Deanna Paul, Washington Post, January 2, 2019
Democratic candidates unseated more than 50 incumbent Republican judges in the largest jurisdiction in Texas during last November’s elections.
On Tuesday, the newly elected judiciary for Harris County was sworn in, including the 17 African American women who were part of the “Black Girl Magic” campaign.
Harris County, which includes Houston, is one of the most diverse counties in the nation, according to Harris County Democratic Party Chair Lillie Schechter.
With a population exceeding 4 million, it is also the third most populous county in the United States.
Schechter called Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony “fitting.” The county “finally has a judiciary that truly reflects the different faces of the people that come before it,” she said in a statement to The Washington Post.
The demographics in Harris County have shifted dramatically in recent years. According to recent census data, nearly 20 percent of Harris County’s population is African American, and more than 40 percent is Hispanic.
“You had a judicial bench that did not look like the community. People who had been there for a long time were basically living in a bubble,” Judge Dedra Davis said during an interview with The Post. Davis unseated Brent Gamble (R) in the November election after he spent two decades on the bench.
Some Republican members of the judiciary have been critical of the freshman judges, the Houston Chronicle reported. Many campaigned on criminal justice reform platforms, causing the judges to worry about lax rulings coming from the bench.
The 17 women — who began their four-year terms Wednesday in the county’s civil, criminal, family and probate courts — were part of a broader Democratic Party success in Harris County.
According to Schechter, of the 75 elected Harris County judgeships, all but one opening unseated a Republican. Several Democratic candidates also defeated incumbents for top county leadership positions, as well as state representative and congressional seats.