December 06, 2008
Still more on Bettencourt

PDiddie, Greg, and Burka all comment on the Bettencourt resignation, with the latter positing a reason for the sudden departure:

[I]f he had remained in office, the chances were that things would have gotten rather unpleasant for him. Democrats had filed a lawsuit accusing Bettencourt of illegally rejecting voter registration applications and have said they would pursue the lawsuit next year. A case involving civil rights with the Justice Department in Democratic hands may well have been enough to persuade Bettencourt that the time was right for a career change.

Maybe, but color me unconvinced. For one thing, it's easy enough to claim loudly - and he'd have plenty of backing voices on this - that the suit was just partisan griping. The beauty of that is you can claim it regardless of how things proceed through the legal system - if you wind up prevailing, you were right all along, and if you lose, it just shows how perverted the legal process has become. I have little respect for Bettencourt, but I don't think this kind of fight intimidates him. And even if he did see bad things on the horizon, given the usual velocity of this kind of suit, surely he had plenty of time before those bad things started to happen. Unless there's a huge shoe about to drop, I don't see this as a sufficiently motivating factor to quit now.

As far as Bettencourt's replacement goes, the more I think about it the more clear the case for Diane Trautman is. She's perfectly well-qualified. More than 500,000 people voted for her last month. Of the 47 races that appeared on every ballot in Harris County, the Democratic candidate won 40 of them. This was a strongly Democratic cycle in an increasingly Democratic county. The default choice to replace Bettencourt should be a Democrat, and the obvious Democrat is his opponent from the election he apparently didn't mean to participate in, the one who got the Chronicle endorsement, Diane Trautman. There's no Republican possibility who can claim any kind of mandate or justification to be handed this job for nearly two full years. If certain Republican factions don't like that, well, they're welcome to try and convince Bettencourt to change his mind. At least he had a viable claim to the position, before he chose to throw it away.

UPDATE: Stace adds on.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 06, 2008 to Election 2008

Kuff --

I don't disagree with what you say about lawsuits like this being suggestive of partisan griping, and moving slowly to boot. The problem is that even if the Democratic case is weak (which I can't speak to, one way or the other), Bettencourt will soon have to hire an attorney, if he hasn't already done so. Legal fees in civil rights suits can be very high. The wheels of justice can grind very slowly at times, but the lawyers' meters never stop running. It is not hard to envision the Obama Justice Department wanting to win a big voter-suppression case to put Republican officials in other states on notice if they try to suppress turnout. Granted, these possibilities may not be in play at all concerning Mr. Bettencourt, but he would be foolish not to be aware of them.

Posted by: Paul Burka on December 6, 2008 11:25 PM

Burka is deranged if he think a lawsuit had anything to do with PB's resignation.

Posted by: RD on December 7, 2008 1:19 AM

Which of the 3 R's on the court would possibly vote to replace PB with Diane Trautman? Emmitt is the only one that comes close in my mind, and he'll have R's calling for his hide for the next 4 years (and then some).

Posted by: rita lucido on December 7, 2008 11:46 AM
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