Q&A: Get to know the Democratic candidates for Harris County judge ahead of the March primaries

Fifteen candidates are vying for the position of Harris County judge in the upcoming March primaries, including nine Republicans and six Democrats. (Courtesy Unsplash)
Fifteen candidates are vying for the position of Harris County judge in the upcoming March primaries, including nine Republicans and six Democrats. (Courtesy Unsplash)

Fifteen candidates are vying for the position of Harris County judge in the upcoming March primaries, including nine Republicans and six Democrats. (Courtesy Unsplash)

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Courtesy Georgia D. Provost
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Courtesy Erica Davis
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Courtesy Lina Hidalgo
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Courtesy Kevin Howard
Fifteen candidates are vying for the position of Harris County judge in the upcoming March primaries, including nine Republicans and six Democrats. The winners for each party in the March primaries will determine which candidates will be on the ballot in the November general election.

Candidate responses may have been edited for length and clarity. To view Q&As with the Republican candidates for the position of Harris County judge, click here. For more information about voting in Harris County, click here.

*Indicates incumbent

Georgia D. Provost

Experience: former Harris County Appraisal District Appraisal Review Board member; community activist; retired Houston ISD educator and Texas Southern University professor


Occupation: business owner for more than 35 years

Website: www.georgiaprovost.com

Contact information: 281-704-6655

Erica Davis

Experience: elected countywide as the Harris County Department of Education trustee

Occupation: chief of staff with the Harris County Constables Office

Website: www.ericadavis.org

Maria Garcia

Experience: Candidate did not submit responses as of press time.

Occupation: Candidate did not submit responses as of press time.

Ahmad R. RobBeto Hassan

Experience:
Candidate did not submit responses as of press time.

Occupation: Candidate did not submit responses as of press time.

Lina Hidalgo*

Experience:
When I first ran for this office, I sometimes heard that I was too young, too inexperienced. I never believed that was true. My experience as a medical interpreter showed me health disparities, working on civil rights law taught me about core justice issues, and advocating overseas for government transparency and free expression prepared me well for this role. What ignorance I did have was an ignorance of limitations—a willingness to make bold progress.

Occupation: Harris County judge

Website: www.linahidalgo.com

Contact information: 281-624-6225

Kevin Howard

Experience:
Howard University accounting business major graduate, certified public accountant, University of Texas Law School graduate, lawyer, and more particularly, a criminal lawyer

Occupation: Attorney/CPA, Criminal Trial Lawyer

Contact information: 713-213-9892

QUESTIONS

Q: What inspired you to run for this office and what qualifications do you possess?

Provost:
I am concerned with the direction Harris County in going. I am a business owner for over 35 years. I served as a field operation manager with a staff of 32 for Gulf Coast Community Service, serving the entire Harris County. I also served on the Harris County Appraisal District Appraisal Review Board for six years. I am a community activist who participates in the business, cultural, educational, humanitarian, political and religious/spiritual sectors of Houston [and] Harris County. [I am] a consummate community volunteer and have been a part of the dynamic fundraising team of Helfman/Provost since l983 raising funds for charitable organizations. [I am a] leader with The Metropolitan Organization. [I am a] retired Houston ISD educator and retired Texas Southern University professor. [I am] a champion for the amazing youth. [I' attended the Citizens Police Academy for five years. [I am] a graduate of Texas Southern University and advanced studies at Rice University and the University of Houston. [I am a] graduate of Winona Professional School of Photographers and Intercollegiate Press (Graphic, Marketing, Sales). [I am a] co-founder [of] Black & Brown Coalition for Economics, Education and Justice for ALL. [I am a] founder [of] Five E's of Economics Institute (Ethics, Economics, Education, Entrepreneurship and Empowerment). [I am a] director with Houston Peace & Justice Center, president emeritus [of the] Rotary Club of Hermann Park, [and a] member [of] Foreign Policy Alliance.

Davis: To bring accountability to Harris County government. Harris County is in real need of ethical leadership and focusing on grassroot efforts and wants to communities. Create a prosperous environment where all communities can flourish and implement policies that apply to individual groups and not all collectively. The Harris County residents deserve a leader who truly places public safety as a priority, true equity and inclusiveness to the needs of all communities, and an investor in education and vocational training where all communities can benefit. As chief of staff for Harris County Precinct One Constable's Office of Alan Rosen, I have focused on building bridges between law enforcement and the community. As a true public servant for the past 14 years. I have developed educational safety seminars to all communities; provided resource fairs for low-income communities; and developed multiple platforms for youth to dialogue on progressive issues. Additionally, [I've] worked on systemic issues with the agency and implemented a new use-of-force policy approved by the new county attorney's office, while having community members at the table. Prior to the constable's office, I worked as a High School Spanish Teacher at Mt. Carmel High School and served as interim director for the Acres Homes Chamber for Business & Economic Development. [I am currently on the] board of trustees [for the] Harris County Department of Education [and] serve as chairwoman of Governmental Affairs, chairwoman of Special Schools, and a member of the policy committee. [I] act to establish policies governing the operation of Harris County Department of Education with an annual budget for the fiscal year 2021-22 at $154,234,536.

Garcia: Candidate did not submit responses as of press time.

Hassan: Candidate did not submit responses as of press time.

Hidalgo: I ran for office in 2018 because I knew we could do better. County government flew under the radar, dodged tough decisions, and was reactive, not proactive. Since elected, I've steered Harris County through a winter storm, chemical fires, floods, hurricanes and COVID-19. And I've done it while making bold changes to how our government operates—from performance-based budgeting to early childhood education, smarter flood control, voting access and everything in between.

