Chronicle poll: Emmett leads race for Harris County judge; other Republicans running behind
Sun October 26, 2008 8:42 am

As Dallas goes, so goes Houston. Two years after Democrats swept Republicans out of control in the Dallas County courthouse, it appears that the D’s will do the same in Harris County, with one exception: county judge, Ed Emmett, whom many will remember as a former legislator in the eighties. Emmett no doubt benefited from the exposure he received (along with mayor Bill White) during Hurricane Ike. Even before the hurricane, however, Emmett was highly regarded for his job performance. Republicans should (but won’t) draw a lesson from Emmett’s success. Emmett does not adhere to the ideology of Grover Norquist: shrinking government so that you can drown it in a bathtub. He has the quaint notion that officeholders should address problems and try to fix them.

The Zogby poll (602 likely voters, MOE 4.1%, sample 60% Anglo, 20% black, 20% Hispanic) has Emmett leading Democrat David Mincberg by 46% to 33%. The Chronicle is revealing the poll results over a three-day period, starting Saturday with the presidential and U.S. Senate races – both Obama and Noriega had seven-point leads – and continuing today with courthouse offices. In yesterday’s post (“Obama, Noriega lead in Harris County, but read the fine print”), I linked to Off the Kuff, a Democratic-oriented blog that, its partisan leanings notwithstanding, has solid analysis. Yesterday, Kuff questioned the poll’s assumption that Democrats had an 8.5% lead over Republicans in party identification. I question the assumption that blacks and Hispanics will each account for 20% of the vote. I think blacks will be higher and Hispanics lower. If I recollect correctly, Hispanics account for about 14% of the vote in city elections. Still, it’s highly likely that Democrats are going to own the courthouse in the state’s most populous county. Courthouses are important because every officeholder has numerous employees who vote, and so do the employees’ families. It gives the dominant party a built-in organization.

The generic lead for Democratic candidates over Republican candidates was 7 points. That could mean the end of GOP tax assessor collector Paul Bettencourt, and good riddance. Bettencourt is currently involved in a scrape in which Democrats are charging that he is sitting on thousands of voter registration forms that has not approved due to alleged errors in filling out the forms. In a report on the controversy by KHOU-TV Bettencourt critic Scott Hochberg has described Bettencourt’s attitude as, “I think the attitude in Mr. Bettencourt’s office is, when in doubt, reject.” However, Bettencourt is very prominent in local politics and may have enough name ID to survive the Democratic wave. Republican judges are fighting hard to keep their jobs. Forty judges in contested races are running as a group and are airing TV spots. They have whittled down the Democrats’ advantage to 3.7 points, according to the survey, which is within the poll’s margin of error.

Monday’s poll will focus on two congressional races: CD-7, between Republican incumbent John Culberson and Democrat Michael Skelly, a seat that has been occupied in the past by George H. W. Bush and Bill Archer, and CD-22, between Democratic incumbent Nick Lampson and Republican Pete Olson in Tom DeLay’s former district, a considerable portion of which lies in Fort Bend County.

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