Once the county elections’ office posted the unofficial count Thursday morning, Mealer led the pack with 29.7 percent, Martinez slid into second place with 25.6 percent, and former Humble Independent School District President Martina Dixon came in third with nearly 15 percent.
“As we advance to the runoff, my campaign philosophy will remain the same,” Mealer told The Texan in a statement. “I will continue to meet Harris County citizens where they are, partner with law enforcement and first responders, collaborate with key community stakeholders, and drive actionable solutions to the fundamental challenges facing our community.”
“The problems we face are avoidable and, most importantly, fixable.”
A veteran of the U.S. Army who graduated from West Point and served in Afghanistan, Mealer also earned both a JD and MBA from Harvard University and works in finance in the oil and gas sector. Although not the top fundraiser in the race, the young mother of two has racked up notable endorsements from former Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack (R-Pct. 3), Constable Ted Heap (R), and Houston icon Jim “Mattress Mac” McIngvale, among others.
“When it comes to the criminal justice system, I will ensure our County allocates the resources necessary to not only support law enforcement and apprehend violent offenders, but also to carry out the County’s constitutional obligation to provide for a speedy trial.”
Mealer also pledged to fix flooding, which she said must be “above politics,” and added that she would use the “full power and weight of Harris County to get the state and federal dollars required to fund flood resiliency projects by working with our Harris County elected representatives at the state and federal level. The path forward will be forged in regular consultation with technical experts composed of leaders from industry and academia.”
“Above all, I will serve as a steward of County resources, answering first and foremost to the people of Harris County. I am humbled by the success our effort has had so far, and I am honored to have earned the trust and support of so many Harris County residents.”
Former federal prosecutor and businessman Vidal Martinez led the Republican pack in fundraising and touted endorsements from former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Hispanic Republicans of Texas, and the United Republicans of Harris County, among others.
“We’ve worked hard over the last four months to reach voters in every corner of Harris County and I am grateful for the dedication and support we’ve received,” Martinez said in a statement to The Texan. “We consider being in a runoff election a big win — it’s the next step in winning the opportunity to fill the void in leadership and replace the Harris County Judge.”
“We will not stop until we’ve done everything we can to defeat Hidalgo, end the corruption and skyrocketing crime she has caused, and put Harris County back on a path to prosperity.”
If elected in November, Martinez promised to place five key issues on his first commissioners court agenda: to “fire the county’s unelected, appointed elections administrator,” to “ reverse Hidalgo’s bail bond reform scheme which allows habitual criminals and murderers out on bail and back on our streets,” and to “fully fund law enforcement, giving them the resources they need to keep our neighborhoods safe.”
Additionally, Martinez says he would move to have previously designated flood control projects “expedited” and restore funds he said were being siphoned off by Hidalgo “and her cronies,” and that he would cancel the county lawsuit against the I-45 expansion and “return the $8.5 billion earmarked for this critical transportation improvement.”
Incumbent Judge Lina Hidalgo narrowly won the seat with less than 50 percent of the vote in the “blue wave” election of 2018 and has been heavily criticized by law enforcement and residents for her move to settle a federal lawsuit over misdemeanor bail practices and revamp the county’s criminal justice system that correlates with rising crime and one of the highest homicide rates in the nation.
After news broke alleging Hidalgo’s staff had manipulated requirements and evaluation processes that led to an $11 million contract awarded to a Democrat strategist, the district attorney’s office assembled a grand jury to investigate the matter and subpoenaed all five members of commissioners court as well as several Hidalgo staffers.
Under Hidalgo’s leadership, Democrats on the commissioners court have appointed a county administrator to manage a large portion of county functions. Another revamp included taking election responsibilities away from the elected county clerk and voter registrar and instead hiring an elections administrator at a salary of $190,000. Despite promising “efficiencies” under the new system, the elections division has repeatedly requested additional funds, including more than $3 million from the county’s emergency funds, and appointed administrator Isabel Longoria has come under fire for her management of elections.
Although over the weekend Longoria announced that the county elections division had failed to record approximately 4,000 Republican and 6,000 Democratic primary ballots, there were not enough missing votes to alter the outcome of this contest.
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Holly Hansen is a freelance writer 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.