Harris Co. District Attorney Ogg on challenger Sean Teare: 'I have some concerns about his judgment'

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg is running for a third term as the county's top prosecutor.

She is facing opposition from Sean Teare, one of her former employees. Teare announced his run for the office on ABC13 last month.

But Ogg said she has unfinished business, and as much as she talks about her team's accomplishment's during her first two terms, there is work to do.

"Having consistency in policy, in messaging, and in practice is what you want from a district attorney," Ogg told ABC13. "Controversy's just going to come with the job."



Ogg won election in 2016. She immediately began work on reforming a system she says unfairly punished the mentally ill and those arrested for non-violent, misdemeanor marijuana offenses.

"We have handled the lower end of the criminal justice system - the nonviolent, the addicts, the human-trafficked individuals, the drug addicts," she said. "We've handled them differently and in a smarter way. And we're seeing really positive results"

The numbers of total backlogged cases is trending downward, but 13 Investigates found that the number of pending felony cases in Harris County has gone up since Ogg took office, which was before Hurricane Harvey and the COVID-19 pandemic did a number on the system.

According to the Texas Office of Court Administration, there were 18,116 active felony cases in January 2017. At the end of May this year, there were more than 35,000, according to the county.

Ogg said her office is underfunded and her team overworked. She says she needs another $15 million to add prosecutors and lessen that backlog.

"That's what I pitched in 2019," she said. "Shoot, (Harris County commissioners) have spent that on trees and beautification and tearing down buildings. So, what's most important about criminal justice to understand is that it takes people to help people."

She has repeatedly gone to Harris County Commissioners Court asking for more funds and requesting additional resources from County Judge Lina Hidalgo. It is fair to say the two don't see eye to eye.

In a meeting in early June, Hidalgo invoked Ogg's name during a discussion that proposed moving a crime intervention program under the DA's oversight.

"This woman who's got some folks around here wrapped around her little finger, enjoys bullying, and has wasted taxpayer dollars," Hidalgo said at the time.

Ogg's office did seek and earn from a grand jury the indictment of three former Hidalgo staffers for misuse of official information and tampering with a government record for a COVID-19 outreach contract. Those cases have yet to go to trial.

"It's not coming from our position at the DA's office. I have a job to do," Ogg said of the public acrimony on the case. "It does include investigating and prosecuting public corruption cases. And because three members of the county judge's staff were indicted by a grand jury, there's been, it seems, like a great deal of hostility coming from that part of the court. My thought is that leadership demands more of each of us, and that part of that leadership is self-discipline. If you don't care for somebody in politics, it's just not appropriate to name call that spurs further dissension and division. And what our community and our voters want is unity."

While that plays out in the criminal courts, Ogg said she remains focused on administering justice. But one of her former deputies, Sean Teare, who led the office's vehicular crimes unit, is now running against her.

"I'm never surprised to have an opponent, because in politics, it's just expected," she said. "And in terms of who my opponent is, I've had other employees that I brought into the office front against me. I don't have any particular feelings about this opponent other than I have some concerns about his judgment."

Ogg is a political veteran who understands the complexity of her job and the balancing act it requires. She is a native Houstonian, a lawyer since 1987, a former prosecutor, and executive director of Crime Stoppers, who spent more than a decade in private practice before becoming district attorney in 2016.

"It takes prosecutors to achieve justice for victims of violent crime and to achieve justice for low-level offenders to get out of a system with modified behavior and no permanent criminal history. It just takes innovation, dedication, and hopefully another term," she said

It is June 2023. We are 17 months from Election Day. But as the triple-digit temperatures broil southeast Texas, the race for Harris County District Attorney is also heating up earlier than usual.

Read story