October 19, 2008
The continuing Republican pie fight in SD17

I was going to write something about the latest outbreak of Republican-on-Republican violence in the SD17 special election, as told by Gary Polland and Robert Miller (see beneath the fold), but frankly I don't think I can do any better than Alan Bernstein did. So go read his post, it's a hoot.

Two points to note. One, the more of this sort of thing there is, the better I feel about Chris Bell's chances. Even if he doesn't win outright on November 4, it's reasonable to think he'll have something like double the votes of the runnerup, which means that the Republicans will have to get it together and put all this stuff behind them to prevail in the runoff. If we were talking about a March primary and the need to unify for November, that'd be one thing. In the short time frame of a December runoff, though, I have my doubts that bygones can become bygones that quickly. Oh, the losing candidates can publicly kiss and make up and say all the right things about the need to hold the seat and blah blah blah. But the people who cared about the vote they cast, it's harder to see why they'd be motivated to bother doing it again. I could be wrong, but I like the position Bell is in right now.

And two, for what it's worth (which is admittedly probably not much), I have yet to see a single sign - in a yard, in a vacant lot, on a fence or tree, you name it - for Austen Furse. I've seen plenty for Bell, plenty for Huffman, even plenty for Grant Harpold, who I think will be lucky to get 10% of the vote, but not a one for Furse. I admit I only drive around a limited area of the district. Maybe Furse's stronghold is elsewhere. Maybe his campaign isn't into signs. Whatever the case, I'm just saying what I'm seeing. Make of it what you will.

Email from Robert Miller:

As you know, I am supporting former Judge Joan Huffman in the Special Election to replace State Senator Kyle Janek. Austen Furse is the other viable Republican in the race. I have known Mr. Furse to be a decent and honorable man.

On Wednesday, Mr. Furse's campaign launched an attack on Judge Huffman claiming that she took an average of 78 days of vacation (15-1/2 weeks) every year that she served as a criminal district judge in Harris County. They apparently mailed this claim to all Republican voters in SD 17, launched a website www.judgehuffman.com , and produced a parody video of Judge Huffman purportedly traveling the world while serving as Judge. The Furse campaign arrived at this figure by assuming that every time there was a visiting judge in her courtroom, Judge Huffman was on vacation.

Of course, this claim of Judge Huffman taking 78 days of paid vacation every year is not true. Judge Huffman averaged only 18 days of vacation a year. Many of the days that were purported vacation days Judge Huffman was handling capital cases. A capital case is where the death penalty is sought by the State and requires individual questioning of potential jurors -- a lengthy process. It is the standard practice in Harris County for a visiting judge to handle the regular docket of incoming and pending cases while the sitting judge is handling the capital case. A complete explanation is attached.

Politics is a contact sport in Texas. But it is wrong to lie. It is particularly wrong to lie about a judge saying they were on vacation when they were actually trying capital murder cases. This goes beyond the pale.

Mr. Furse should apologize and acknowledge that he made a mistake in claiming Judge Huffman took 78 days of vacation every year she was on the bench. If he won't do that, then he will have become just another politician who will say and do anything to get elected. That is not the Austen Furse I used to know.

Best personal regards,


Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 19, 2008 to Election 2008

The Republicans certainly are at war in this race and not exactly quietly and things will probably heat up even more between now and the election. Unless Stephanie Simmons pulls all the African-American votes, Chris Bell is assured of at least a runoff. There may be some Republicans, however, who become so disgusted that they will vote for him and he will win the election outright. What is happening in this race is indicative of what is happening in the party itself. It is self-destructing.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on October 19, 2008 8:20 PM
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