In what has been an amicable primary race, Republican Harris County judge candidates Ed Emmett and Charles Bacarisse are keeping it clean as they head for the March primary. In a debate today at Houston’s Briar Club, the two GOP hopefuls talked about their vision for the county.
Ed Emmett is the incumbent, appointed by Harris County Commissioner’s Court to fill the remainder of former County Judge Robert Eckels’ term. He’s been on the job for about a year now.
“I really think it comes down to a very simple measure. This race is really about qualifications. It’s about judgment and it’s about the ability to accomplish the things that the residents of Harris County need accomplished.”
Charles Bacarisse spent the last 12-years as Harris County District Clerk before he stepped down last year to run for Harris County Judge.
“I decided to leave the comfort and security of an office that I had just been re-elected to and jump into this race because I can bring the kind of innovation and customer-driven government that citizens demand. It’s time for a change in Harris County. We need to move away from business as usual and I believe that I can listen to the voters and be that representative.”
Both candidates agree ethics have taken front and center in the race, with allegations of wrongdoing at several levels of county government. Emmett has promised immediate action.
“If we don’t address the perception of ethics in county government, nothing else is going to work. So with that in mind, I have called for and will create a citizen’s task force to come forward with recommendations that will come from throughout the country. We’re going to take the best-practices model and put them into effect in Harris County.”
Bacarisse says it’s good business to make government as transparent as possible.
“It is important that the citizens have trust in their government and in those that they choose to serve in that government and I think it’s important that as we go forward that we do make reforms to bring more sunshine to the process. It’s a great antiseptic.”
The issue both men disagree on more than any other is transportation. Emmett believes in commuter rail, but knows there are limits.
“Commuter rail is something I’ve been talking about for a long time because it has to be part of the overall regional transportation system. The first corridor really should be 290. Unfortunately, 1-10 is not an option because they took the railroad up, so you can’t build commuter rail up 1-10.”
Bacarrise agrees commuter rail is the future, but says Metro has betrayed the public’s trust when it comes to light rail.
“What I’m concerned about is that Metro has insisted on moving forward with a light rail plan that really does not address areas of congestion in our community and that’s a problem. They also are not adhering to the language of the 2003 Metro Solutions ballot that was passed by our community.”
Emmett or Bacarrise will face one of two Democratic hopefuls, David Mincberg or Ahmad Hassan in the November general election.