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Democratic challenger Ed Gonzalez defeated incumbent Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman by nearly 64,000 votes Tuesday. Hickman conceded to Gonzalez shortly after 10 p.m., with roughly 81 percent of the votes counted.
Since Hickman's appointment by the Harris County Commissioners Court in May 2015, his administration had been plagued by continuing problems at the Harris County Jail — poor conditions that Hickman blamed largely on his predecessor, Adrian Garcia. (Garcia stepped down to run for mayor).
In a September interview with Houston Public Media, Gonzalez, a former Houston Police Department homicide detective and three-time city councilman, called Hickman's administration "stagnant" and "almost going backwards."
Gonzalez told the radio station “There’s three things that we’re addressing in law enforcement that do not have a law enforcement response, and that’s mental illness, poverty, and addiction. We’ve got to find community-based solutions to that."
Hickman's campaign had centered largely on the fact that Gonzalez was no longer a licensed peace officer, while stressing the incumbent's law enforcement bona fides. This earned him endorsements by the Houston Police Officers Union, the Harris County Deputies Organization and the Mexican-American Sheriffs Organization. (Perhaps even more importantly, he had the blessing of Gallery Furniture founder Jim "Mattress Mac" McIngvale).
But Gonzalez was endorsed by the Houston Chronicle, saying that the former homicide detective and three-term city councilman "built a record as a policymaker dedicated to diverting people from our jail — one of the major challenges facing the sheriff's office."
For background on problems with the Harris County jail:
- Jailhouse jeopardy: Guards often brutalize and neglect inmates in Harris County Jail, records show.