With canvassing completed last Tuesday across all of Texas’ 254 counties, the election results for the four Houston intermediate appellate races are basically a done deal.
According to Texas Lawbook research, the canvassing reports by the 10 counties that encompass Houston’s First Court of Appeals and Fourteenth Court of Appeals match what is reflected on the Texas Secretary of State’s website for each of those 10 counties. All but two counties — Brazoria and Galveston — report their results as “official.”
Official or not, all of the four prevailing candidates have said they’ve won — either to The Texas Lawbook or in a public statement.
The Fourteenth Court’s two sitting Republican justices — Tracy Christopher and Ken Wise — have won their races, while two Democratic challengers — Veronica Rivas-Molloy and Amparo Monique Guerra — have defeated their incumbent opponents in the First Court of Appeals.
Republican Tracy Christopher told The Lawbook that she has won the race for chief justice of the Fourteenth Court of Appeals with a concession by Democratic opponent Jane Robinson Friday. Christopher led Robinson by 1,191 votes.
“Jane Robinson called me and congratulated me and we had a very nice conversation,” Christopher told The Texas Lawbook. “She does not plan to file a recount or any sort of contest.”
Christopher, who is currently sitting in Place 9 on the court, said she looks forward to serving in her new role.
“I thought it was important to have someone with continuity to run for the position, which is why I stepped in and ran,” she said. “We needed someone with expertise to deal with various issues we have in the court. We have a legislative session coming up and budgeting issues that are going to be difficult, so we’re going to be working hard on that.”
Christopher said the Fourteenth Court is still operating on a remote basis and plans to do so until Feb. 1 to abide by the Supreme Court of Texas’ orders.
Ken Wise, the other Republican incumbent candidate in the Fourteenth Court, also told The Lawbook that he has won his race. He led his opponent, Tamika “Tami” Craft, by 19,693 votes.
“I am fortunate to be reelected. I look forward to serving another term,” Wise said.
In the First Court of Appeals, Democrat Veronica Rivas-Molloy beat her incumbent opponent, Russell Lloyd, by nearly 35,000 votes.
Likely due to the wide margin, Rivas-Molloy declared victory in a Facebook post two days after the election.
“I am overjoyed and incredibly grateful to announce that I have been elected to serve as a justice on our First Court of Appeals, becoming the first Democratic-elected Hispanic attorney and only the third Latina to serve on the court in 129 years,” Rivas-Molloy said in the post. “I am humbled and incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to serve our judicial system and our community.”
Democrat Amparo Monique Guerra will be the other new justice in the First Court after defeating incumbent Terry Adams by 4,538 votes. At one point, the margin in this race was less than one-third of 1%. Guerra publicly announced her victory Wednesday.
“It has long been my mission to increase diversity, inclusion, and equal representation in the legal profession, and in our courts, in the Houston area with well-qualified, experienced lawyers and judges,” Guerra said in a Facebook post. “I am extremely proud that my election advances that dream — following in the footsteps of my mother, Ret. Senior Justice Linda Yanez, the first Latina to serve on an appellate court in the history of the State of Texas.”
In a Facebook post published Thursday, Adams said he had lost by a “very narrow margin” and congratulated Guerra.
“I congratulate the incoming justice and wish her will,” he said the post. “Serving you on the First Court of Appeals during this time has been such a joy and honor! I intend to continue working hard during the remaining weeks of my term doing the court’s important work.”
The period for statewide canvassing began Saturday and will conclude by Dec. 7. The state’s canvassing results will serve as the official record of election results.
Publisher’s Note: This coverage of the 2020 judicial elections by The Texas Lawbook is being made available outside our paywall courtesy of Thompson Coburn and Carter Arnett.