December 31, 2007
The defiant Chuck R

Chuck Rosenthal tells the local GOP where they can stick it.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal bluntly rejected the local Republican Party leadership's request Sunday night that he abandon his 2008 re-election campaign because of the scandal over personal e-mails he sent to his executive secretary on government computers.

"What part of 'no' don't you understand?" Rosenthal asked party chairman Jared Woodfill, according to County Judge Ed Emmett, who attended the emergency meeting.

After the four-hour, closed-door meeting that included questioning of Rosenthal, 15 members of the party's Advisory Committee voted unanimously to urge him to withdraw from the March 4 Republican primary for district attorney.

"The consensus was this is a position of high trust, and when this position is questioned, when this position is breached, we feel like it's important that we make a change," Woodfill said.

But Rosenthal, exiting the Greenway Plaza meeting about a half-hour before the it ended, said, "I'm going to run for district attorney and I am going to win."

He said he did not know if he will have an opponent in the Republican primary.

"I certainly hope not. I don't think they've got anybody with the qualifications to run against me," Rosenthal added.

But Woodfill said he is certain that one or more challengers will register before Wednesday's deadline. He said the party has been in touch with about 10 potential candidates, none of whom he'd name.


Emmett, the chief county government official, could be seen discussing the situation with Rosenthal in a side room while the party leaders continued their meeting. Rosenthal frequently raised his arms and gestured during his discussions with the county judge and the party chairman.

Emmett said the GOP activists made the right decision in calling for Rosenthal to step down.

"At this point he is damaged goods, and the party is reflecting that," Emmett said.

Woodfill, the party chairman, called the e-mails horrible and said Rosenthal had made a serious error in judgment.

Whatever else happens, I just hope the Bradford campaign is taking notes, because there's quite a wealth of quotes here that ought to show up in campaign mailers at some point. "We feel like it's important that we make a change"; "At this point he is damaged goods"; "[A] serious error in judgment"; if they do succeed in replacing Rosenthal, there's always "I don't think they've got anybody with the qualifications to run". I'm pretty sure there will be plenty more where these came from.

While I certainly understand the allure of finding another candidate, I wonder what Jared Woodfill's Gang of 15 is hoping to accomplish by this approach. There isn't any time to do a draft (somewhere I heard that former County GOP Chair Garry Polland had said something about being approached, but he turned it down; take that for what it's worth), so the best you can do is find someone who you think would be acceptable to the masses and put the squeeze on, with promises of money and volunteer support. If the best they can do after last night is come up with a few names to bat around, I have to wonder if this is little more than a bluff.

For argument's sake, let's say it's not, and they've got a live possibility. They'll have to run a negative campaign, one that flogs all these embarrassing revelations over and over again, in order to win, which is far from guaranteed. And they're sure to have a damaged nominee with some burnt bridges behind him or her when all is said and done. At least they'll be running against a Democrat that has his own negatives, so maybe the attrition won't be so bad for them. But no matter how you slice it, the picture is pretty bleak.

Which means it's quite lovely from my perspective, since I think it's critical to bring about a change in direction at the DA's office. We'll see if an actual primary challenger emerges for Chuck R. More from Greg, PDiddie, and ReeC Murphey.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 31, 2007 to Election 2008