online. These changes went into effect November 7, 2016, and will affect any cases that are completed on or after that date. If you have any questions about this change, please contact your local DPS crime lab.
“If we can’t get close to beating Trump in Texas, we’re never going to beat you guys in a statewide election in ’18.”
—A message Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) says he received after the election from an anonymous Democratic officeholder. Trump’s final margin of victory in Texas was nine points, making this the state’s closest race for the White House since 1996, when GOP nominee Bob Dole won by five points.
“I think one thing that should be distinguished here is that the media always has taken Trump literally. It never takes him seriously, but it always takes him literally. … I think a lot of the voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously but not literally. And so when they hear things like the Muslim comment or the wall comment or things like that, the question is not, ‘Are you going to build a wall like the Great Wall of China?’ or, you know, ‘How exactly are you going to enforce these tests?’ What they hear is, ‘We’re going to have a saner, more sensible immigration policy.’”
—Peter Thiel, Silicon Valley billionaire and Trump supporter, in a Q&A before the National Press Club last week (and for which he was roundly criticized by journalists for his “naïve” view of the Trump campaign—that is, until the election results were in).
“Becoming DA is political. Being DA is not. [Soros] is trying to craft and inject political agendas into what has absolutely got to be an apolitical office.”
—Pete Weir, the incumbent Jefferson County (CO) DA, who won re-election despite negative ads run against him by a PAC funded by progressive New York billionaire George Soros. Soros poured $9.6 million into prosecutor and sheriff races in 10 states this election cycle, with mixed results.