I did my civic duty at Fiesta today. There are only a few candidates with challengers in Travis County, and most of them are for criminal justice-related offices. Here’s who I voted for, and why:
Charlie Baird over Rosemary Lehmberg. Lehmberg has been an acceptable district attorney, but it is genuinely exciting to cast a vote for Charlie Baird, who was our best judge when he was on the bench, and he’ll be a very progressive DA. Also, while I’m not opposed to incumbency, I do question whether it’s healthy for an office that needs to be flexible to have at its head someone who’s been there for three decades. Austin does not have a terrific record when it comes to criminal justice issues — from a lack of charges in police shootings to the handling of the yogurt shop murders — and much of that is on Lehmberg’s watch. We were fortunate to have Baird on the bench, and it would be a terrific thing for criminal justice in Austin if he were to serve as DA.
Greg Hamilton over John Sisson. John Sisson’s platform is built on “mandatory memos” regarding deportation, and the argument that, when ICE requests that a person be detained for possible deportation, it’s just that — a request, which the Sheriff can decline. It’s hardly clear if that’s true, though, and even if it is, it’s definitely the case that it will not be true by 2013 (that link comes from Sisson’s own website). That doesn’t leave a real reason to vote for John Sisson. Meanwhile, I like, and trust, Greg Hamilton. Some of y’all may be aware that my wife runs a small non-profit that she started as a volunteer at the Travis County Correctional Complex (where she still goes in every week). Not only has Sheriff Hamilton personally supported her work with the women in the jail — which he doesn’t have to do — but she’s told me about the support that the Sheriff has from those women, which is overwhelming. A Sheriff who operates with the support of the people he’s in charged of incarcerating is one whom I am happy to support.
District Judge, 167th District:
David Wahlberg over Efrain de la Fuente. To put it simply, if there’s a candidate for judge who comes from a criminal defense background running against a candidate for judge who comes from a prosecution background, I will vote for the defense attorney 9,999 times out of 10,000. (Might not cast a ballot for Levy from The Wire.) The fact is, there is already enough cooperation between the DA’s office and the bench just by virtue of both having the same employer; the perspective of a prosecutor while wearing the robe isn’t anywhere near as valuable as the perspective of a defender. David Wahlberg is a good defense attorney, by all accounts, and that makes him an important voice to have on the bench. There are countless former prosecutors who are now judges, and it does not often work out that well for the accused. I’ll always support a candidate who works to break that monopoly.