In a race that has been neck and neck for months, Judge Lina Hidalgo, the Democratic incumbent, has narrowly defeated her Republican challenger, Alexandra del Moral Mealer.
Mealer tweeted a concession on Wednesday morning after results from all 782 voting locations were posted by Harris County Elections. Hidalgo won by 15,957 votes, 50.74% – 49.25%.
The win amounts to a vindication for Hidalgo, who eked out a narrow victory over then-Judge Ed Emmett in 2018, in a three-way race that included a Libertarian candidate, who siphoned off just enough votes from the Republican Emmett to put Hidalgo over the top. This time, there was no Libertarian candidate in the contest to divide the conservative vote.
Mealer, a former U.S. Army captain, resigned from an investment banking job with Wells Fargo to pursue the Republican nomination for county judge. She put up a strong fight against Hidalgo, campaigning largely on the issues of fighting crime and public corruption. She dramatically outraised and outspent Hidalgo over the course of the campaign, thanks in no small part to large donations from business executives across the state. But in the end, Hidalgo’s advantage in Democratic registration across the county made a bigger difference in propelling turnout.
Hidalgo now faces the challenge of trying to heal ill-feelings in the court left over from the protracted fight over the county budget and tax rates. Republican Commissioners Jack Cagle and Tom Ramsey boycotted court meetings from mid-September through the end of October in order to prevent the Democratic majority from passing their preferred budget and tax rates that could support it.
Without being able to muster the necessary quorum of four members, the court was compelled to adopt revenue rates identical to the last fiscal year. The County Budget Office has warned the result will be over $100 million in lost funding for law enforcement, $20 million in lost funding for the Harris County Flood Control District, and a $45 million deficit for Harris Health.