Today is the last day to file for office in Texas. I'm sure we'll hear plenty of news throughout the day, as well as some hot rumors that may or may not pan out, but for now here's how things stand as I know them. Note that I had some filings reported at the end of this post about Adrian Garcia, including the news that Al Edwards is back in the saddle again, and that Rep. Ellen Cohen does have a Republican opponent.
- Obviously, the big story remains the Rosenthal saga. Some alternative names are now coming forward, along with the first hint that maybe he'll back down after all.
Harris County Republican Party leaders interviewed potential candidates for district attorney Tuesday night as they tried to anoint a single challenger against scandal-scarred incumbent Chuck Rosenthal in the March 4 primary.
"My goal is to get behind one individual," party chairman Jared Woodfill said.
The county party's advisory committee, principally made up of chairmen from each of the county's state Senate districts, was set to meet with at least five potential candidates for the top law enforcement job.
"All have indicated to me they won't run if they are not the person the party wants to support," Woodfill said.
Meanwhile, County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt said Tuesday that he was brokering discussions between Rosenthal and party officials concerning the selection process.
Some party officials said in private that there remained a possibility that Rosenthal would step aside after all. The district attorney has publicly rejected the party advisory committee's request that he drop out of the race. He vowed instead to run and win.
Two of the potential candidates, according to sources, are defense lawyer and former prosecutor Jim Leitner and former felony court judge Patricia Lykos, who now works for Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. They both ran against Rosenthal in the 2000 Republican primary.
In that contest, Lykos forced a runoff. Lykos, also a former Houston police officer, was helped in her campaign by then-Harris County Judge Robert Eckels and another Republican stalwart, Jack Rains, former secretary of state and former chairman of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority.
Lykos, who spent 20 years on the bench, estimated that she presided over 20,000 felony cases, including four that resulted in death sentences.
Although she did little advertising, Lykos proved herself an accomplished campaigner who raised her profile with Republican voters during an unsuccessful 1994 run for Texas attorney general.
Leitner, who placed third in the 2000 primary, said his experience on both sides of the courtroom would help the perspective of the district attorney's office.
In 2001, Leitner said he thought Harris County prosecutors were overzealous in their pursuit of death sentences against capital murder defendants.
"As long as that is the prevailing view, there are going to be a lot of capital murder prosecutions. People in other counties don't see it that way."
He added, "I think we kill a lot of people who don't fit the statute."
I said before that the rift between Rosenthal and the party looks serious and could cause a lot of problems for them down the road. There is one way to fix it, and that's for Rosenthal to surrender and drop out after all. Maybe someone is having success at convincing him of that, and maybe those private comments are just wishful thinking, I don't know. But it is true that the one person who can do the most to clean up this mess is the person who caused it. How's your pride these days, Chuck?
I should note there's one more name I've heard as a potential replacement/challenger to Rosenthal: Marc Carter, Judge of the 228th District Court (Criminal). Both he and Judge Fields are African-American, which would add a fascinating dimension to the race against C.O. Bradford, if either winds up as the nominee. One possible stumbling block: Neither is up for election this year, and thus they would have to resign to run, thus opening up yet another judicial seat. If I had to guess, I'd say Lykos has the best odds of being the replacement if such a thing does happen, but that's just my wild, uninformed speculation. We'll know by the close of business today, as it's fish-or-cut-bait time for Jared Woodfill and his merry men. Stay tuned.
- Elsewhere, there are now two contenders for CD04, currently held by the dinosaur Ralph Hall. 2006 candidate Glenn Melancon is back for another go, and somewhat to my surprise 2006 candidate for Land Commissioner VaLinda Hathcox is in as well. This is not the easiest district out there, so I'm not sure where the interest in it is coming from, but nonetheless I wish them both the best of luck.
- Another interesting filing is for CD08, where Kent Hargett has filed to run. Hargett appears to be a Director-at-Large for the Montgomery County Hospital District (see here), which would make him an infinite improvement over the usual nutcase who runs there. It's a shame his website is unavailable - it's got to be seen to be believed. Again, this is not exactly a high-profile race, but the fact that anyone credible might consider it is a striking sign of Democratic confidence this year.
- In addition to his primary opponent, State Rep. Phil King in HD61 up in Weatherford now has a Democrat to contend with as well, someone named Charles William Randolph. That's all I know about him at this time.
- Are the Republicans really not going to field an opponent against Rep. Chet Edwards in CD17? If so, what a huge reversal that would be from their attempt to kill him via re-redistricting in 2003.
- Finally, the latest rumor du jour is Gordon Quan jumping into CD07. I don't see this happening - it doesn't make any sense to me, given the candidacy of Mike Skelly - but stranger things have occurred. Quan's a great guy and would make a fine candidate for something, but his name has popped up for several things in the past couple of years, with none of them panning out. This would make an odd choice, given the timing, but again, you never know.
That's all I've got for now. What are you hearing?Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 02, 2008 to Election 2008