September 08, 2008
Court rules against Bell

Win some, lose some.

Democrat Chris Bell today lost his attempt to remove another Democratic opponent from the ballot in the November special election for the District 17 Texas Senate seat.

State District Judge Scott Jenkins said Bell had failed to prove that Missouri City attorney Stephanie Simmons, who filed at the last minute, had not lived in the district for the required year.

I guess the evidence that she voted and caucused in SD13 this March wasn't enough. Not really sure what would meet the burden of proof, but it's not important now. The courts have been pretty consistent about ruling against petitions to remove candidates from the ballot for various eligibility infractions, and as a general rule that's a good thing. I thought Bell's case was better than some others, but if the standard is higher than that, that's okay. Viva democracy!

The main downside to all this for Bell, aside from the usual negatives of taking a swing and missing, is that the suit and the related news coverage, including this remarkable Chron editorial - when was the last time they weighed in on a case like this? - is that it has all done more to raise Stephanie Simmons' name ID than anything she could have done on her own. There's clearly some money behind her - Ron Wilson doesn't do anything out of the goodness of his heart, and Roy Minton doesn't come cheap - and those folks got some bang for their buck here, without having to be public about it. In the end it may not amount to much, but it may not need to, given the need to earn a majority and not just come in first to win. But what's done is done, so onward with the campaign.

UPDATE: An amazing quote from QR:

After hearing testimony from Simmons herself that she voted in the wrong county for 14 years, District Judge Scott Jenkins was the picture of disbelief. She explained that she thought it was OK to vote in her parents' voting precinct in Harris County even though she and her husband lived in Fort Bend County. She said it never crossed her mind that she was doing anything wrong and that no one at a polling place for those 14 years asked her if she resided in the precinct.

"It's straining my credulity," Jenkins said in response. He used even stronger language while denying the other Democrat in the race, Chris Bell, an injunction that would have removed Simmons from the ballot. He marveled that an intelligent woman and an "officer of the court" - Simmons is an attorney - could have believed that what she was doing was legal.

"It saddens me that I do not believe you," Jenkins said.

Can't say I blame him. Too bad he didn't find the evidence sufficient to back up that disbelief.

Simmons claims in this story that she'll run a real campaign. I'll believe it when I see it, and in particular when I see her 30- and 8-days out campaign finance reports.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 08, 2008 to Election 2008

It is amazing that a judge would look at this and say it is okay which is what the judge said. I guess Democrats are joining the Republicans in the belief that the law only applies to some. As he pointed out, it stretches credulity to imagine an attorney not knowing basic voting law and yet that is what she claimed and worse what he allowed as a reasonable explanation.

I guess if she were prosecuted as she should be a judge would say it strained his credulity as well and then dismiss the charges. The precedence alone that this sets is mind-boggling. Next we will have a candidate from El Paso claim residency in Houston and state they voted in El Paso because their parents live there and they were always in El Paso on election day.

The whole thing stank from day one because of her claim of living in one county and voting in another and as more came out about it the more it stank and it just reeks of total disregard for the law not only on the part of an "officer of the court" but on the part of the court itself.

Here's to Chris Bell winning the election outright despite, or to spite, Stephanie Simmons.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on September 8, 2008 11:38 PM

It's amazing to me that so many of the people who admit violating election law are so connected to Republicans (see "Talmadge, Heflin")

Posted by: Greg Wythe on September 9, 2008 10:53 AM

In this case apparently that isn't the whole picture since it was a Democratic judge involved. Reality is laws are now what you can convince a judge they are. Which is why our legal system, both the civil and criminal justice system, is such a disaster.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on September 9, 2008 5:57 PM
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