As we look forward to the post-Perry era in Texas politics, it is important that conservatives ensure the next Governor is a Republican. Past experience in the state and voting trends seem to indicate we will win, but past is not prolog. Around the country we lost races we should have won, and so the question is, "Can it happen here?" The answer is, "Maybe."
TCR has analyzed what WE could do to hand the Governorship to Wendy Davis.
- Repeat Ann Richards' mistake in her race against George W. Bush, saying he was too dumb to be Governor. Recently, a GOP - Tea Party activist said something similar about Davis.
- Run a campaign that focuses solely on the GOP Primary base, ignoring November Republicans and independents.
- Let Davis escape her radical position supporting third trimester abortions, by saying she is fighting for women's health.
- Run a campaign that forgets the George W. Bush lessons of 1994 - to focus on four or five issues that address Texas issues and challenges.
- Fail to articulate conservative solutions to Texas problems creating a vacuum to be filled by Wendy Davis and her liberal ideas.
- Run a campaign that is mostly negative about Davis.
- Run a campaign that ignores the issues of education and health care, leaving the field in these areas to Davis.
- Run a campaign of ideological purity demonstrating that if you are not a Republican who supports the Empower Texans agenda (which TCR agrees with the vast majority of the time) 100%, there is not a place in the GOP for that voter. Then they will migrate to the other party.
- Encourage Debra Medina to run a well-funded campaign as an independent for Governor.
State Of Texas Constitutional Amendment 6, Harris County Propositions, City of Houston
State of Texas Proposition No. 6 - The Water Proposition
Vote For - We clearly have a water problem in Texas and this proposal funds a mechanism to put the money towards 562 critical projects needed to satisfy a growing population for the next 50 years.
Harris County Proposition 1 - Central Booking Center
This Proposition allows voters to approve the spending of $144 million to set a central city/county inmate processing center. The cost is reasonable and the County Commissioners anticipates no tax rate increase to pay for it. Vote For, we need it.
Harris County Proposition 1 - Astrodome
This is a $200 million bond issue to update the Astrodome into a multi-purpose special events center. The plan preserves the former "8th wonder of the world" and gives the county an opportunity to generate revenues. The alternative is to tear it down and create another parking lot and that costs a lot too. So Vote For.
City of Houston & HCC Board of Trustees
Mayor: Ben Hall, [TCR also recognizes Eric Dick, who is a much improved candidate since his last race]
City Council District A: Helena Brown
City Council District G: Oliver Pennington
City Council At-Large 1: Stephen Costello
City Council At-Large 2: Andrew Burks, Jr
City Council At-Large 3: Michael Kubosh
City Council At-Large 4: C.O. "Brad" Bradford
City Council At-Large 5: Jack Christie
City Controller: Bill Frazer
HCC Board of Trustees District I: Yolanda Navarro Flores
HCC Board of Trustees District III: Herlinda Garcia
HCC Board of Trustees District V: Phil Kunetka
HISD Trustee District VII: Harvin Moore
HISD Trustee District IX: Clyde Lemon
Note: The more detailed TCR Voters Guide is coming soon where we tell voters why we endorsed who we support.
TCR Interviews Candidates
For Harris County District Clerk
As we start looking forward to the March 2014 Primary, one of our most hotly contested races is for District Clerk where incumbent Chris Daniel takes on Former Harris County GOP Executive Director Court Koenning. TCR thought it would be helpful to interview these men to see what they had to say. So here it is unedited.
1.) Why are you running for this job?
Chris Daniel: I am running for re-election to District Clerk because I believe in the improvements my office is making daily and I want to be part of it moving forward. I enjoy my job and I'm proud of the work we do. The office is like a family and I feel an obligation to all employees of the District Clerk's Office to provide a good working environment where they feel appreciated and respected. I encourage hard work, and stress the importance of having pride in your work. I also feel a duty towards the taxpayers to be responsible with their money and try to cut back where we can. I would like to think if someone looked at my life they would see that I have always been Civic minded. I'm an Eagle Scout, I've volunteered at numerous organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Houston Food Bank and Target Hunger, and something many may not know- I'm a Rotarian. Serving as District Clerk isn't an aspiration I had one day, but serving the community I have been a part of my whole life is something that I'm honored to have the privilege to do.
Court Koenning: When one makes the decision to challenge an incumbent from within their own party, there must be a significant reason to do so. Last year, party leaders and members of the judiciary approached me with concerns about the direction of the District Clerk's Office and the behavior of the incumbent.
Upon examination, I learned the District Clerk's Office is suffering from a leadership deficit. The incumbent has, through poor management or sheer avoidance, failed to act on key issues like improving the quality of jury service or making needed advancements in technology to better serve the public, the taxpayers, the legal community and the judiciary. The incumbent has focused more on electoral politics than the task he was elected to do. In short, he worries more about keeping his job than doing his job.
