Sheriff Adrian Garcia won re-election against a Republican candidate he fired three years ago in a contest the incumbent framed as an endorsement of his reforms over the accusations of scandal by a challenger running with the backing of the deputies' union.
Garcia took the nation's third-largest sheriff's department from overspending its budget by $56 million to coming in $3 million under budget, and he touted fiscal and civil-rights reforms he instituted.
Jail deaths declined on his watch, as did jail overcrowding.
"I attribute the victory to the great Harris County residents that were grateful for the work we were doing to protect the public but also to protect the taxpayers' money," Garcia said.
Louis Guthrie had received the endorsement of the Harris County Deputies Organization and raised nearly $500,000 in mounting a spirited challenge to his ex-boss. Green Party candidate Remington Alessi finished third.
Garcia defeated a longtime Republican incumbent four years ago as Democrats swept to victory in most local contests on the coattails of President Barack Obama's victory.
Garcia exceeded Obama's 2008 Harris County vote total by more than 45,000 as the then-Houston councilman broke the Harris County record for votes received by a candidate in a contested election.
This year Garcia campaigned on fulfilling promises to revive the cold-case unit, fill jailer and patrol deputy vacancies and to bring the county jails into compliance with state requirements.
Garcia fired Guthrie in 2009 for misconduct for cordoning off an Humble car wash with crime scene tape after his wife reported $17 taken from her car while it was being serviced. Guthrie's case is still on appeal.
Incumbent Ryan wins over Talton
Incumbent Democrat Vince Ryan fended off Republican Robert Talton in a close race to serve four years as Harris County's civil attorney.
Ryan campaigned on his reviews of local public agencies that he said prompted policy changes and the recovery of $1.4 million in public funds. He has nonetheless been criticized by members of Commissioners Court for a perceived lack of aggressiveness in rooting out problems.
Talton, a former state representative, accused Ryan of politicizing the office and filing high-profile cases during the campaign to garner publicity. Ryan filed suit against the strip club Treasures this year to try to shut it down, declaring it an "epicenter of illegal activity," including human trafficking, prostitution and drugs. People associated with Treasures contributed more than $30,000 to Talton's campaign.
Ryan said he believed voters responded not only to the headline-grabbing case but also to the less-visible work his office does routinely to enforce neighborhood deed restrictions and to put a stop to other public nuisances by negotiating with the owners of offending businesses.
Sullivan leading against Bennett
Republican Mike Sullivan was running neck and neck with Democrat Ann Harris Bennett in the race for county tax assessor-collector.
Sullivan, a current Houston city councilman, defeated the incumbent in the GOP primary in May and led Bennett and Libertarian Jesse Hopson with nearly all votes counted. The tax assessor-collector oversees vehicle registration, voter rolls and $4 billion in annual tax collections. Sullivan campaigned on improving customer service in the tax office through employee training, increased outreach and better use of technology that would include wider acceptance of credit-card payments and electronic delivery of property tax bills.
Incumbents cruise to victory
Three incumbent county commissioners kept their seats with commanding victories.
In Precinct 1, Democrat El Franco Lee won an eighth four-year term on Commissioners Court against Republican Chuck Maricle.
In Precinct 3, Republican Steve Radack defeated Democrat Glorice McPherson. Radack's victory gives him a seventh term representing the western side of Harris County.
In Precinct 4, Republican Jack Cagle, appointed to Commissioners Court a year ago after Jerry Eversole resigned, beat Democrat Sean Hammerle. Cagle is running to finish the two years left in Eversole's term.
Incumbent Wolfe defeated
The only incumbent county trustee on the ballot, Republican Mike Wolfe, lost to retired educator Diane Trautman, a Democrat, in the race for the Position 3, at-large seat.
The board makes policy for the department that supports the county's 26 independent school districts through operating a co-op that enables districts to buy food and supplies at lower prices. The Harris County Department of Education also runs adult-education programs, administers federal Head Start grants and Early Childhood Intervention programs, and supports after-school initiatives.
Wolfe advocated abolishing the department and was censured by his colleagues in 2008 for skipping meetings and expressing support for eliminating the department's property tax rate.
Erica Lee, a nonprofit organization executive, defeated Republican JuLuette Bartlett-Pack, a college professor, for the Position 6, Precinct 1 seat. Lee, the daughter of U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, won the Democratic nomination in a runoff after a primary election in which the county tax assessor-collector acknowledged some voters were excluded because he used outdated district boundaries.
For the Position 4, Precinct 3 seat, marketing representative Kay Smith, a Republican, defeated attorney Silvia Mintz, a Democrat.
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