Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, defeated in re-election bid, talks accomplishments and expectations

Image description
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who has served in that office since January 2007, will preside over two more meetings of Commissioners Court before Judge-elect Lina Hidalgo takes over in January.

Hidalgo, a political newcomer and a Democrat, defeated Emmett, a Republican, on Nov. 6, according to unofficial Harris County election results. The judge is the top administrative position in the county.

Emmett took questions from reporters after the Nov. 13 Commissioners Court meeting about the election and his time in office. He attributed his loss to Democratic straight-ticket voting in the Nov. 6 election. Incumbent Republican commissioner for Precinct 2, Jack Morman, also narrowly lost his re-election bid, giving the court a Democratic majority in 2019.

“I’ve said it over and over, you have straight-ticket voting where 77 percent of the people vote straight ticket, and the margin of Democrats over Republicans is 105,000, and the county judge position is buried way down in the middle of the ballot,” Emmett said. “I made up 87,000 of them [votes]…it just wasn’t enough. There aren’t enough non-straight-ticket voters out there to make up the difference.”

He said he has confidence in the new administration, but Harris County has unique challenges.

“We have almost 2 million people who live in unincorporated Harris County and nobody else has anything like that,” he said. “Sooner or later the state, county and city have got to figure out how do you make an urban area work that is not incorporated [and] that only gets property tax? It’s not a sustainable system, so anything I can do to help that, no matter who’s in office, I’m going to continue to do that.”

Emmett also said he hopes that the next administration does not significantly alter the operations of the Office of Emergency Management, which was instrumental in disaster response such as that after Hurricane Harvey last year.

“The Office of Emergency Management is so critical, and it works very well,” Emmett said. “Leave it doing what it’s doing, because it’s recogniz[ed] worldwide as one of the best. I don’t see any reason why she wouldn’t do that.”

Emmett said he has no immediate plans to resume public life, but he will consider options in the future.

“I had a life before I became county judge,” he said. “As I’ve told many people, I didn’t die. People…were posting things to Facebook on one of my daughter’s pages, ‘Your father was a great man, we’ll miss him,’ and I’m going, wait a minute, I’m still here … We’ll see what the future holds.”

He said he is most proud of the mental health initiatives he helped to launch in the county as well as the development of the Office of Emergency Management.

“We got legislation passed … We now have a jail diversion center for people who have mental health issues. Rather than being arrested and put through the criminal justice system, now they’re going to get the help they need. That’s a lasting legacy,” he said.

Emmett said he also expects the planned Astrodome renovations that started under his administration to proceed.

“We’ve had decisions been made, engineering has been done, construction is ready to start,” he said.

The next two Commissioners Court meetings at 1001 Preston St., Houston, will be held Dec. 4 and Dec. 18. The first meeting of the new year will be held Jan. 8, according to the county website.

“I want it to be a smooth transition, I don’t want to stand in the way,” Emmett said. “And on Jan. 1, I won’t be here.”
By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.



Isabel Longoria
Harris County taps Isabel Longoria as final candidate for first-ever elections administrator

The position will overtake election duties from the county clerk and the tax-assessor collector.

Houston Morning Market Company is poised to launch three new markets across the Greater Houston area by Nov. 19. (Courtesy Houston Morning Market Company)
Houston Morning Market Co. expands across region and more local news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

UTMB Chief Medical Officer Gulshan Sharma—who is also a Clear Creek ISD parent—joined several district leaders in an Oct. 27 livestream event concerning COVID-19. (Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)
Clear Creek ISD officials, UTMB chief medical officer discuss district’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts

As of midday Oct. 30, a total of 47 COVID-19 cases are considered active in CCISD, the highest number to date during the 2020-21 school year.

Several named storms have brought heavy rainfall to the Houston area during the 2020 hurricane season amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
In the midst of 2020’s economic downturn, Harris County continues to consider social vulnerability when prioritizing flood mitigation projects

Zoning expert and law professor Sara Bronin explained how marginalized populations can find themselves in a “vicious cycle” when government agencies do not take steps to protect them from flooding.

Voters line up outside Juergen's Hall Community Center in Cypress on Oct. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harris County exceeds its previous voter turnout record before early voting ends

More than 1.3 million county residents cast ballots throughout the entire November 2016 election, but this year, that number was surpassed on Oct. 29—with one day of early voting remaining in addition to Election Day on Nov. 3.

Early voting runs through Oct. 30. Election Day is Nov. 3. (Adriana Rezal/Community Impact Newspaper)
Double-edged sword: As voter turnout reaches all-time highs in Greater Houston area, so does risk of incomplete ballots

Under-votes, or votes that are never cast in a particular race, occur when voters cast incomplete ballots. They typically surge in elections with high voter turnout, said Steve Leakey, president of the Montgomery County Voter Awareness Council.

Freese and Nichols on Oct. 28 shared potential projects to alleviate flooding regionally in the Dickinson Bayou Watershed. (Courtesy Freese and Nichols)
Consultants share possible regional flood solution concepts for Dickinson Bayou

On Oct. 28, officials shared the first potential conceptual projects that could mitigate drainage in the region.

Less than a week ahead of the Nov. 3 Election Day, Cihan Varol, an associate professor with Sam Houston State University's Cyber Forensics Intelligence Center, shared insight on foreign election hacking and what it means for voters. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Q&A: Sam Houston State University cyber forensics intelligence expert talks foreign election hacking ahead of Nov. 3

"There is a very slim chance that the hackers can change vote count, but they can definitely influence people to believe that they did manipulate it," Cihan Varol said. "If election fraud is going to happen, it'll be because of disinformation."

The North Houston Highway Improvement Project proposed rerouting I-45 through the East End and Fifth Ward, leaving the Pierce Elevated abandoned. (Nathan Colbert/Community Impact Newspaper)
Public comment period extended on I-45 Environmental Report

The deadline was changed by state officials at activists' and local officials' request.

medical face masks
Houston approves $11.5 million in CARES Act spending

The funding was allocated toward everything from garbage bin to water testing plans.