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Why Is Heath Harris as Democratic Party Chair a Bad Idea Again?

Craig Watkins

Steve Blow weighs in today echoing the conventional wisdom that DA Craig Watkins is obviously trying to extend his political power by pushing colleagues into positions of local importance, in this case convincing First Assistant DA Heath Harris to run for Dallas County party chair, Democrat version. I have several problems with this theory. Well, not with the theory, which is sound: Watkins wants people favorable to him in positions of political power. My insider analysis of this: aduh. We ask our judges and district attorney be political animals by the act of making them elected. Don’t be surprised when they act as such. He’d be an idiot to act any other way.

The complaint about how he’s doing this, best as I can tell, centers on the fact he’s so naked in his approach. I’ve detailed my problems with Watkins, but the fact that he’s terrible at concealing his desire for power is a good thing. Evil people hide this. Cocky people say, yeah, so what? I’m okay with cocky. I have no problem with this.

I do have a problem with the suddenly full-throated defenses being mounted on behalf of Darlene Ewing, the current party chair. When Watkins ran in 2010, all I heard from local Democrats was how Ewing couldn’t control all the upstart Dems who rode the blue wave to office in 2008. (I did not hear this from Watkins’ staff; they ignored the local orgs.) In my few dealings with Ewing, she seemed capable and kind. But does that mean she shouldn’t have to deal with a challenger favorable to Watkins? Of course not.

Also annoying is the idea that Harris — maybe the only grown-up in the D.A.’s inner circle — is Watkins’ puppet. Based on what? The fact he’s loyal to his boss, a man he admires? That’s silly.

I have no idea if Harris would be a good party chair. A legitimate complaint is that his current job may be so demanding that he can’t devote the time needed to the party chair gig. (My feeling: that’s not a problem.) I do think Harris’ being dismissed because of his professional relationship with Watkins is absurd.