If the latest University of Houston poll is any indication, Harris County is looking a lot more like the big blue bubble of Austin these days — well, at the polls, that is.
According to the latest poll, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton leads her Republican counterpart Donald Trump by seven percentage points in Harris County, and Democratic district attorney candidate Kim Ogg also leads Republican incumbent DA Devon Anderson by seven points. The sheriff's race is looking more like an overtime basketball game with Republican incumbent Sheriff Ron Hickman leading Democratic challenger Ed Gonzalez by only one point. Since the margin of error in this sample size of 400 voters, who are certain or very likely to vote, is plus or minus 4.5, that makes the sheriff's race a statistical dead heat.
In a statement, Ogg said, “While I am encouraged and grateful to learn that our support is growing in neighborhoods all across the Houston area, real change can only be accomplished if you vote.”
The DA's race has been one of the most heated local races this season, with Ogg attacking Anderson over two major controversies she has become embroiled in at the DA's office and Anderson attacking Ogg, claiming she says "whatever she wants" and disregards facts.
Most prominently, Ogg has sought to tarnish Anderson's reputation by repeatedly ragging on her office's decision to jail a mentally ill rape victim in order to ensure she would testify against her rapist. Last December, the rape victim after she had a break down while testifying at the stand, then spent 10 days in the hospital and said she would never return to court, which is when prosecutors decided to detain her. The rape victim's attorney says she was assaulted while in jail and was held for 27 days. Anderson, in defense of her prosecutors, has said she was detained because there was nowhere else to take her, including her mother's house.
But on a new TV ad, Ogg apparently got the rape victim's mother on board to criticize Anderson for jailing her daughter: "She broke down. She was hurting. She needed compassion," the victim's mother says. "But she was handcuffed and put in the back of a police car. And District Attorney Devon Anderson had her sent to jail."
In response to the ad, Anderson continued to defend her prosecutors in an interview with Fox News and said of Ogg's repeated attacks: "It is exhausting trying to keep up with her lies and her inaccuracies."
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Now that Ogg has $500,000 of billionaire George Soros's money in her campaign war chest, you can probably expect to hear more about this controversy with more TV ads.
The sheriff's race between Hickman and Gonzalez has seen its fair share of personal attacks, though perhaps not to the extent of the DA's race. Gonzalez attacked Hickman for basically the same controversies plaguing Anderson, including the jailed rape victim case and the Precinct 4 evidence scandal, in which a fired Precinct 4 deputy wrongfully destroyed more than 20,000 pieces of evidence dating back to 2007, which is when Hickman would have been constable. (Anderson has been criticized for failing to notify defense attorneys and prosecutors for months about potential issues with more than a thousand criminal cases, despite knowing for months.)
According to the Houston Chronicle, at the sheriff's debate, Gonzalez also attacked Hickman's subpar track record for promoting diversity, and called for an overall "culture change." Hickman called this unrealistic. "We're sheriff, not king of the world," Hickman said. "To say you can do a lot of things you'd like to do is wonderful, but you have to remain within the rules that you're given within that job."
And as for Trump and Clinton, see our Wednesday story on the University of Houston's Texas-wide poll, showing Trump ahead only by 3 points, and on the Washington Post's shocking decision to call Texas a "battleground state."