The Harris County District Attorney race will likely stem from two things: the party and voter definition of "law and order".
The incumbent Kim Ogg is ahead of the game and is running for Democratic office in Texas' most populous blue county.
Republican Mary Nan Huffman hopes the latter will give her the advantage, which political observers believe is an uphill battle.
"It's the only (race) where Republicans even have a chance to win the cycle," said Mark Jones, professor at Rice University's Department of Political Science. "She's still an extremely long shot."
While Ogg is often criticized by Huffman's employer, the Houston Police Officers' Union, the incumbent insists she has not strayed left-wing on police matters, trying to draw the line between public safety demands and public safety reform To exceed criminal justice.
60-year-old Ogg is promoting her charges against several police officers in connection with a botched raid on Harding Street that killed two residents, as well as her program of diverting marijuana possession cases from the judicial system.
She has also repeatedly called on more prosecutors for her position and opposed a landmark deal on the county's use of bail on poor defendants. You haven't done enough to protect the public from violent criminals.
Ogg was a longtime prosecutor before becoming the "gangzar" of Houston Mayor Bob Lanier. She then served as Managing Director of Crimestoppers of Houston for six years before moving into private legal practice. On her second attempt in 2016, she was elected prosecutor.
Huffman, who describes herself as "not a politician" on her campaign website, is a former Montgomery County attorney where she served as a crime chief in the Child Exploitation Division and Internet Crimes Against Child Division. The 37-year-old is now an advocate for the Houston Police Officers' Union, which she endorses and has long been a staunch critic of Ogg.
Huffman said Harris County has not remained a safe place under Ogg's leadership, which it sees as progressive. She often shares stories on Twitter about defendants being released on bail and charged with other crimes. In interviews she often mentions that streets are “flooded” with criminals who are let out because of “treasure accord after treasure accord”.
"Harris County is no safer than it was four years ago – we've seen crime rise across Harris County," she said. "Public safety should be the only thing the government provides for its people."
Harris District Attorney's race
Democrat Kim Ogg, 60, incumbent
Republican Mary Nan Huffman, 37, legal advisor to the Houston Police Officers' Union
TAKE TEXAS: Find the political news you need on HoustonChronicle.com every weekday.
Violent crime increased in Houston in the first half of the year. Murders, aggravated assaults, robberies and sexual assault increased 6 percent in the first six months of 2020 over the same period of 2019 compared to first half of 2019. Robbery and sexual assault decreased.
Whether Huffman's rhetoric about rising crime rates will lean voters in their favor remains to be seen, said Jeronimo Cortina, associate professor at the University of Houston's Department of Political Science. Perception is key, he said, and people are more likely to vote for Huffman if they agree that the crime is as bad as it says it is.
"I'm not very clear that such an argument can … affect a lot of voters," said Cortina. "If you go out and don't see it, you don't see people being mugged on the street or robbing a liquor store. A voter will create cognitive dissonance."
Ogg and Huffman agree that prosecutors must do their part to reduce the growing number of cases in the district courts, particularly the more than 1,300 murder and capital murder cases that have yet to be resolved.
However, the similarities mostly stop there. Ogg said she wanted a better flow of evidence from police to lawyers when the prosecution began. Huffman said the main problems came from inexperienced prosecutors in the Ogg admissions department.
Ogg still wants more staff to handle the increasing number of cases. Huffman said she wanted to at least return to a workforce that would make up for the prosecutors Ogg lost during her first term, one of her main criticisms of the incumbent.
Huffman has also accused Ogg of being unethical in selecting cases to prosecute, such as a failed prosecution against Arkema chemical plant on the Houston Ship Channel. After Judge Belinda Hill ruled last week that prosecutors had failed to prove her case, she issued a court verdict acquitting three defendants in the trial. Another two defendants had already been released.
She also pointed to several people who had left the prosecution, saying Ogg was more concerned with prosecutor's victories than with obtaining justice.
"She chooses which cases to pursue based on a political agenda rather than facts and evidence, and that should startle everyone," Huffman said. "We need a prosecutor who does the right thing every time."
Ogg denied the allegations.
She attributed the dissatisfaction of some employees with the office to a "change in the old guard". And she wondered if Harris County residents would be receptive to law and order to a district attorney after four years of gradual change.
"It would be a setback to have someone determined for the police," said Ogg.
Huffman said she still plans to hold officials accountable for taking advantage of Harris County residents.
On HoustonChronicle.com: Emails show that an independent investigator hired to assist Harris County's DA Kim Ogg has been removed from service
"I support law enforcement, but I support good law enforcement," Huffman said. "Nobody likes a bad cop."
Huffman has said she would pull the office out of the Harding Street investigation to avoid any conflict of interest, but Ogg said voters should consider wanting the county to bring a police corruption case to justice in a surrounding county, who may be friendlier police.
Ogg's election in 2016 was part of a democratic scrutiny of all state-wide offices. She received support for her promises of criminal justice reform, but some of those early supporters have turned away and instead supported two of her main opponents who branded themselves more progressive than Ogg.
Jones said Ogg's centrist position is likely what will help her in November.
"Kim Ogg doesn't leave much room in the middle for Huffman to move and occupy and win in Harris County," said Jones. "The only way for Huffman to win is to convince a significant number of voters that the Democrats are going up and down to vote for them and not for Kim Ogg."
Cortina assumes that voters will remain polarized in terms of party politics, although Ogg is faced with dissatisfaction in her own party. Ogg's struggles with some Democrats shouldn't make much of a difference as they weren't effective in the primary, he said.
"The attacks that she had in elementary school from the left didn't work very well because she won the nomination," said Cortina.
For her part, the incumbent maintains her position as a reformer, promoting her marijuana crime program, police prosecution and exoneration of previously detained accused as examples of a progressive agenda.
"We have only just begun the massive changes I have expected in the criminal justice system across the country," she said. "At least we started here with pretty significant approaches and results."
Huffman runs as a Republican but said her candidacy is not about a political party.
"If Kim Ogg had done a good job I wouldn't have run against her," said Huffman. "I run for the Harris County people. I don't think that has anything to do with her being a Democrat."