EXCLUSIVE – A heated race is underway in the Houston area pitting Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo against Republican challenger Alexandra del Moral Mealer, who told Fox News Digital the Democratic incumbent’s policies have contributed to a crime wave in the city.
The West Point graduate and Harvard JD/MBA touted her plan to combat crime, support law enforcement and criticized her opponent’s record on coronavirus restrictions and alleged corruption within her office.
“Houston has always been that great American city. We just need to go back to the fundamentals of good governance,” Mealer said.
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Mealer said the “egregious COVID response” and the rise in crime initially inspired her to run for county judge.
“My toddler was masked and this wasn’t my choice as a parent.”
Mealer blamed Hidalgo for her role in bail reforms, which she argued are contributing to the rise in crime by letting repeat offenders return to the streets.
“What we’ve done to the criminal justice system, we have instituted the most radical version of bail reform, where in Harris County for misdemeanors, the majority of people don’t even see a judge. Lina’s the person that took away that discretion .”
Mealer described what is behind the crime wave as a twofold issue that is “legal and financial.”
“Over 80 percent of law enforcement funding requests have been denied,” said Mealer.
“Now the county has seen a 65 percent rise in homicides,” she added, describing how this has taken a toll on law enforcement in the county.
Mealer said there is “low morale” among law enforcement in the third-most populous county in the United States.
“If you’re not keeping pace with that crime wave, you really have an overworked, overstressed, overburdened law enforcement,” said Mealer.
“We have federal courtroom monitors in our courts right now. We are the only county that has something called general order bonds. You actually don’t see a judge,” Mealer said. “We just say a misdemeanor is a misdemeanor and there are no consequences.”
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Mealer pointed to the number of murders committed by suspects who were let out on bond. Victims’ advocates said there were 156 such killings from 2018-2021.
Additionally, Mealer provided a plan to combat crime and touted her endorsements from “every law enforcement organization.” She said that there has been a lot of funding for public safety under Hidalgo’s administration, but not enough funding for police and discussed a plan to hire 1,000 law enforcement officers.
Mealer said public safety entails to the Hidalgo administration includes “social workers, streetlights and bike trails”, but not enough funding for full-time law enforcement positions.”
According to Texas constable Glenn Hegarin 2022, aggravated assaults in Harris County increased by 11%, and murder and manslaughter have increased by 24% compared to 2020.
Hidalgo faced accusations from Hegar, Gov. Greg Abbott and other state Republicans in recent months of trying to defund law enforcement in the county.
Hegar said the decision to end rollover savings, where funds leftover from one fiscal year would automatically roll over to the next, and in more than $3 million being taken away from the Constables Office.
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Abbott said in a statement that the loss of resources would “endanger public safety.”
“Harris County continues to show complete Negligence for public safety, as the same county whose revolving door bail program releases dangerous criminals back onto the streets to commit more violent crimes like murder.”
Mealer pushed back on the decision, accusing Hidalgo of operating under “anything but” transparency.
“When you have crime and the level of violence we do, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to increase resourcing. And what we’ve seen is really this anemic funding at best,” said Mealer.
Hidalgo denied that she attempted to defund law enforcement, touting budget increases for law enforcement during her tenure.
“We’re about two months away from my re-election, and they’re throwing everything—including outright lies—at the wall to see what sticks,” she said in August.
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Joe Gamaldi, vice president of the National Fraternal Order of Police, said Hidalgo’s tenure has been “nothing short of horrific” as Houston’s crime surge has mirrored other big American cities.
“Under her leadership, or lack thereof, murders in Harris County have spiked to the tune of 65%,” said Gamaldi, calling liberal bail reform policies “an unmitigated disaster.”
“Now, in another blatant attempt to harm law enforcement, she is cutting much-needed roll-over funding, which will lead to less officers on the streets, when we need them the most, and only exacerbate the violent crime wave in Harris County . All the while she refuses to debate her opponent in November on these issues. It is despicable and the people of Harris County deserve better.”
Hidalgo’s office was also rocked by a corruption scandal in April when two of her former aids and her chief of staff were named in felony indictments in connection with an investigation into an $11 million contract for COVID-19 outreach. The three men were charged with misuse of official information and tampering with records.
Hidalgo’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
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