It's showtime today in the Heflin-Vo election contest, and you can add Select Committee on Election Contests Chair Terry Keel to the list of Republicans making reasonable public statements about the whole thing.
"You are going to have to have a high level of commitment to integrity and fairness and honesty, and your pursuit of those duties is likely not to ever, in any instance, make people happy," said Keel, a legislator since 1997. "It's more likely to always make somebody unhappy."
Activists from both parties tried to influence lawmakers, but Keel said there's too much at stake for those efforts to work.
Some questions have been raised about Keel's role as chairman because he was the treasurer of the Stars Over Texas political action committee, which raised money last year for Republicans in tight election contests. The committee did not give money to Heflin's campaign, though Heflin once gave money to the group.
Keel said his connection to the group should not cause concern because members regularly help their parties win seats.
Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, said he's confident Keel will be fair because he knows him well. But he said Craddick should have appointed a committee chairman who did not have such visible ties to a group such as Stars Over Texas. "Why set up a situation where these are questions that can be asked?" said Dunnam, who is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
Keel said the House rarely calls for a new election and usually decides to seat the person who was declared the winner on Election Day. But he said history will not determine what happens this time.
"The integrity of the House is the bottom line here," he said. "Consideration of party label or friendship or any other feelings on this matter have to give way to the law and evidence and the standards that we operate under."
Discovery Master Will Hartnett is also joining the chorus.
"I'm concerned about the use of the word fraud based on what I have seen so far," Hartnett said, adding that he views fraud as intentional misdeeds by individuals seeking to thwart an election. "I'm going to be emphatic on determining what evidence there is of fraud."
Well, there's this:
Amy Wong Mok, an Austin businesswoman and community activist, says Asians here and abroad are closely following this case. The outcome, she believes, could have long-lasting effects on the overall political landscape of Texas – home to the fourth-largest Asian population in the country. "If they take away Hubert Vo," said Mok, "Asian-Americans are going to be very angry for the next two generations. It would be a slap in the face." Mok, a former candidate for Austin City Council who leans Democratic, says the state GOP will have a hard time justifying itself to those Asians who traditionally vote Republican. "Many different Asian organizations are united behind Hubert Vo," she said. "As we see it, this is about arrogance ... it's about not accepting defeat gracefully."
Three further items. First, from the Chron story:
Michael Baselice, an Austin-based Republican pollster, will testify as an expert witness for Heflin. University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray and Waco economist Ray Perryman will testify for Vo.
Speaking of the AusChron story:
"I have no numbers to back this up, but the 'Rs' have already been hurt in Texas by this effort to seat Heflin," said Kelly Fero, chief strategist for Take Back Texas, a sister organization of the state Democratic Party. Fero points out that Rep. Martha Wong, R-Houston, the first Asian-American woman elected to the Texas Legislature, is herself vulnerable and could lose her next re-election bid – "with help from the Asian community." Rep. Joe Nixon, another Houston Republican, could also draw a challenger, already identified as attorney Robert Pham, a Vietnamese-American with a compelling success story like Vo's, Fero said.
Finally, The Red State notes that today is also when committee and committee chair assignments will be announced. This is where Democrats will pay the price for last session's Ardmore walkout. Regrettable, but not unexpected.
UPDATE: Greg tunes into the webcast of the hearings and commences banging his head against the wall.Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 27, 2005 to Election 2004 | TrackBack