Youthful Harris County Judge-elect up to challenge, backers say

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.