Anderson defeated in Harris County DA race
In one of Houston’s hardest-fought races, Democratic challenger Kim Ogg ousted GOP incumbent Devon Anderson Tuesday to take control of the Harris County District Attorney’s office.
Although the campaigns sparred over policy - especially diversion programs for low-level drug offenses - the closing months focused on Anderson, who came under fire for missteps by prosecutors in her office.
Ogg touted those issues in her victory speech after a jubilant night with more than 100 supporters at a Heights area restaurant.
“This election is a mandate from the people,” Ogg said. “They want fairness. They want justice and they want safety.”
At a nearby table, her father, former state senator Jack Ogg, praised her.
“I’m so proud of what she’s done, and I know she’s going to do a fantastic job in the future,” he said. “She has integrity and honesty.”
Of several big changes expected when Ogg takes office Jan. 1, the most significant is likely to be the end of jailing suspects in low-level, non-violent drug cases. Ogg plans to implement what is essentially a “cite and release” program that would see police officers ticket offenders caught with small amounts of marijuana.
She also has campaigned on increasing transparency in police shootings and wants to ramp up prosecutions of burglars and white-collar criminals, in a bid to combat cartels and human trafficking.
Although those policies were lightly debated, the race’s most heated controversy was the revelation earlier this year that trial prosecutors under Anderson had jailed a mentally ill rape victim in general population for almost a month to make sure she would testify against her attacker.
Anderson also had come under fire for the way she handled the destruction of evidence at the Precinct 4 Constable’s Office and was attacked from the right over a case involving the videotaping of Planned Parenthood officials.
About 60 Anderson supporters gathered at the Houston Police Officer’s Union Hall to watch the returns with the candidate. They started the evening optimistic, but after early results came in, some had tears in their eyes.
“We have changed the landscape of criminal justice,” she said in her concession speech. “Prosecution is a calling. It’s a call to seek justice. And it doesn’t change with the district attorney.”
Television commercials from both candidates in recent weeks have focused on the jailing of the rape victim, known as “Jenny.”
The issue had become a flashpoint between the two campaigns, with liberal billionaire George Soros spending almost a million dollars for ads and mailers to paint Anderson as a win-at-all costs prosecutor.
Anderson also had peppered local TV markets with commercials explaining that “Jenny” had to be detained to ensure she would testify against a serial rapist who was ultimately sentenced to life in prison.
Before that issue emerged, both women had campaigned more closely on their criminal justice credentials.
Ogg, 56, was a prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office from 1987 to 1994. From there, she spent five years as the city’s first gang task force coordinator. She also spent seven years as the head of CrimeStoppers of Houston. Since 2006, she has been in private practice.
Anderson, 50, spent a dozen years as a prosecutor before becoming a felony district court judge. She also spent five years as a defense lawyer before being appointed to DA.
Anderson also had been criticized for allowing cases to proceed without telling defense attorneys that evidence in the property room of the Precinct 4 Constable’s Office had been destroyed. The unauthorized destruction was revealed by a defense attorney seven months after Anderson found out.
And in the final months of the campaign, Anderson, who did not have an opponent in the primary, was attacked by Republicans who questioned her public stance of being pro-life.
Last year, Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast came under investigation after the release of inflammatory undercover videos by anti-abortion activists.
In January, a grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood and chose instead to indict the activists. Although the charges were later dismissed, Steven Hotze, president of Conservative Republicans of Texas, issued an open letter that was widely circulated among the GOP faithful withdrawing his support for Anderson.