Politics

An election mailer trying to sway Democratic Harris County voters may not be from who you think

The group, Fort Bend United, is sending out an official looking Democratic voters’ guide that endorses Erica Davis for county judge and George Risner for Precinct 2 county commissioner.

A mailer sent by the group Fort Bend United endorses opponents of two Democratic Harris County incumbents.

Some Harris County Democrats have been receiving an official looking voter’s guide endorsing the primary opponents of incumbent county Democratic officeholders.

An independent political action committee with roots in neighboring Fort Bend County is responsible for the guide.

The mailer, with the titles "Harris County Election Guide” and “Democratic Voter Guide” on the cover, is the product of a PAC called "Fort Bend United." It endorses Erica Davis over incumbent Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Justice of the Peace George Risner over incumbent Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, both Democrats.

Shapnik Khan, the founder of Fort Bend United, says the group is dissatisfied with Hidalgo and Garcia's efforts to fight crime and what they see as a lack of funding for law enforcement.

Khan said his PAC is also looking to lower property taxes and fight corruption in county government.

He denied the guide is meant to deceive voters.

"This is not a misleading guide," Khan said. "There are some candidates that people may not be happy (with), but we have, if you look at the booklet, (gubernatorial candidate) Beto (O'Rourke) is our number one hero."

Despite the PAC's name, records filed with the Texas Ethics Commission show it has a Houston address. But the group’s website focuses exclusively on Fort Bend County politics, and its endorsement page makes no mention of the Harris County candidates or its involvement in distributing the Harris County mailers. Fort Bend United’s “About” page says the group endorses “candidates in many of the local races in Fort Bend (County) and some statewide elections.”

Its latest campaign finance report shows Fort Bend United has spent just over $35,000 and has less than $29,000 on hand. That suggests a relatively limited ability to influence the Harris County contests.

But in a primary marked by low turnout, even a small number of votes for Davis or Risner could increase the chances of Hidalgo or Garcia being forced into a runoff.

Khan himself was vice chair of the Fort Bend County Democrats, though he is currently a resident of Harris County Precinct 4, represented by Commissioner Jack Cagle. Fort Bend United is endorsing former judge Lesley Briones in the Precinct 4 Democratic primary, the same candidate endorsed by Commissioner Garcia.

A spokesperson for Hidalgo’s campaign called the mailer “gutter politics.”

“Lina Hidalgo has spent three years earning support by protecting people's lives during the pandemic, investing more in fighting crime than ever before in Harris County's history, and making flood prevention finally put ‘worst-first',” the spokesperson, Jonathan Geldof, wrote in an email. “Voters will remember real results; they'll forget a shady mailer.”

The Harris County Democratic Party has no affiliation with Fort Bend United. Elisa Rochford, a spokeswoman for the party said it, “does not endorse or take any official positions in primaries.”

“We trust our voters to do their research and pick the best candidates to represent the Democratic Party for the November General election," Rochford said.

Fort Bend County Judge KP George, a Democrat running for reelection himself, who has been endorsed by the group, declined to comment for this story.

The Fort Bend County Democratic Party has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media's business reporter, covering the oil...

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