Harris County district attorney candidate Mary Nan Huffman believes today’s habitual criminals want to stay in Harris County because they know it’s easier to get probated sentences.
A one-time Montgomery County prosecutor accustomed to seeking longer sentences for aggravated offenses, Huffman strives to bring small town justice to the big city.
Huffman is one of our own. She has been a member of the HPOU legal team for almost two years and is now the Republican candidate looking to unseat one-term incumbent Democrat Kim Ogg.
Union leaders believe Ogg has been a thorn in the side of HPD officers who regularly put together strong enough cases to merit long sentences and high enough bonds to keep dangerous individuals behind bars.
Stories Prove Points
Huffman told the Badge & Gun she has been inspired by the dedication and professionalism of the officers she has grown to know in situations such as officer-involved shootings.
She believes law enforcement officers and prosecutors must realize that criminals share enough information to be smarter than ever before. They prefer the friendlier prosecutorial environs of Harris County to the stricter justice system of smaller, more diligent places like Conroe.
As one who was getting more comfortable on the campaign circuit – at least before the social distancing rules in effect due to the Coronavirus – Huffman has stories to tell to illustrate her point.
One in particular comes from her days as a prosecutor under Montgomery County DA Brett Ligon, another one of our own, an HPOU legal counsel before his election two terms ago.
“From my experience, I learned that we are not giving criminals enough credit,” she said. “They are getting smarter by sharing information with each other.
“There was a mom from Houston who was going to put her two-year-old up for sale for $1,200 to a guy in Montgomery County. The guy she ended up talking to was my undercover officer.”
They worked out the details. Huffman and the undercover found that the derelict mom was adamant about one key factor.
“Can we stay in Harris County?” she pleaded. “The DA up there in Conroe doesn’t like people like us.”
In other words, if you got caught committing the felony in Harris County your chances of a lighter sentence or probation would be better. These rural counties were tougher on criminals.
Indeed, Huffman’s on-the-spot research proves her point. She knows information like this used in her campaign will help voters focus on her plan to be tougher on criminals than the current DA.
Two crooks had each committed seven aggravated robberies in Harris County and “got probation.”
They went 40 miles up the road to pull the same shenanigans – and got caught. When they couldn’t get probation concurrent with their Harris County sentences, they requested a jury trial and faced a no-nonsense jury who found them guilty. One of them got 60 years, the other life.
No Police Rapport with Ogg
“People stopped committing aggravated robberies in Montgomery County because the people (criminals) talk to each other,” Huffman reasons.
Their message: do your aggravated robberies in Harris County and expect a lighter sentence if you get caught.
The HPOU-endorsed candidate wants to change the lesson learned. She wants the big-city crooks to get the small-town message, stressed by tougher prosecution that leads to longer sentences.
“They need to know that if they commit a crime here, they’re going to be held accountable,” she emphasized.
Besides the HPOU endorsement, Huffman has picked up the formal support of the African American Police Officers League (AAPOL) and the Organization of Spanish Speaking Officers (OSSO).
She’s comfortable in campaign scenarios involving voters of all races and political party backgrounds. She said she has succeeded in getting kudos from Democrats who don’t care for the current uncomfortable condition that has Ogg crossways with Houston police officers.
“The DA and police officers should be allies,” Huffman pointed out. “I’ve gotten to know many police officers. I know that nobody becomes a police officer because of the salary structure; it’s because it’s a calling and you are a public servant and you want to catch bad guys.”
She has found that the typical officer believes that he or she is “putting my life on the line because there is a cause at the end of it.”
It’s catching the bad guys and seeing that they get just deserves.
“The feeling that ‘we’re in this together’” hasn’t happened with Ogg at the helm.
Huffman vows to change that if she gets elected in a down-ballot race that for the first time won’t be affected by straight-ticket balloting.
The Republican candidate believes she has a good chance of prevailing in a county that has tended to vote Democratic in the last two elections. “Harris County is unlike any other county in Texas,” she said. “A large percentage of all voters have voted in both Republican and Democratic primaries at one time or another. They are willing to educate themselves. There will be no more straight-ticket voting.”
Huffman admits “it’s been a tough year” of campaigning while combining this tough task with her duties at HPOU Legal and at home as a wife and a mother to two toddler sons.
She believes her Hurricane Harvey experience groomed her for the tough experience.
“I feel like God was giving me a perspective, a warm-up for another hard year,” she said in reflection.
“I never expected to run for office. If I had thought I was, I would have positioned myself a little better, maybe working in Harris County as a prosecutor.”
Huffman said she got the feeling she “could make a difference” while on her job as one of the HPOU attorneys dealing with officer-involved shootings. On her watch were three different ones, each involving accused robbers “out on bond” who were involved in gunplay with HPD officers.
This experience alongside her family’s challenges in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey added together to convince her the time was right to seek public office.
“We flooded,” she said. “We basically lost everything. My in-laws were flooded. They also lost everything. We moved in together. We used mattresses on the floor of a rented house. There was a leaky roof and ants on the bed. We paid a mortgage on a house you couldn’t live in.”
The family lived like this for 18 months before getting back to normalcy. This hardship entailed the caring for two young sons, one three years old, the other three months old.
The experience, thank God, is behind Huffman and a family that includes the in-laws. She said God tested her and made her strong enough to undertake a year to run for Harris County district attorney.
She feels stronger than ever with seven more months until Election Day.