As the Forward Times previously reported, the complicated and rare process to select the individual to fill the vacant seat left on Harris County Commissioner’s court by the late El Franco Lee, who died of a fatal heart attack in January, would fall in the hand of 125 Precinct One precinct chairs, per Texas state law.
Although Precinct One consists of roughly 1.2 million constituents and the commissioner oversees a budget of more than $200 million, only 125 precinct chairs were tasked with the heavy responsibility of selecting the person who would represent those constituents and control that overall budget.
This past Saturday, 78 out of the 117 precinct chairs who showed up and were deemed eligible to vote by the Harris County Democratic Party officials, cast their votes for State Senator Rodney Ellis, who secured the Democratic nomination on the first ballot.
Ellis soundly defeated his closest opponent, Gene Locke, who was chosen by Harris County Judge Ed Emmett in January, to finish out the remainder of El Franco Lee’s current term. Locke received 36 of the precinct chair votes after the final tally, while precinct chair Nathaniel West, Sr. received 2 votes.
“My deepest thanks to all for the support and humbling nomination as the next Harris County Commissioner for Precinct One,” said Ellis. “I especially want to thank the Precinct One precinct chairs for placing their faith in me and handling the nominating process with the grace and seriousness that it deserved. I look forward to working with Commissioner Locke as I transition from the Texas Senate to the Commissioners Court.”
Locke congratulated Ellis and thanked his supporters in defeat.
“The voting precinct chairs of Precinct One of the Harris County Democratic Party selected Senator Rodney Ellis as the party nominee for the November election. I have spoken to Senator Ellis and offered my congratulations,” said Locke. “Let me say thank you to the many people who supported me and offered all kinds of help. Your faith in me was an inspiration and provided energy and focus during the difficult days of the campaign. From the Locke family, we say “thanks” and pledge to finish this year with a passion and purpose to serve everyone in Precinct One.”
Several precinct chairs publicly challenged and criticized the overall voting process, prior to scheduled vote and on the day of the vote. There were complaints that several individuals were disqualified from voting that should have been considered, along with concerns about the vote taking place at a place where Ellis has an office. Harris County Democratic Party officials moved forward with a vote, in spite of the criticism.
With their Democratic nominee selection, the precinct chairs have practically assured Ellis the position come November because there is no Republican running for the seat, and he will run unopposed. Ellis would then begin a full four-year term beginning January 1, 2017, in the same way a commissioner is elected by the qualified voters in that commissioner’s precinct. He will be the lone African American and Democrat on commissioner’s court.
Now, as the Forward Times also previously reported, this is where a “trickle-down” effect will impact other seats in Harris County and things become even more interesting.
Ellis will now have to officially withdraw his name from the November ballot for the seat he has held for over 26 years in Senate District 13, and be replaced on the ballot by another individual who will be chosen by the precinct chairs in Senate District 13.
Within minutes of the official selection of Ellis as the Democratic nominee for Harris County Precinct One had been announced, several individuals had already put out political signage announcing their candidacy for the Senate District 13 seat that Ellis will have to vacate.
State Representatives Senfronia Thompson and Borris Miles have thrown their names in the hat already, with campaign signs and political messaging already going out. Former Houston City Controller Ronald Green has also announced he is in the running for the seat. It is also rumored that State Rep. Garnet Coleman may have an interest in the seat, although there has been no formal announcement made from Coleman at the time this article went to print.
If either of the state representatives – Thompson, Miles or Coleman – are selected by the Senate District 13 precinct chairs, then another date will have to be set to select their replacement on the November ballot for their respective state representative seat.
That vote to select a replacement candidate for Senate District 13 will take place in just a few weeks, and then the rest of the potential “trickle-down” outcomes are sure to follow.
The Forward Times will continue to follow the outcome of this extremely unique and complicated process and any new developments that arise.