Criminal JusticeElections 2022JudicialLocal NewsHarris County Judge Race in ‘Statistical Dead Heat,’ Mealer Up Two Over Hidalgo in Recent Poll

The latest poll has incumbent Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo trailing Republican challenger Alexandra del Moral Mealer by two points.
October 24, 2022
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On the first day of early voting in Texas, the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs released a new poll showing Republican Alexandra del Moral Mealer and Democratic incumbent Lina Hidalgo in a statistical dead heat in the race for Harris County Judge.

Conducted between October 10 and 15, the survey of 625 likely voters showed Mealer with 47 percent to Hidalgo’s 45, while the other 8 percent were undecided. The same poll reflected Beto O’Rourke with an 8 percent lead over incumbent Governor Greg Abbott. The Hobby School reports a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percent.

In response to the poll, the Mealer campaign issued a statement calling the results “solid confirmation that residents want new leadership in Harris County.”

“It’s unprecedented that after starting as an unknown, in just seven months of general election campaigning, Lina and I are in a dead heat,” wrote Mealer.

In the demographic breakdown, black voters preferred Hidalgo by 73 percent. But Mealer led among Latinos at 47 percent to Hidalgo’s 44, reflecting a recent shift among Hispanics towards Republicans in Texas and elsewhere.

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Mealer also led Hidalgo among Generation X — born 1965 to 1980 — 49 to 43 percent, and among Millennials and Generation Z — born 1980 through the 2010s — 48 to 43 percent.

Amidst the region’s rising crime, including a spike in homicides since 2018, 81 percent of respondents cited crime and public safety as an important issue and 40 percent said it was the most important.

Poll respondents reflected dissatisfaction with Hidalgo’s management of county public safety, and 46 percent said they thought Mealer would do a better job of handling the issue.

After public safety, 79 percent listed government corruption as an important factor, with Independent voters listing the issue as second only to public safety concerns. Corruption has been a top factor in several recent polls of Harris County voters after the felony indictments of three Hidalgo staffers earlier this year.

While 43 percent of respondents said they had a somewhat or very favorable opinion of Mealer, nearly half at 49 percent had a somewhat or very unfavorable view of Hidalgo.

After a narrow victory in 2018, Hidalgo oversaw the settlement of a federal lawsuit over misdemeanor bail reform and has construed county expenditures on mental health services, free Wi-Fi, and cleaning blighted lots as “public safety.” She has also publicly sparred with the district attorney and constables offices over funding for prosecutors and patrol officers.

The recent impasse over a proposed tax increase centers around a demand from Commissioners Tom Ramsey (R-Pct. 3) and Jack Cagle (R-Pct. 4) for 200 more patrol officers for both the sheriff and constables. Hidalgo and her fellow Democrats on commissioners court have resisted adding positions for constables.

By contrast, Mealer announced earlier this year that she would add 1,000 new patrol officers to county law enforcement agencies and seek to improve recruitment efforts.

The Hobby School also measured support for the county’s $1.2 billion bond package and found that only 38 percent said they would vote in favor of Proposition A, which would borrow $100 million for public safety. Democrats on commissioners court have not specified projects for the bond, only saying the funds “may support” facilities and technology.

Propositions B and C, borrowing $900 million for transportation and $200 million for parks, fared better, garnering 63 percent and 52 percent, respectively.

The survey also sampled 350 likely voters in Harris County’s Precinct 4 where incumbent Cagle is facing a challenge from Democrat Lesley Briones.

Although Cagle held a 5-point lead over Briones — 40 percent to 35 percent — 25 percent of respondents said they did not know or were unsure.

Of the three incumbents running for positions on commissioners court, only Cagle and Briones have met for a candidate forum. Hidalgo declined all opportunities to debate her opponent, instead only facing Mealer during an hours-long interview with the Houston Chronicle Editorial Board, which resulted in a surprising endorsement for Mealer.

Democratic Commissioner Adrian Garcia (D-Pct. 2) has likewise refused to debate his Republican challenger, former Commissioner Jack Morman. Although former Harris County sheriff, Garcia has drawn opposition from law enforcement unions and associations who instead endorsed Morman. The Hobby School poll did not ask respondents about the Precinct 2 race.

A poll of 900 likely voters taken at the end of September for the conservative Defend Texas Liberty Political Action Committee showed Mealer with a 4-point lead and the same 8 percent undecided.

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Holly Hansen

Holly Hansen is a regional reporter for The Texan living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.