HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Beto O'Rourke's high energy senate campaign triggered a bright blue wave, which fell short in significant portions of Texas, but swamped both Harris and Fort Bend Coounty.
This week's panel: Jessica Colon - Republican strategist, Nyanza Moore - progressive commentator and Houston attorney, Bob Price – Associate Editor Breitbart Texas, Tony Diaz- Chicano educator and activist, Tomaro Bell – Super Neighborhood leader, Bill King - businessman, columnist and former Kemah Mayor discuss the outcome of the election on Harris County.
The "Harris County Black Girl Magic" campaign sweeps for 17 African American women in 2018 elections. In total, 19 women now hold positions as Harris County judges.
Lori Chamber Gray is one of those winners. Gray has practiced criminal defense law for more than 30 years and is now the judge-elect for the 262nd Criminal District Court.
"I have dealt with a lot of judges in the last 30 years. Many of them were great judges, very experienced. But few were women and even fewer were African American. And because I do a lot of criminal defense work, a lot of my clients are either African American or Hispanic," Gray said, adding that having more diversity on the bench gives each defendant more opportunity to receive a fair trial.
Latosha Lewis Payne, a judge-elect for the 55th Civil Judicial District agrees. Payne said having a diverse bench would help provide equal opportunity for justice.
"I think that having an African American judge or having a female judge-- those are the kinds of things we bring to the bench. And we bring an understanding of a person who may come from that similar background," Payne said.
The blue sweep across many Harris County positions may be attributed to straight party voting. Last year, Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 25 into law, eliminating that concept. However, the rule doesn't go into effect until 2020.
Dallas Jones is a Democratic strategist. He said straight party voting has benefited Republicans for decades, but this year's elections, the tables were turned.
"This mechanism has been utilized here for a very long time here. It just didn’t favor Democrats in the past, until this time it did," said
Sandra Guerra Thompson is a University of Houston criminal law professor and former prosecutor from New York. Thompson said partisan sweeps have their downsides.
"You're going to get a lot of people who really aren't competent and you're going to vote out some people who are excellent. And it happens every single time. It's an endless cycle," Thompson said.
However, the women said at the end of the day, they know what their job as a judge ultimately entails.
"A judge is supposed to be neutral and detached, not a part of the system. But see it for what it is, call it for what it is. And follow the law," Gray said.
Nearly nine months before Lina Hidalgo won the right to lead America's third most populous county, FOX 26 met the 27-year-old naturalized Columbian immigrant as she worked a room of influential African-American pastors.
Her mission then as now, force a local government to truly reflect the people it serves.
"There's a problem when we are 40 percent Hispanic, we are 25 percent immigrant, we are just over 50 percent woman and we don't have a voice at that table," said Hidalgo in February.
And yet that voice has now arrived, swept unexpectedly into power by a colossal "blue wave" in Harris County.
The looming question: Can an absolute political novice with little administrative experience handle a job filled with complexity and nuance?
"You bring in people. You don't do it by yourself. She has Commissioner (Rodney) Ellis to work with her and (Commissioner elect) Adrian Garcia. People who are very experienced. She's going to be really supported," said Mary Moreno who speaks for the Texas Organizing Project, an advocacy group seeking change for underserved Black and Latino Communities.
"She believed in herself and she convinced other people that she was capable of doing this job, despite her age, which I think a lot of people were suspicious of, like not sure of, but once you talk to her you are like, yes, I believe in you," said Moreno, whose organization endorsed Hidalgo.
It will be a performance certain to draw added scrutiny and constant comparison with her well-regarded predecessor Republican Ed Emmett.
"That's something she's going to have to learn, improving her political street smarts and learning how the county government works, how the county judge operates and learning how to get along with four very independent and very powerful county commissioners," said Mark Jones, a political analyst with Rice University.