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In a race that has been neck and neck for months, Judge Lina Hidalgo, the Democratic incumbent, narrowly defeated her Republican challenger, Alexandra del Moral Mealer.
Mealer tweeted a concession on Wednesday morning after results from all 782 voting locations were posted by Harris County Elections. Hidalgo won by 15,957 votes, 50.74% – 49.25%.
At an afternoon press conference, Hidalgo issued a raw challenge to her rivals in both parties.
"To the naysayers, to the naysayers who think I'll be intimidated by conspiracy theories or by bullying or by political prosecutions – bring it on!"
Hidalgo was alluding to Democratic District Attorney Kim Ogg and the indictment of some of Hidalgo’s key advisors earlier this year.
Hidalgo also criticized Ogg for claiming the district attorney’s office had been defunded. Hidalgo added that some Democrats wouldn’t create advertisements or fundraise for her during the general election and that she wouldn’t forget who those people were.
Hidalgo did thank Mealer for a hard-fought campaign, similar to a tweet she sent earlier in the day.
“Yesterday, the people of Harris County chose optimism over fear & people over politics. I want to thank each & every voter who showed up to make their voice heard this election,” Hidalgo said in the tweet.
The win amounts to a vindication for Hidalgo, who eked out a narrow victory over then-Judge Ed Emmett in 2018, in a three-way race that included a Libertarian candidate, who siphoned off just enough votes from the Republican Emmett to put Hidalgo over the top. This time, there was no Libertarian candidate in the contest to divide the conservative vote.
Mealer, a former U.S. Army captain, resigned from an investment banking job with Wells Fargo to pursue the Republican nomination for county judge. She put up a strong fight against Hidalgo, campaigning largely on the issues of fighting crime and public corruption. She dramatically outraised and outspent Hidalgo over the course of the campaign, thanks in no small part to large donations from business executives across the state. But in the end, Hidalgo's advantage in Democratic registration across the county made a bigger difference in propelling turnout.
Also on Wednesday afternoon, Hidalgo congratulated her Democratic colleague, Commissioner Adrian Garcia, and her future Democratic colleague, Commissioner-elect Lesley Briones, saying that their election would make it easier for the court to expand on Hidalgo’s achievements of the past four years.
“I will be working even harder on those issues. I want to see our community through that energy transition. I want to tackle flooding, actually solve the problem. I want to ensure every child has access to early childhood education. There’s so much that we can do together,” Hidalgo said.
The last few months were bumpy for Hidalgo after protracted fight over the county budget and tax rates. But a new Democratic majority on the court will make life less complicated.
Republican Commissioners Jack Cagle and Tom Ramsey boycotted court meetings from mid-September through the end of October in order to prevent the Democratic majority from passing their preferred budget and tax rates that could support it.
Without being able to muster the necessary quorum of four members, the court was compelled to adopt revenue rates identical to the last fiscal year. The County Budget Office has warned the result will be over $100 million in lost funding for law enforcement, $20 million in lost funding for the Harris County Flood Control District, and a $45 million deficit for Harris Health.
But Democrats flipped a commissioners court seat, and will now hold a 4-1 advantage moving forward.
Cagle lost his reelection fight against his Democratic challenger, former civil court judge Briones in a Harris County Precinct 4 that was dramatically redrawn, shifting from the county's northern tier to its western edge and incorporating more non-Anglo voters. The tally was 51.6% for Briones and 48.4% for Cagle.
Incumbent Democratic Commissioner Garcia defeated former Republican Commissioner Jack Morman in Harris County Precinct 2, which had been redrawn to more heavily favor Garcia. The split was 52.6% for Garcia to 47.4% for Morman.
Hidalgo saw the budget fight as the key to the Democratic sweep of the court elections.
“These two Republican commissioners (Cagle and Ramsey) were able to keep us from passing a budget that gave a salary increase to our law enforcement, that funded our flood control projects, that allowed us to also to complete our work in terms of health care. And so having this additional member of commissioners court (Briones) will keep us from having that situation where two members are trying to boycott the budget just for political purposes,” Hidalgo said.