Houston, TX – Ten incumbent Democratic Harris County judges lost their primary bids for re-election on Tuesday after two years of controversy surrounding the low bonds being set for defendants accused of violent crimes.
Four of those unseated were district judges in the criminal courts, KTRK reported.
Harris County District Court Judges Chuck Silverman, Abigail Anastasio, Amy Martin, and Greg Glass were all defeated by their opponents.
Glass hasn’t held a trial in a-year-and-a-half, but recently made headlines for having refused a prosecutor’s request to deny bond to a twice-convicted felon, KTRK reported.
Then the judge lowered the bond.
That felon was released on bond and then murdered Houston Police Officer Bill Jeffrey on Sept. 20, 2021.
“This kind of, in some ways, taints all of the sitting judges, so by being an incumbent judge, there is a belief among a subset of Democratic primary voters that that person is lax on crime,” Rice University political science professor Mark Jones said.
“The incumbents were hurt, I think, in many ways, by guilt-by-association in the sense that they, for rather right or wrong, are associated with a trend in Harris County where people believe lower bonds and allowing violent people back on the streets has had an adverse impact on public safety and so you saw some backlash at the polls,” Jones told KTRK.
Harris County District Court Judge Jason Luong will face current Harris County prosecutor Andrea Beall in a runoff after Beall bested the incumbent by 13 percent in the primary.
“Most of these challengers are current or former prosecutors,” Jones pointed out. “They can signal, ‘I am going to be tougher on crime,’ while being fair in the sense of they are still Democrats. And, instead of giving low bond to everybody, giving low bond to non-violent offenders but rationing up bonds for the violent offenders.”
Harris County Family Court Judges Tristan Longino and Barbara Stalder and Harris County Civil District Court Judges Scot Dollinger and Franklin Bynum were also unseated, KTRK reported.
So was Harris County Misdemeanor Criminal Court Judge David Singer.
But Jones was quick to point out that the incumbent Democrats taking a beating on the primary ballot doesn’t mean the Republicans will win those seats on the bench in the fall, KTRK reported.
The professor said Democrats could expect higher voter turnout in the fall and said that most voters stick to their party ticket when voting for judges.
But activist Paul Castro is working hard to make sure that voters remember victims like his son, who was shot to death in a road rage incident by a man who was released on bond, KTRK reported.
Castro said that victims’ families have staged rallies and protests, including one on Election Day in front of the Harris County criminal courthouse.
“I think people said, ‘We’re sick of it and we’re going to hold people accountable at the ballot box,'” he said.