By GILBERT HOFFMAN & BOBBY HORN, JR.
NORTHEAST HARRIS COUNTY Although most media in the area are concentrating on the presidential race, voters in the state Legislative District 140 have one of the more interesting races before them.
Incumbent Kevin Bailey, who has held the office since 1990, has faced his most formidable challenge in recent years, by newcomer Armando Walle.
Bailey has gained wide recognition in the area for his active advocacy in local issues of safety, environment, water and sewer, and governance. He is credited with introducing the legislation that created the successful improvement districts in the area, namely Greenspoint, Aldine, and Airline. These three taxing bodies have made a considerable difference in the quality of life for local residents in the unincorporated areas of the county. Bailey has used his position in the legislature to advance other issues of importance to local voters. These include the CHIP program, or Childrens Health Insurance, where he successfully voted to add 130,000 additional children to the program; flood control issues; control of junkyards and auto salvage businesses; and education issues, including voting for a teachers pay raise.
When he was chairman of the Investigative committee, and later of the Urban Affairs committee, he was involved in hearings that resulted in legislation to certify crime labs statewide, and to close labs such as those in Houston that had a record for problems in their DNA and other samples. He is now pushing for a regional crime lab system to replace local labs, which would be certified as to accuracy, and avoid the problems of trials that have been nullified due to faulty lab analyses.
Baileys terms in office have not been without controversy, however. The most recent, and the one that has caused some in his party to oppose his re-election, came in the last legislative session when he voted to support Republican Tom Craddicks bid to remain Speaker of the House. Bailey made this vote, he said, in the best interests of his district in Houston.
However, the crossing of party lines, and Craddicks subsequent financial support for Baileys re-election, alienated some local democrats, and the result was a concerted effort to replace him with a new candidate, Armando Walle.
Walle is a local Aldine native, who went to MacArthur high school, where he is remembered for playing football. After graduating, he went to the University of Houston. Later he worked for several politicians, including Rodney Ellis, Carol Mims Galloway, and for six years as a staff member for Congressman Gene Green.
Walle is keenly interested in public service and local issues. He serves on the board of the YMCA, Hardy Street TIRZ, Harris County Hospital District-Aldine advisory board, and was elected Chair of the Harris County Tejano Democrats.
Walle says he feels the main issues are a better public education, improved Childrens Health Care for more children (CHIP), flood prevention, and improved public safety, with an emphasis on eliminating gangs.
Walle is endorsed by many local democrats, including Gene Green, Rodney Ellis, Adrian Garcia, and Carol Galloway. He recently received the endorsement of the Houston Chronicle.
Polls are open across Texas March 4 as voters cast their ballots for their Democratic and Republican nominations in races ranging from Harris County to the White House.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and may need to stay open longer if crowds are present at closing.
Since each party will hold their own primary, not all voters will use the same polling locations. Polling locations can be found on the Harris County Clerks election website www.harris votes.com.
Under state election law, voters may only cast ballots in either the Republican or Democratic Primary, but not both primaries.
The winners in Tuesdays races will be listed on the November 4 General Election ballot by party.
Third Party groups such as the Libertarian and Green Parties will not participate in Tuesday elections, but will rather hold their own convention later in the year.
While the national attention will be focused on Texas and its impact on the presidential race, there are several local races that have been heating up as of late.
One race that will directly impact Eastern Harris County is Precinct 3 Constable. Ken Jones, the incumbent, faces two challengers in the Democratic Primary. They are Randy Rush and Bill Norwood. The winner draws Republican Tony Lewis in the fall.
Constable Jack Abercia, a democrat, is seeking relection to Precinct 1. He is being challenged within the party by Art Aguilar and Jack Boatner. Nat Gutierrez is unopposed on the republican side.
There are six candidates vying for sheriff. Incumbent Tommy Thomas faces Paul Day and Michael Plagens in the GOP Primary while on the other side Adrian Garcia, Charles Massey El and Guy Robert Clark are seeking the democratic nod.
District Attorney Chuck Rosenthals personal problems, and decision not to seek another term has opened up a horse race on the Republican side. Seeking the nomination are Jim Leitner, Kelly Siegler, Doug Perry and Pat Lykos. Former Houston police chief C.O. Brad Bradford is the lone democratic candidate.
In the race for Harris County judge, which is the senior administrative official, the incumbent is republican Ed Emmett, and his party challenger is Charles Bacarisse. The winner will face either Ahmad Hassan or David Mincberg on the democratic ticket.
By GILBERT HOFFMAN & BOBBY HORN, JR.