January 18, 2004
Fort Bend Follies

What the hell is going on in Fort Bend County?

Fort Bend County Sheriff Milton Wright, the only Republican candidate for the office, was granted a temporary restraining order Friday, keeping the only Democratic candidate off his party's ballot.

The Democrat, Richmond lawyer Tom Steinmeyer, said Friday he plans to withdraw from the race anyway, "because I don't have the backing of the Fort Bend Democratic Party."

However, his decision does not make Wright's action moot.

Wright's attorney Rick Forlano explained that Texas law says a candidate who withdraws from a race must do so 65 days before the election, which in this case is March 9.

"That deadline has already passed," Forlano said.

Steinmeyer filed for the office Jan. 2, the deadline, with a check for $1,250.

The bank returned the check, citing insufficient funds in Steinmeyer's account, Forlano said, so Democratic chair Felicia Farrar took Steinmeyer's name off the ballot.

Steinmeyer blamed the bank for the bounced check. "The bank has admitted it was their mistake," he said Friday.

Steinmeyer later gave Farrar a cashier's check, and she placed him back on the ballot, prompting the sheriff's lawsuit, Forlano said.

Wright contends Steinmeyer is ineligible to run because his filing fee was not paid by the deadline set by law.

The order keeping Steinmeyer's name off the ballot expires Thursday afternoon, and Wright and Forlano will ask state District Judge Brady Elliott that morning to grant an injunction keeping Steinmeyer from running.

"If he does not want to run, the party chair simply needs to agree to that injunction," Forlano said.

Farrar could not be reached for comment Friday.

Let me see if I've got this straight: Tom Steinmeyer paid his filing fee in good faith, but was thrown off the ballot when the bank bounced his check. When the bank admitted its error, he was reinstated on the ballot by Democratic Party chair Felicia Farrar, but Republican incumbent Milton Wright got a TRO to keep him off. Now Steinmeyer wants to withdraw from the race, but Wright's attorney, the guy who got the TRO that kept him off even though he was booted for something that wasn't his fault is saying he can't withdraw because it's too close to the primary.

I think I speak for many when I say "Huh?!?!?"

First of all, I don't think a candidate should be punished for a bank's error. That just doesn't seem fair to me. I strongly disagree with the judge that gave the TRO.

Second, if the law says you can't withdraw within 65 days of an election, then it seems to me that there ought to be more time between the filing deadline and the election itself. It also seems to me that an unopposed primary candidate ought to be able to withdraw a lot later in the game if he or she wants to, since if that candidate is determined to not run, he or she will just be dropping out after the primary anyway. I do actually understand Wright's desire for the TRO, I just think it shouldn't have been necessary.

Finally, I don't understand at all Steinmeyer's assertion that he doesn't have the backing of the Fort Bend Democratic Party. If a party can't support a solo candidate running against the other team's incumbent, then what the hell are they good for? I've heard a rumor that Felicia Farrar is on the outs with the state party - if this story is part of the reason why, then I'd say "Right on". So I'll ask again: What is going on down there?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 18, 2004 to Local politics | TrackBack

Wright probably doesn't want to run against Steinmeyer--perhaps annointing him the winner is more to his liking.

Why is he afraid of having to face voters in what might not even be a competitive race? All Wright need do is say "my check bouncing opponent" at every stop. But may be he would rather not campaign at all.

The problem isn't in Fort Bend County, or even the stars on their lapels, but in the Republican Party. Like a fish, it stinks from the head down.

Frankly the race wouldn't have gotten this much publicity all things being "normal."

Posted by: Jaye on January 18, 2004 5:04 PM

Related Article in Rosenberg Herald Coaster

"The bank did not make the error and a careful look at those records will show that there were no funds in the account at the time the check was written," said Forlano [the attorney for GOP sheriff candidate Milton Wright]. "So that is not a bank error. That means you are writing an unacceptable check.

Well, we have two mutually exclusive claims with respect to whether or not the bank was at error. It will be interesting to see which claim is more factually accurate.

Posted by: Greg V. on January 18, 2004 9:55 PM

Interesting. Steinmeyer claims to have a letter from the bank saying they erred; Farrar says she spoke to an officer at the bank who agrees that they erred. Seems to me those two things would be easy enough to check out. Forlano doesn't specify anything, he just says "a closer look" will show that the bank did not err. It shouldn't take Dick Tracy to sort this out.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on January 19, 2004 7:20 AM

I was wondering how to contact Tom Steinmeyer, becuase I put my name in google to see what came up and we have the same name..Kind of interesting..I hope he won the election..sounds like he was penalized for something that was not his fault, but that happens all the time in life..someone tailgates you for no reason and then is angry with you for going slow or being in their way..it is not your fault, it is just maybe someone having a bad day or making a mistake..I understand how he might not want to then run for office, someone elses actions does affect others around them..that is why we all need to be show others grace and mercy as God gives us..because no one on this earth is without sin..God Bless Tom Steinmeyer..

Posted by: Tom Steinmeyer on June 16, 2005 10:35 AM