I want to bring energy, focus and maturity to a post that stands as one of the gatekeepers to the courthouse. We need this energy and focus to address problems like the state-mandated conversion to electronic court documentation, which has been botched by the incumbent. I am a problem-solver and crisis manager with a proven track record of managing larger operations, large budgets and complex problems. That's why those concerned about the management of the District Clerk's Office approached me.
It has become common practice of the District Clerk to attend a multitude of outside events in an effort to hide low performance. The immediate positive results I will bring to the office will speak for themselves.
I will bring forward a new way of calling jurors to service that will reduce waste for both taxpayers and prospective jurors. The low response rate for jurors has less to do with compensation than the incumbent argues. It's mostly due to a perceived waste of time and resources. Other counties have developed a more advanced system of jury call. I intend to implement that here.
Also, I intend to properly support our judiciary with technology advancements. Our neighbors in Montgomery County have the ability to have an e-warrant for DWI suspects. When asked to implement the same in Harris County, the District Clerk said the technology isn't available. If Montgomery County has it, why not Harris County?
With new leadership and a focus on the job, the Harris County District Clerk can once again be the model for the state.
2.) What makes you well qualified to serve as District Clerk?
Chris Daniel: I'm a proven Elected Conservative, with a background in municipal management, Mechanical Engineering and Patent law. I have cut taxes and managed a budget in excess of $250 Million as an unpaid elected Trustee for Lone Star College System. The last three years I have served as District Clerk and have helped shrink the office's dependence on tax payers' money. We have saved approx. $1 million a year with advance technological innovations, promotion of jury service through public service announcements, and pilot projects.
Court Koenning: I understand the core missions of this job -- caretaker of jurors and jury service; protector of the records that tell the story of our lives, innovator on providing service to the taxpayers and, by extension, the legal community and judiciary. My opponent has a fuzzy focus on those missions and a less than sturdy grasp on the skills needed to run a large organization. I am more qualified because I am an energetic problem solver that gets results.
The Texas Constitution, while not prohibiting attorneys from serving as District Clerk, made it obvious our founding fathers wanted a layman serving in that capacity. District Clerks in Texas are prohibited from practicing law while serving in office. In fact, most district clerks in Texas are not attorneys. In the ten largest counties in Texas, only one county's District Clerk is an attorney.
The District Clerk position is designed to be a process job, not a policy job. That is good and bad. Those focused on Republican Party politics tend to focus on positions where there are clearly defined policy differences. Those are not evident in a race such as this. Moreover, process breakdowns tend to get overlooked until they end up on the front page of the newspaper.
I will take a distinctly different tact to this office. The job performance and innovation I will bring to the office of District Clerk will speak for me, not my exhaustive attendance at out-of-office events. As your next District Clerk, my focus will be on the $30 million budget, the 600 employees and the performance expectations Harris County taxpayers have when paying an officeholder $140,000 a year. Unlike the incumbent, I won't concern myself with if I will be served chicken or beef at the next political event.
3.) What is your Republican background?
Chris Daniel: I first became involved with the Republican Party in 1992 when Houston hosted the State and National Conventions. I became a precinct chairman for #518 and served until I was elected to the Lone Star College System in 2006. I also served as delegate for Texas to the National Convention in 2004, 2008, and 2010. I have voted in the Rep Primary since I turned 18.
Court Koenning: Upon graduation from Texas A&M, I served as the Executive Director of the Republican Party in Washington, DC (where all the Republicans could fit in a phone booth). I then worked for former Texas Senator Steve Ogden, former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm, served on former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's first campaign staff (that unseated appointed Sen. Bob Krueger in a landslide victory), and was a Special Advisor to then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn.
Based on record breaking results, I am most proud of my work as Executive Director of the Harris County Republican Party. When I took on that role, the party couldn't make payroll or pay its bills. Even though I couldn't afford it, I donated the pay I earned back to the party and began to focus on fundraising along with party building and unity. I downsized a large staff to be more efficient, eliminated unnecessary expenses that took away from our core mission and implemented major technology upgrades. The Washington Post and the Bush White House recognized our successes and touted the Harris County Republican Party as the model for other counties and how state parties should be run. The 72 hour program which was developed and tested in Harris County was a crowning achievement.
To thank our donors and supporters after the 2004 election, we organized a trip to the 2005 Bush Inauguration. The team I assembled chartered two Continental Airlines 767's, rented buses, limos, made hotel arrangements and organized events for our 500+ guests to attend the inaugural ceremonies and ball; in style and comfort. On the eve of our historic trip, I received a call from the White House Political Director who said to me "only you could pull off a trip of this magnitude with the limited resources you had." No state or local party has done it before or tried it since.
