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How special is this election anyway?

I’m just thinking out loud a little here about the Very Special Election for CD22 that will be held on the same day as the regular election. I’m still not sure what the point of it all is, besides Rick Perry’s constitutional obligations, which I doubt he really cares much about since he waited so long to bother with this. Paul Burka thinks the point is increasing Republican base turnout. Maybe, but then why bother with SD19 and HD33, where Democrats are the majority? Who’s to say that Carlos Uresti and Solomon Ortiz, Jr won’t take the opportunity to work their base support extra hard, too?

Chris Elam suggests the special election is a chance for Shelley Sekula-Gibbs to get a leg up on 2008. To which I say, did anyone ask David Wallace about that? We all know he has his sights set on ’08, right? Well, it’s one thing for him to put on the Good Team Player hat and give Shelley some money and whatever moral support he has for her write-in bid, since Wallace quite reasonably expects that to fail. It’s another thing entirely to expect him – or for that matter, any of Talton, Howard, Jackson, Meyers, Bettencourt, and even Eckels – to give aid and comfort to a potential future primary opponent. If the motivation is to give an early boost to the Shelley 2008 campaign, what possible reason could there be for any ambitious local Republican and his or her supporters to help that effort? That makes no sense to me.

Even if you put that aside and assume that the cast of characters who also hope to run in two years’ time will still work for Shelley in a special election, are we 100% sure Shelley wants the help? That is, are we certain she plans to run in that special election? Because if she does, and if she wins the special election while failing as expected in the general, then she has to do something that she currently isn’t required to do, and that’s resign her City Council seat. Is getting to play Congresswoman during her Christmas vacation enough compensation for her last year on Council? Maybe it is, if it really does make her the frontrunner for the GOP primary in 2008. But then we’re back to my previous point. Who among her potential future rivals is going to help make that happen?

All I’m saying is that there’s a lot of questions to answer, and the filing deadline for the special election is Friday. I don’t think at this time that we can make a whole lot of assumptions about how this will shake out until we know who is and isn’t in.

And to bring things back to the regular election, via Muse we learn that Shelley won’t be the only official write-in candidate after all.

On Tuesday – the deadline for withdrawing or registering as a write-in – Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs traveled to Austin to file her papers, as expected.

But unexpectedly, by the end of the day former Republican congressional candidate and Houston businessman Don Richardson did not ask the Texas Secretary of State’s office to remove his name as a write-in candidate.

The move threatens to further confuse voters in what has already been an extremely complicated congressional campaign. And having two GOP write-in candidates in the race may jeopardize funding from national Republican Party sources.

Contacted at his home Tuesday night, Richardson said he is still in the race despite telling GOP officials and precinct chairs at an Aug. 17 gathering in Pearland that he would drop out.

[…]

At the Pearland gathering, Texas GOP Chairman Tina Benkiser “got up and said the Republican National Committee would put up $4 million if and only if” there were a single write-in candidate in the race, Richardson said.

In that case, he said, he would withdraw and allow Sekula-Gibbs’ campaign to benefit from the funding.

But the next morning, he called an official at the RNC in Washington, D.C. “I said put it in writing” that $4 million would be available to the single GOP candidate running as a write-in against Lampson, Richardson said.

He didn’t hear back. On Friday, Richardson said, he sent a fax to RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, to the RNC official to whom he’d originally spoken, and to Benkiser.

“I said look, if you’ll put it in writing about the $4 million and refund my campaign expenses…I will withdraw,” Richardson said. “I haven’t heard from anybody. So my name is still on the ballot.”

Benkiser could not be reached Tuesday night to confirm Richardson’s recollection about $4 million coming from the RNC. Sekula-Gibbs also could not be reached.

But Sekula-Gibbs said a few days ago it was “suggested to me that” significant funding from national Republican sources would be made available if the GOP could get behind a single write-in candidate. “That’s a very important part – that there would be adequate funding” to run a major campaign, she said.

Nobody ever expected those mythical millions, whether three or four of them, to materialize anyway, so I don’t see this as anything but a convenient excuse for the national party to weasel out of any commitments that people may think they’ve made. I also don’t believe the presence of a second official write-in measurably affects Sekula-Gibbs’ already miniscule odds of victory, unless there are people out there who would have spun in her name but will now change their minds. It’s not like Don Richardson is on the ballot, after all.

Are we having fun yet? I too am aware of some highly interesting rumors about this Very Special Election. All I can say now is stay tuned and we’ll see what materializes.