Howard: Incompetence, crime, cronyism [and] lack of leadership. Incompetence. In one word that's how I described the current administration. Mind-boggling incompetence. In what world [would] you put a person directly out of college to preside over over $3.3 billion dollars. That is precisely what we have done with respect to the current holder of the office of Harris County judge. Only in politics can a person, based on fortuitous events ascend to an office that they are totally unqualified for. And because of such a fiasco, we now have a host other pretenders seeking that same office. I am seeking the office to bring competence to the third largest county in the country. All of the other candidates lack any meaningful qualifications for the position. None of them have any financial accounting background to even begin to understand numbers in the billions of dollars in the Harris County budget. None of them have any idea of what fund accounting entails. None of them understand constitutionally what is involved in criminal law.

Q: What would be your top priorities if elected?

Provost:
[My] top priorities [would be] crime, mental health, flooding, jail crises and the county budget.

Davis: Crime and public safety: the Harris County residents want to feel safe. We are experiencing an unprecedented amount of crime in our county. As a proven bridge builder between law enforcement and the community, it is time to dedicate the proper resources to law enforcement for public safety and for accurate transparency to fight crime. Every neighborhood deserves equal response time for public safety. Fiscal responsibility: Harris County has an almost $5 billion budget. I will ensure there is transparency and accountability about how those funds are used. Every tax dollar received from taxpayers should be used to increase the quality of life for all Harris County residents, while not over burdening taxpayers.

Garcia: Candidate did not submit responses as of press time.

Hassan: Candidate did not submit responses as of press time.

Hidalgo: Building an early childhood education system that gives every child in our county a fair start in life; continuing to strengthen our flood resilience; and keeping Harris County safe: from COVID, from crime, and from any other threat to our health and wellness.

Howard: My priorities would be crime and criminal justice, homelessness, coronavirus and then traffic.

Q: What do you believe county government's role should be in COVID-19 response?

Provost:
[To] provide resources needed to contain and fight COVID-19 and not mandate shut-down of businesses.

Davis: More community engagement to allocate resources to the most vulnerable communities as I went to the highest communities with the highest ZIP codes of COVID-19.

Garcia: Candidate did not submit responses as of press time.

Hassan: Candidate did not submit responses as of press time.

Hidalgo: Throughout the pandemic, I've worked to put people ahead of politics, even in the face of people telling me that I'd never get reelected if I made the decisions that were right for public health. Whether it be smart, efficient and equitable testing, vaccine distribution, and major investments to tackle homelessness, domestic violence, internet access, and more, we have been recognized nationwide as a model for response to the pandemic and its impacts.

Howard: The main goal of any government should be to protect its citizenry. COVID-19 requires a government response. The first thing the government should do is two-fold: educate and prevent. Education should be consistent, constant and unambiguous; and science based. The next thing the government should continue to do at the outset is institute measures to prevent infection and spread. Bottom line is that in a pandemic, only the government has the resources to deal with it.

Q: How would you work to prevent future flooding in Harris County or minimize its effects?

Provost:
Study the impact of new large-scale development on existing and future infrastructure. Pipes and waterways that need to be upgraded. Keep sewer system clean and upgrade conduits as needed, ban the disposal of leaves and grass in drain system.

Davis: The current leadership has not implemented prevention of flooding via a lens of risk equity and not socioeconomic lens.

Garcia: Candidate did not submit responses as of press time.

Hassan: Candidate did not submit responses as of press time.

Hidalgo: Before, flood projects too often left very impacted but less wealthy communities behind. We shifted to a "worst-first" model. We made developers follow the strictest water detention standards so that as the county grows it doesn't flood more. If elected, I'll continue to see the bond projects through as fast as possible, while asking honestly, "What will it take for Harris County to be truly flood resilient?" And get it done.

Howard: Flooding is a climate change phenomenon. Flooding has to [be] studied by the experts (worldwide). I am not an engineer so I do not have the expertise or knowledge base to intelligently address this issue.

Q: What kind of investments would you like to see the county make to improve its criminal justice system?

Provost:
Improve technology for law enforcement, intelligent and common sense bail reform.

Davis: A balanced approach to criminal justice, but I understand the need for change within the criminal justice system. Additionally, in order to implement a successful risk assessment algorithm within the criminal justice system, it is important to balance the resources to prosecutors, pretrial services, and more law enforcement officers.

Garcia: Candidate did not submit responses as of press time.

Hassan: Candidate did not submit responses as of press time.

Hidalgo: The crime wave facing the nation is also impacting Harris County. The challenge is to address crime without reverting to the failed policies of the 1980s. We've invested more in public safety than any prior administration—nearly a billion dollars with an increase for all law enforcement agencies. But we're investing in smart programs: precision policing, gun violence interruption, mental health, fighting blight, and more. I plan to continue that work.

Howard: Police, police, police. I think that you need more police visibility everywhere.
By Hannah Zedaker

Editor, Spring/Klein & Lake Houston/Humble/Kingwood

Hannah joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. In March 2019, she transitioned to editor of the Spring/Klein edition and later became the editor of both the Spring/Klein and Lake Houston/Humble/Kingwood editions in June 2021. Hannah covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in these communities. Prior to CI, Hannah served as associate editor of The Houstonian, interned with Community Impact Newspaper and spent time writing for the Sam Houston State University College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication and The Huntsville Item.