story by Michael Ciaglo, Staff Writer
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The new Harris County officials sworn in New Year's Day had something in common: They were all Democrats.
The swearing-in ceremony at 2 p.m. Sunday followed the Democratic Party's sweep of every countywide office in November's general election, including closely watched contests against incumbent Republicans for DA and sheriff.
The blue wave in a normally purple county where President Barack Obama won by just one-tenth of a percent in 2012 was driven largely by the unpopularity of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who polled just 42 percent in Harris County compared to Democrat Hillary Clinton's 54 percent, according to the county clerk's official election results. Trump's unpopularity here helped spur the Democrats' 11-point advantage in straight-ticket voting.
Despite the partisan victory, new and returning Harris County public servants struck a conciliatory tone. Shortly before his swearing-in, incoming Sheriff Ed Gonzalez credited his former opponent Ron Hickman with working closely together to ensure a smooth transition.
Gonzalez, a former HPD homicide detective and Houston City Council member, promised to be a "straight-shooter" as he pursues criminal justice reforms and collaborates with city police and county constables. He said his first priorities are budget issues and clearance rates for criminal investigations.
County Judge Ed Emmett, Harris County's top elected official, addressed the officials and their families.
"Don't let your ego get in your way," he told them. "The election is over and none of us is really that important. We are part of a governmental machine that's been going a long, long time. ... The ego of the campaign goes away. You're not the office. You just occupy the office."
Though Emmett mostly repeated his remarks from the 2015 swearing-in, he added a few comments this time around.
"This has been a heck of a year. ... There's been a lot of talk of divisiveness, 'us' versus 'them,' " he said, citing partisan echo chambers and the dangers of fake news. "Everyone should be 'us,' " he said.
Other officials sworn in Sunday at the century-old county courthouse downtown include:
- Rodney Ellis, Precinct 1 commissioner
- Ann Harris Bennett, county tax assessor-collector
- Vince Ryan, county attorney
- Five district judges: Kyle Carter of the 125th, Jaclanel McFarland of the 133rd, Ursula A. Hall of the 165th, Herb Ritchie of the 337th and Maria T. Jackson of the 339th
- George Barnstone, judge of the County Civil Court No. 1
- Donna Bahorich, District 6 representative and chairwoman of the State Board of Education
- George Moore and Eric Dick, county school trustees
- Six justices of the peace: Eric William Carter of Precinct 1, Jo Ann Delgado of Precinct 2, Joe Stephens of Precinct 3, Russ Ridgway of Precinct 5, Richard C. Vara of Precinct 6 and Holly Williamson of Precinct 8
- Silvia Trevino, Precinct 6 constable