Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn had her day in court yesterday, arguing that Secretary of State Roger Williams needs to get cracking on petition signature verification.
[Attorney Buck] Wood told U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel that Strayhorn has not turned the signatures in to Secretary of State Roger Williams because Williams has refused to use statistical analysis or to start the process of certifying the petitions until all of the candidates have filed their petitions.
Wood said a statistical analysis could be completed in days.
Wood complained Williams wants to verify every signature on the petitions of independent candidates.
Wood said that would take until at least the end of June, a process he said would give Republican and Democratic candidates a "substantial" advantage going into the November general election.
"This is two months of time in which my client cannot credibly represent to the media, to volunteers, to contributors that she is going to be on the ballot," Wood said.
Deputy Attorney General Edward Burbach said a complete count is necessary because Friedman also is collecting signatures and no one knows whether four other declared independent gubernatorial candidates are circulating petitions.
If someone signs petitions for multiple independent candidates, the signature counts only for the first campaign to capture it. Burbach said the Strayhorn campaign dismisses Friedman as the "Keep Austin Weird crowd," but there may be many duplicate signatures on the two candidates' petitions.
"What the plaintiffs (Strayhorn) are asking you to do is ignore accurate review. What they want is speed," Burbach told Yeakel.
"The duplicate signatures are a major concern to the Strayhorn campaign."
Wood said Strayhorn has no reason to believe there will be many duplicates.
"My client is not soliciting signatures in bars and dance halls, and Mr. Friedman is not soliciting signatures among teachers or around schools," Wood said.
"It's proven to be more difficult than I thought it was going to be," said Staci Engman, a substitute teacher leading signature gathering in El Paso for independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman.
For now, Engman said, local Friedman volunteers are relying mostly on family, friends, coworkers and neighbors for signatures.
For once, I agree with Kinky Friedman:
Friedman, who did not join the lawsuit, later jumped on the comment as an insult.
"Whether the signature comes from a country club or a homeless shelter makes no difference whatsoever," he said.
"Every Texan counts the same."
Friedman declined to release the number of signatures he has collected.
"We'll be on the ballot," he said. "I would bet both of us will be on the ballot."
Burbach said Strayhorn press spokesman Mark Sanders said in depositions that he is frustrated that the news media will not pay attention to Strayhorn on issues until she is certified for the ballot.
"This frustration of a lack of free media does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation," Burbach said.
[Judge Lee] Yeakel took the case under advisement and promised a quick ruling.
"I find this case somewhat more difficult than either side thinks," Yeakel said.