In the midterm elections, the governor's race is the most important in Texas, pitting Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Beto O'Rourke - national pundits say. However, an article in
from City Journal points out that there is one vote that may occupy the minds of residents of the Lone Star state much more: the race for Harris County judge:
The gubernatorial race may get more press, but the battle for Harris County judge may be a better indicator of the Lone Star State's political trajectory.
Harris County is the third largest county in the nation. It is often considered the target of Republican state legislators. The judgeship is like being the "de facto mayor of the largest county in Texas" and so far the race for this office "has been a tug-of-war between national and local issues."
A Democrat with "no political experience and limited professional experience".
The current Democratic incumbent, Lina Hidalgo, is "a progressive political newcomer who won office in 2018 at just 27 years old. Stanford graduate, no political experience and limited professional experience." Prior to his election, the judge's office dealt with infrastructure, public safety and natural disasters in the county. However, the Democrat - reaffirming her ideology - has created nearly a dozen new departments to expand the role of county government.
Despite all this, most of the criticism against him is for his mismanagement of public security and his repression of local law enforcement. Among its measures is the rejection of 82% of law enforcement funding requests and the elimination of more than $3 million in police savings. Meanwhile, the backlog of cases in criminal courts exceeds 24,000 (misdemeanors) and 18,000 (felonies). And in July, the county jail was at 99.8% of capacity, with 81% of inmates awaiting trial, Meanwhile, homicides are up 43% from 2019 to 2020.
"We are Democrats who switched to the Republican side."
According to Rice University political analyst Mark Jones, Hidalgo appears to be struggling to gain the support of other Democratic officials, "I don't see all Democrats strongly supporting her." And a clear example -of the little support Hidalgo may have- goes beyond the political arena. April Aguirre - aunt of a nine-year-old girl who was shot to death in the County - criticized the progressive for her public safety policies and said in her court testimony:
We voted for you Lina. We are disappointed. We are Democratic people who are now moving to the Republican world because the people we voted for do not adequately represent us.
According to the article"The Hottest Race in Texas":
If enough voters share Aguirre's concerns, Hidalgo's desire to expand government at the expense of basic services may precipitate his downfall, and that of his party's hopes of turning Texas into a blue state.... His inability to prioritize the basic responsibilities of his office could dash that hope, especially as Texas Hispanic voters continue to tend to be more conservative..
Emphasizing the role of the judge
His Republican opponent, Alexandra Del Moral Mealer, is a Harvard Law and Business Administration graduate, a West Point graduate and a combat veteran of Afghanistan. She states that "she was drawn into the electoral contest by the increase in crime and Hidalgo's poor ability to address it." Mealer has campaigned against crime and has tried to "re-emphasize the role and responsibilities of the county judge's office" and supervise the criminal justice system.
The most recent Democratic primaries highlighted an electoral shift. In Starr County - where nearly the entire population is Hispanic - voting in March 2022 was down 98% from the 2018 election. In Harris County, 27% of all new voter registrations by women were Hispanic. One pollster said that "that figure did not exceed 1% a year ago".
Another July 2022 University of Houston poll on local issues found that the top concerns of Harris County Hispanic voters were crime and public safety (82%) and government corruption (73%). "Which does not bode well for Hidalgo."