HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Former cop and councilman Ed Gonzalez spent the final hours of his campaign much as he did the very first: meeting face-to-face, one-on-one with voters, pledging dramatic change at the nation's third largest Sheriff's Department and the often troubled jail that goes with it.
"It shouldn't be a death sentence to simply be in there, and too many times it is" Gonzalez said. "These people are just awaiting trial, the vast majority."
With Democratic ticket topper Hillary Clinton expected to lend a boost locally, Gonzalez is hoping a spike in Hispanic turnout will position him to replace an incumbent he predicts will do little to lower jail violence or reduce crime.
"We've seen scandal after scandal, frankly, with no accountability and ownership of it. No saying, 'Okay this happened under my watch. It won't happen again. This is how we fix it,'" said Gonzalez.
That incumbent is Republican Sheriff Ron Hickman who spent this election eve far more focused on his mental health unit and the potential terror threat facing Texas than with last minute campaigning.
The 44-year peace officer says the department and jail he inherited 17 months ago demanded massive reform— dramatic changes Hickman claims are well underway within a 9,000 inmate facility that is newly outfitted with dozens of electronic witnesses and officers who are better trained.
"We have been implementing much needed technology in a variety of different areas. We've added cameras inside the jail where they've never been to improve our accountability," said Hickman.
In a year when partisan forces may lend an edge to a "progressive" challenger, Hickman's counting on Harris County voters concerned about their safety to opt for four decades of law enforcement accolades and leadership.
"I've never left law enforcement for anything else. It's always been my plan from the beginning to use my skills and experience to lead law enforcement," said Hickman.