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Election 2020

Harris County Dems Could Gain Commissioners Court Supermajority In Seat Long Held By GOP

Republican Spring Valley Village Mayor Tom Ramsey is facing former Houston mayor chief of staff Michael Moore, a Democrat, in a battle to succeed retiring Commissioner Steve Radack.

Office of Harris County Commissioner Precinct 3 Steve Radack
Andrew Schneider/Houston Public Media
Office of Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack.

For the first time in more than 30 years, voters in Harris County Precinct 3 face a choice that doesn't include Republican Commissioner Steve Radack — and the outcome could determine whether Democrats gain a Commissioners Court supermajority.

Long-time incumbent Radack regularly won reelection with support from across the aisle. His endorsement carries considerable weight in the precinct.

But it's not clear whether that will be enough to carry Radack's chosen successor, Republican Spring Valley Village Mayor Tom Ramsey, to victory.

Ramsey's opponent, Democrat Michael Moore, was chief of staff to the three-term mayor of Houston, Bill White. Internal Democratic polling suggests the race is close, but that Moore has statistically significant lead.

Democrats already have a 3-2 majority on the court. But a minority of commissioners can still block legislation in extraordinary circumstances.

Last year, before a state law went into effect limiting the rate at which counties can raise taxes, County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Democrats on the court were prepared to vote for an 8% increase. To block the move, Republicans Radack and Jack Cagle refused to show up for the vote — denying Democrats the number of commissioners necessary to vote under Texas law.

If Moore wins the seat, it likely eliminate similar pushback going forward.

Precinct 3 stretches across western Harris County, long a Republican bastion but increasingly in play in recent election cycles, according to Rice University political science Prof. Bob Stein.

"The area has become more Democratic,” Stein said. “The area has become more Hispanic. And the area has become more concerned about issues that directly relate to things that, maybe not commissioners do but have a partisan character to them – COVID, of course, and the recession that came from it – so that one might imagine, particularly if we had straight ticket voting that this would be probably a Democratic pickup."

Stein stressed that this is, in fact, the first year in which straight-ticket voting will not be an option — and that, plus Radack's endorsement, could work in Ramsey's favor.