Republican incumbent Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson is facing criticism in both conservative and liberal circles after making comments invoking Democratic opponent Kim Ogg's sexual orientation and personal beliefs.
The comments came during an interview on the American Chronicle podcast last week, in which Anderson answered some questions from host Vlad Daviduik about political backlash she has faced in a couple abortion-related criminal cases since taking office. Daviduik noted that some pro-life conservatives or activists are not voting for Anderson because of her decisions to not indict a controversial doctor accused of performing late-term abortions, and her decision to indict two anti-abortion activists who made sting videos accusing Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue.
Anderson, who is pro-life, later dismissed the indictments against the activists this year because of legal technicalities and also "misconduct that I can't talk about" within the grand jury — a decision that "pretty much made everyone angry with me, but that’s the price of this job."
Saying that it's disappointing she is losing votes over these cases, but that she doesn't allow political pressure to affect her duty to follow the law, Anderson then went on to invoke Ogg's sexual orientation and personal beliefs as though they would somehow skew her performance as DA. She said:
"We filed over 116,000 cases last year. That's about how many we file every year. They [pro-life activists] have a problem with me on one, maybe two cases. When they get a liberal, pro-choice lesbian district attorney, I wonder how many cases they'll have problems with with her.
Anderson's campaign spokesman Allen Blakemore told KPRC Friday in defense of Anderson, "I don't really think that people listening — people who want to judge a 30-minute interview by 15 seconds — I don't think they are being fair or have any interest in really understanding the truth." Blakemore insisted that Anderson was only referring to how voters who criticized Anderson would possibly criticize Ogg.
David Jennings of Big Jolly Politics, the conservative political blog, posted an audio clip of those comments in an article endorsing Ogg for district attorney. Here's what he had to say:
"It made me shake my head in disgust when [Big Jolly Politics writer] Don Hooper published the emails being passed around Republican circles about Ms. Ogg’s sexual orientation. I thought that we had handled that in 2014 and gotten beyond it. Besides, it wasn’t Devon Anderson or her campaign saying it, so it was just a few holdovers from another generation saying it. Right? No, not right. This is coming straight from Devon Anderson because she knows that she is down in the polls and is desperate to hold on to power... Really Ms. Anderson?"
Jennings said he was endorsing Ogg — the "hardest choice that I face on the ballot this November"—because of Ogg's representation of a philosophical change in the DA's office's approach to criminal justice, while Anderson represents "the status quo." Jennings also accused Anderson of simply copying Ogg's ideas going back to the 2014 DA's race, such as Anderson helping innocent people charged with crimes that were later dismissed to expunge their arrest records only after Ogg did the same.
"Whenever [Ogg] has suggested a program to improve the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Ms. Anderson has copied it, albeit in a watered down fashion. Don’t you think it is time for the originator of the ideas to get a chance to implement them in a non-watered down version?"
According to a recent University of Houston poll, Ogg leads Anderson by seven points in Harris County.
Of Anderson's reference to her sexual orientation, Ogg said, "Devon Anderson used hateful bigoted language to attack me personally and my family personally to try and win this election. She is the highest elected public official. We expect more."
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.