When I resigned to start my own business, our team had taken a party that couldn't afford to pay its bills to a party with bank balances that would make most state parties envious.
As the owner of my own successful political consulting and public relations firm, I spearheaded many campaigns. Among them was the campaign of State Sen. Dan Patrick - the Houston radio personality and conservative grassroots firebrand who shocked the political establishment when he beat a stable of well-known mainstream Republicans to capture his seat in the upper chamber of the Texas Legislature. I then went on to serve as Sen. Patrick's chief of staff before resuming my private business career and my efforts to help conservative causes and candidates.
Needless to say, I have voted in every Republican primary since I have been of age to vote.
4.) Tell us two things about your opponent voters need to know
Chris Daniel: I'm running for re-election based on my record and results.
Court Koenning: He has been ineffective and violated their trust by not focusing on governance and putting all of his efforts into politics. He has asked me at least a half dozen times, "what do I need to do to do a better job?" I said "it is simple, put your head down and do the job you were elected to do and the rest will take care of itself."
Sadly, he has done just the opposite. Do the job well and with the right set of values and the voters will take care of the politics. My opponent has never learned this lesson. He has instead been lead down a dark political path and takes orders from those motivated by their own financial gain rather than what's in the best interests of Harris County taxpayers.
5.) Tell us two things about your opponent you like and approve of
Chris Daniel: I'm running for re-election based on my record and results.
Court Koenning: He is a very social person who does not seem to be limited by what most see as appropriate social parameters. Nothing seems to be able to get in his way of personal political advancement. Maturity tends to right or polish many of those abnormalities. I suspect one day he will be of service in a position that does not require a lot of decision-making.
It has often been said he would make a good employee and representative of the District Clerk's office in the public sector or maybe even fit in well in the corporate offices of Facebook.
6.) What is your assessment of the present state of the District Clerk's office?
Chris Daniel: My current assessment is the office is in good standing and under excellent leadership. My staff is happier and more customer service oriented than ever before. We are the leader not only in the state, but across the US in technology (based on many of the Clerk of the Court offices I have personally visited). We have begun expanding our basic services by thinking outside the box, like with our brand new Passport Services.
Court Koenning: It is chaos. Bad management. Bad decisions. Politically-motivated personnel and contracting decisions. Inefficiency.
The mishandling of the state mandating of e-filing of legal documents is reason enough for change. Under a previous administration, e-filing was developed here with your tax dollars. We now know the District Clerk was told about the Supreme Court's intention nearly two years prior to it being ordered. The District Clerk didn't even try to get the state to use our superior system which would have meant a financial windfall for Harris County taxpayers. Instead the District Clerk was asleep at the wheel. In desperation, he requested a special carve out for himself. His bungling of the entire process not only means we lost out on the financial benefit of our own system, but now we have to scrap what we already paid for and buy an entirely new system costing taxpayers millions. To add insult to injury the District Clerk admitted failure when he testified he would have to file for an extension just one month into the thirteen month lead up to the deadline.
Under previous administrations, the District Clerk had removed a lot of middle management positions in an effort to streamline operations. The purpose was to use the cost savings to raise the pay for court clerks who have not received a pay raise in years yet are on the front line of customer service. Under this current District Clerk, those middle management positions are back and more than ever. As an example, there are now five District Clerk employees who function in a public relations role for this Republican District Clerk, while under the previous office holder (a Democrat) there was just one.
Recently the District Clerk went outside of its constitutional mandate and began to offer passport services. While on its face it sounds neat, one only has to dig a little deeper for the true motivations. Republicans have always opposed "mission creep" and this is a classic example of what we detest. An excuse the District Clerk uses to justify his overreach was the Federal Passport Office downtown was going to be closed for a few months for renovation. However, his misappropriation of county resources to do the federal government's job is open ended.
Why would a person seeking a passport in downtown Houston pay for parking and go through a metal detector to enter the Civil Courthouse to obtain a passport photo for $10 when they can get one at CVS or Walgreens in their neighborhood for $5 (with a coupon)?
Why would a person seeking a passport in downtown Houston pay for parking and go through a metal detector to enter the Civil Courthouse to get a normal or expedited passport when they can get the same services at the downtown US Post Office or the Downtown Public library…with free parking and unrestricted access?
More importantly, why should we do Obama's job...the Federal Government's responsibility when they are unwilling to even secure our borders? I would have said "you secure our borders and I'll be happy to do your passports." The District Clerk's motivation for taking on this responsibility was simple...an election year campaign gimmick to generate publicity. As your District Clerk, I will focus on and fix the office's mandate of services and not look for cute stunts to hide the failures of the office.