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8 Comments

  1. Kenneth Fair says:

    Am I reading this correctly? Did Richardson solicit a bribe (“refund my campaign expenses”) in exchange for withdrawing from the election? Texas Penal Code section 36.02 states:

    (a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly
    offers, confers, or agrees to confer on another, or solicits, accepts, or
    agrees to accept from another:

    […]

    (4) any benefit that is a political contribution as defined by Title 15, Election Code, or that is an expenditure made and reported in accordance with Chapter 305, Government Code, if the benefit was offered, conferred, solicited, accepted, or agreed to pursuant to an express agreement to take or withhold a specific exercise of official discretion if such exercise of official discretion would not have been taken or withheld but for the benefit; notwithstanding any rule of evidence or jury instruction allowing factual inferences in the absence
    of certain evidence, direct evidence of the express agreement shall be required in any prosecution under this subdivision.

    Under Kaisner v. State, 772 S.W.2d 528, 529 (Tex. App.–Beaumont 1989, pet. ref’d), we know that withdrawing as a candidate can be an “exercise of official discretion” sufficient to support a conviction for bribery:

    As a candidate in a party primary, Robinson was clearly a public servant under the Code. The decision to withdraw from the runoff would have been the exercise of discretion as a public servant. Under Texas Penal Code sec. 36.01(5) (Vernon 1989), the offer of the job was the offer of a benefit. The indictment alleges all the necessary elements of the offense of bribery.

    How is Richardson’s statement not solicitation of a bribe under Kaisner v. State?

  2. Chris Elam says:

    Charles. Come on man. Let’s reason this out. Your point of view doesn’t seem very rational.

    1) You seem to disagree that if Shelley garners a better percentage in the special, than she does in the general – that she won’t tout those higher numbers in 2008? Am I reading that correctly?

    2) Did you read the Chronicle article when Wallace dropped out? He called Shelley to say that she has his FULL support. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/politics/4132280.html

    He knew as well as anybody that day, that there was supposed to be a special called for the day of the general. Yet it looks to me like he dropped out of this race unconditionally. Do you have a good reason to disagree?

    3) Eckels is certainly out. Bettencourt is certainly out. Talton, Howard, Meyers, Jackson – the same rules still apply to them about having to give up their seats to become a Congressional candidate. Do you REALLY think that vying against Shelley for a two-month term is attractive to any of these fellas?

  3. CrispyShot says:

    I assumed that including the additional districts was simply cover for a desperate attempt to get Sekula-Gibbs’ name somewhere on the ballot, so’s folks could spell it correctly. At least, it looks clumsy and heavyhanded, so I assumed I was correct.

  4. Chris – You’re the one who suggested that the special election could be a boost to SSG’s prospects in 2008. All I’m saying is that if any of her potential primary rivals see it the same way, that would be a disincentive for them to help her. What’s so odd about that?

  5. Chris Elam says:

    If you are suggesting that they ever intended to campaign and blockwalk for her, I think you are mistaken in that assumption. They all may have allowed their names to be used on a fundraiser invite, or at the very least, refrain from negative statements in the press… but none of them are likely to jump in the ‘special’ race. That would be the biggest “non-help” they could present.

    Are you suggesting that one of these names you have mentioned is likely to jump in for a special, in your opinion?

  6. What would they have been expected to do if the Dems had lost the lawsuit and Shelley wound up as the Chosen One? I presume they’d have been asked for more than indifference, since (I also presume) her election as an on-the-ballot candidate would not have been taken for granted. What I’m saying is that they would have done more to help elect Shelley as the official on-the-ballot CD22 GOP nominee than they would to help Shelley the special election candidate.

    Again, all I’m saying is that this is consistent with their own self interest. If Shelley beats Lampson in the special, she will be considered the frontrunner for 2008 because she’ll have an actual election to point to as proof that she can beat Lampson. Everyone else (whoever that may be) can say they’d be able to do that, but only she would have a tangible result. I guarantee that any news story about her in a 2008 context from that day forward would say that she beat Lampson in the special election.

    The fact that any of these folks may have agreed to give a donation for the write-in cause or at least agreed to say nice things publicly doesn’t mean they can’t undermine her for the special in any number of other ways, covertly. We both know what sorts of things they could do in private. Again, all I’m saying is that it would be in the best interest of anyone who does want to run in 2008 to make sure that Shelley doesn’t succeed here, even in an otherwise meaningless election.

    To answer your question, no, I don’t expect any of those folks to jump into the special, for the same reason that Shelley may demur – they’d have to resign their seats, and in their cases, it’d be just to run. That would help her, of course, if she runs in the special. But there’s more to helping her, or not helping her, than that.

  7. Chris Elam says:

    Actually, I think you’d be hard pressed to explain how a former or future candidate would work ‘covertly’ to undermine Shelley. So far, there’s little reason to think that the state and national GOP aren’t doing that themselves in plain public view.

    As the last few months have APTLY demonstrated, the candidates and GOP’s secrets / covert activities don’t stay hidden for very long. =)

  8. Zack says:

    I don’t see SSG entering in the special election. If she does win, she will have to step from the city council and the mayor would need to call a special election to replace her. It seems like a head aches just to serve 2 months, that is assuming Lampson wins.