Harris County’s district attorney is up for reelection next year, but drama – including an ongoing fight with County Attorney Lina Hidalgo and admonishment from her own party – could make the fight to hold onto her seat even more difficult.
The issue with Lina Hidalgo started after the Texas Rangers executed search warrants in public corruption cases involving three former staffers in Hidalgo’s Office. These indicted cases concern allegations of improperly steering a taxpayer-funded $11 million Covid outreach project to a “preferred” vendor in violation of the law regarding the awarding of such county government contracts. According to the warrants, which are public information, the Texas Rangers are investigating allegations of missing or destroyed evidence.
“The Texas Rangers, an independently created law enforcement agency, report to their own chain of command, which is not the District Attorney’s Office nor its prosecutors,” Ogg said. “The investigation was presented to a Harris County Grand Jury, comprised of residents selected randomly, responding to jury duty. All three defendants were indicted.”
Hidalgo claims the search warrants against her former staffers were part of what she said was Ogg’s political vendetta against her.
“They’ve not been found guilty of anything because they’re not guilty of anything,” Hidalgo said. “This is just the same dirty politics she’s been playing at for years.”
Ogg adamantly disputes those claims.
“Recognizing that investigations into public officials are essential for the checks and balances of our democracy, I remain steadfast in my commitment to upholding the oath of office and ensuring fair treatment for everyone. It is a prosecutor’s oath to go beyond seeking convictions; our work is about ensuring that justice is served. I am resolute in my commitment to ensuring that no one receives special treatment based on their societal position, political power, race, gender, or any other unrelated factor. There will be no political intimidation of law enforcement agents or prosecutors under my leadership,” Ogg said.
Admonishment from her party
A petition asking for the district attorney’s admonishment has so far been signed by more than 80 of the 549 Democratic precinct chairs throughout the county. The measure is up for discussion at the party’s steering committee meeting on Nov. 30 for inclusion on the agenda of the county executive committee meeting in December, according to Mike Doyle, chair of the Harris County Democratic Party.
“Here’s the big takeaway: until it goes through the process, it’s not a party statement or a party decision,” Doyle said.
Ogg is up for reelection next year and facing off against former prosecutor Sean Teare, who’s been endorsed by County Judge Lina Hidalgo, in the Democratic primary bid for district attorney in March 2024. According to Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston., an admonishment from her own party wouldn’t affect Ogg’s current job or punish her in any way, but may likely hurt her chances at maintaining her seat.
“The Democratic Party certainly has a lot of sway,” Rottinghaus said. “If you combine this possible sanction with the endorsement from Judge Hidalgo of Sean Teare, then it’s possible that this will mean that the DA will lose some support among Democratic circles and really, that’s where she needs to be strong at this point.”