November 14, 2008
The Kino factor

Last week it was reported that Craddick D Rep. Kino Flores of Palmview was being investigated by both the state of Texas and the feds.

The investigation initially involved whether Flores illegally accepted a gift when he traveled at least three times between Austin and McAllen on a plane owned by the LaMantia family, which owns a Budweiser distributorship in South Texas and is developing a $23 million horse racetrack in Hidalgo County.

The investigation now has expanded into whether Flores charged the state for the trips, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

Flores is chairman of the House committee that oversees gambling legislation.

His attorney, Roy Minton of Austin, confirmed his client is under investigation.

"The district attorney's office is investigating how Kino paid for his travel expenses, which I believe was a proper way for such expenses to be paid," Minton said. He also said he was aware that an FBI agent had been asking questions.

Burka homes in on the importance of all this.

District Attorney Ronnie Earle's approach to some cases involving ethics violations -- most prominently, that of former speaker Gib Lewis -- has been to offer the public official who is under fire the choice of resign your seat or face prosecution. Normally, the troubles of an individual legislator would not have much impact on the course of Texas politics. But Flores's situation has arisen in the context of a speaker's race. Today, November 13, is exactly two months prior to the formal vote on Tom Craddick's future. Flores is one of a dwindling number of Craddick D's. It is by no means certain that he will be around to take the oath of office on January 13.

And Earle is still in office through the end of the year. If Flores does wind up resigning, then the session will start out down a member, until Governor Perry can call a special election to replace him. Even if Flores quit today, I don't think he could be replaced before the start of the session, which means one fewer ally for Tom Craddick. And if Phillip's exhaustive math is correct, that's one ally he cannot afford to lose.

Again, we won't really know what's possible until all the anti-Craddicks unite behind one candidate. In a perverse way, if Linda Harper-Brown holds onto her seat in HD 105 after the recount, thus allowing the Republicans to maintain a 76-74 majority in the House, that may help winnow the field of wannabes, as the Democrats would likely concede to a Republican alternative. Obviiously, there's a zillion ways this could all play out. But so far, the likely paths seem to lead away from Craddick and not towards him. We can only hope.

By the way, Texas Monthly asked a bunch of Speaker candidates to explain why they should be the next Speaker, and they got some good results, so go check 'em out. I remain a Senfronia Thompson fan, but man, Scott Hochberg is a tough act to follow. Go read his answer and see what I mean.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 14, 2008 to That's our Lege
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