The leadership of the Harris County Republican Party is meeting in a private, emergency session tonight to discuss the political fallout over personal e-mails sent by Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal to his executive secretary.
"We will discuss how to proceed as a party," county GOP Chairman Jared Woodfill said.
The meeting included Republican Party parliamentarian Mike Riddle and his wife, state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball.
Wednesday is the deadline for candidates to sign up to run in the March 4 Republican primary, and Woodfill acknowledged that one path for the party could be to encourage others to challenge Rosenthal in that contest.
Former Houston Police Chief Clarence Bradford is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for district attorney in November 2008.
Some members of the county GOP advisory committee hoped to discuss tonight whether to encourage Rosenthal to resign or declare that he will not seek re-election after his current term expires at the end of 2008.
Rosenthal's political consultant, Allen Blakemore, said he has talked frequently in the past few days with party leaders about his opinion that no other highly qualified candidate is positioned to run.
The county GOP chairman talked about the e-mails before the meeting.
"It's not good. They are horrible," Woodfill said. "The district attorney has made a mistake."
There's an aspect of this saga that I haven't seen discussed anywhere, and that's the allegations in the lawsuit that led to the inadvertent release of the emails that Rosenthal looked the other way at potential malfeasance by Sheriff Tommy Thomas. The matter of Rosenthal's sexual peccadilloes is headline-grabbing, and certainly fair game for attacks on Rosenthal given his sanctimonious nature, but at the end of the day it's not much more than tittilation, which can be fairly easily shrugged off as Kevin did in his post. More serious is the usage of the county-owned vehicle by his admin assistant/paramour, which by any reasonable reading is unwarranted and shows poor judgment and managerial skills on Rosenthal's part, two fairly key attributes for the person in charge of the DA's office. But the allegation of letting a political ally off the hook for bad behavior, if proven, blows them both away. This is still being litigated, so it's nothing more than accusations by people with a strong motive to make Rosenthal look bad at this point. But it's worth keeping an eye on, because if those charges have merit then they're what I'd consider to be a real resignation-worthy offense. The other stuff may make Rosenthal less re-electable (and deservedly so), but this would be a huge scandal.
For now, we'll see what Woodfill and the Woodfillettes come up with. In the meantime, click on for a statement from Council Member Peter Brown, who wins the prize for "first elected official to call for Rosenthal to resign".
UPDATE: Now it really gets interesting:
Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal is refusing the Republican Party leadership's request Sunday night to remove his name from the 2008 ballot.
After a four-hour emergency meeting, the 15-member GOP advisory committee voted unanimously to ask Rosenthal to step aside in the wake of the controversy that's followed the mistaken release of his personal e-mails, including dozens sent to his executive secretary.
Despite their request, Rosenthal was adamant about pursuing re-election.
"I'm going to run for district attorney and I'm going to win," he said, leaving the headquarters as party leaders continued to talk behind closed doors.
Rosenthal said he attended the meeting to answer questions from party leaders. He spent part of evening in a room adjacent to the meeting, talking privately with GOP Chairman Jared Woodfill and then with Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.
Statement concerning conduct in the Harris County District Attorney's OfficePosted by Charles Kuffner on December 30, 2007 to Election 2008
The strength of character to sincerely apologize is laudable, but we need a DA who is unquestionably a role model, who never has to apologize for conduct in public office. This is about basic American principles, integrity and character. It bespeaks a lack of personal discipline and good judgement, fatal character flaws in a District Attorney. This pattern of behavior can carry over into a miscarriage of justice.
From now on, Rosenthal's authority as a public official is suspect. Should the voters forgive him?......perhaps so as a human being, but not as our DA, not at the ballot box. A thorough, impartial investigation of conduct in the DA's office is in order. As a citizen, taxpayer and citywide elected official, in my view, the best course under these circumstances is for Rosenthal to resign.
Houston City Council Member Peter Brown, At-large Position 1.