In 2010 as a candidate, the current office holder promised a free parking garage for jurors complete with shopping and dining. Since being elected he hasn't taken the first step to fulfill this campaign promise.
He also promised in 2010 he would redact personal private information (such as social security numbers) from being displayed in online legal document presentations. He has failed to deliver on this promise as well.
Failure to deliver on the promise as a candidate, failure to deliver on the requirements of the office, failure to be the taxpayers advocate and a failure of leadership. We can and must do better.
7.) Should the District Clerk concern himself with county-wide issues outside of the job area of a district clerk? If so what two issues facing the county concern you and what would you like to see done in regards to these issues?
Chris Daniel: The District Clerk should be aware of county-wide issues that affect the office-and when appropriate advocate on those issues. Over all, the people of Harris County voted me to be the District Clerk, and that is my primary focus and concern: to do the job the tax payers elected me to do.
Court Koenning: Of course, that is what leadership is all about. Don't just wait for the issue to come to you go out and make an impact on the ground before you make one in the ground. If you can improve your network, community or sphere of influence; as a leader, I feel you are obligated to do so.
I have been on record for years as being opposed to the Public Defender's office. While this is a function of Commissioner's Court who created the office and sets its budget, as a person seeking the office of District Clerk, I feel obligated to campaign on this issue. It is not a function of the District Clerk's office, but it is a function of the overall administration of justice and I feel it is unnecessary. It's a classic example of a solution in search of a problem. Before government considers competing with the private sector there has to be an overwhelming reason why. And in this case I think it fails that fundamental test.
I also think the District Clerk should be the leader and champion of the overall judicial process in Harris County. It was once the case in previous administrations, when the District Clerk was viewed as a team player and competent office holder the District Clerk's opinion and counsel on courthouse matters was sought out. When a new District Clerk is elected and respect is earned back, I have no doubt the office will be the champion for the judiciary and a leader in the legal community it once was.
8.) What is your history of "support" (financial or otherwise) for the Harris County Republican Party?
Chris Daniel: You can look up contributions on the TEC website, I can't remember them all. In doing a quick search I found I have given over $5500 just to Harris County Rep Party alone. I'm a member of the RLC, I have been a sponsor for several executive committee meetings (providing pizza, drinks, rental cost), I've given to numerous candidates including Judges, State Reps, and Senators, and I support our Republican clubs. I have helped block walk and organize on behalf of the party and candidates, and I was even an officer and then President of my law school Republican Club. Most recently I began helping with the formation of several new Republican clubs around Harris County and in encouraging young Republicans to get involved.
Court Koenning: My history of "sweat equity" was well detailed in a previous question (Q3). I feel confident my non-financial as well as financial support for the party cannot be matched in this race.
As described above I have personally raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Harris County Republican Party. As the Executive Director of the Party, I founded the Party's sustaining member club - "The Republican Leadership Council," for which Dawn and I are members. We contribute to the Party through events like the Lincoln-Reagan Day fundraiser as a table sponsor, participate in Party events and financially support Republican candidates and causes.
Furthermore, my wife and I supported Republican auxiliaries and multiple Republican Women's groups long before I considered running for office.
The Republican philosophy and ideals have been in my blood from the moment I can remember. I founded a High School Republican Club and was the president of my College Republican chapter. Having been selected as a scholar to the National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, DC, my talents were identified at a young age. I recognize my tools and talents are sorely needed at the District Clerk's office and it is time I come off the sideline and get into the game.
I humbly seek your support and ask for your vote.
COMING SOON: The City of Houston 2013 Election Questionnaire Results and Voters Guide.
TCR on the Air
Red, White & Blue featuring TCR Editor Gary Polland, liberal commentator David Jones and moderator Linda Lorelle on Fridays at 7:30 pm on PBS Houston Channel 8.1, replaying Sundays at 12:30 p.m. on Channel 8.1, Mondays at 11:30 pm on Channel 8.2 and on the web at www.houstonpbs.org.
Devon Anderson, Harris County's new District Attorney, George P. Bush, Wendy Davis, and a City of Houston election analysis.
The current show as well as past shows are available on YouTube.
About Your Editor
Gary Polland is a long-time conservative and Republican spokesman, fund-raiser, and leader who completed three terms as the Harris County Republican Chairman. During his three terms, Gary was described as the most successful county Chairman in America by Human Events - The National Conservative Weekly. He is in his fifteenth year of editing a newsletter dealing with key conservative and Republican issues. The last twelve years he has edited Texas Conservative Review. As a public service for the last 10 years, Gary has published election guides for the GOP primary, general elections and city elections, all with the purpose of assisting conservative candidates. Gary is also in his twelfth year of co-hosting Red, White and Blue on PBS Houston. Gary is a practicing attorney and strategic consultant. He can be reached at (713) 621-6335.