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January 16th, 2005:

Perranoski voting begins

If your head is still spinning from having to pick just one winner from all the fabulous entrants in each of the nominating categories for the Koufax Awards at Wampum (current contest I’m pulling my hair out over: Most Hmorous Post), take a break and pick some winners in the voting for the Perranoski Prizes. I’m very curious to see how some of their categories are realized by the nominated blogs. Polls close on January 31, so check it out.

Elizabeth Ames Jones

Catching up on some older stuff: The State House is down to 149 members as Elizabeth Ames Jones (R, San Antonio) declined her seat after being named to the state Railroad Commission.

On the morning she was to be sworn in to her third state House term, San Antonio Republican Elizabeth Ames Jones confirmed that she was declining her seat to fill a vacancy on the powerful Railroad Commission, a springboard to higher office.

“It’s a very bittersweet day for me,” Jones said as her House colleagues prepared to take their oath of office on the opening day of the 79th Texas Legislature. “I felt like this was an opportunity I could not pass up.”

In accepting Gov. Rick Perry’s appointment to the three-member commission, Jones, 48, a two-term House member and the daughter of a wealthy San Antonio oilman who “grew up in an oil patch,” becomes one of the state’s brightest Republican stars.


Jones has long been involved in Republican politics. In 1980, she worked with Karl Rove, believed to be the mastermind behind President Bush’s rise to political prominence, on behalf of then-Gov. Bill Clements.

“We cut our teeth in politics,” Jones said of herself and Rove.

A name to watch for the future, I suppose. Via Vince, who did a lot of Googling for more info about her.

A special election to replace Jones has been set for February 5. This is a strongly Republican district – Jones ran unopposed in 2004 and had only a Green Party opponent (who got 10%) in 2002. Nonetheless, Andrew hints that someone from the Democratic side will make a race of it. This article suggests a couple of names.

Until an election is scheduled, no one can officially declare their candidacy. But four politically connected people have expressed interest in the seat: Democrats Melissa Kazen and Chip Haass and Republicans Joe Straus III and George Pierce.

The district, which stretches from Olmos Park northeast to Windcrest and north past Loop 1604, is considered a Republican stronghold.

In the six general elections up to 2002, District 121 voters have consistently voted for Republican candidates in higher percentages than the rest of the state for all major statewide offices.

“That is a very Republican district,” said U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, whose district largely overlaps the House seat. “I can’t see a Democrat winning the seat.”

Nevertheless, some Democrats consider the district winnable and are contemplating a run, hoping that strong name identification and a quickly mounted grass-roots operation will be key given the short time frame of a special election.

The election has already been set; this is apparently an update to earlier versions of this story, one of which mentions former State Supreme Court Justice Rose Spector as a possible candidate. It’s all a little confusing, but I’m sure we’ll know for certain who’s running soon enough. Given that the election is the day before the Super Bowl and that the campaign season will be three weeks long, this ought to be a tiny-turnout election, and as such anything could happen. I’m not expecting much, but there’s more randomness in a race like this than in a normal election. And isn’t that potential for chaos what makes observing politics fun?

So where’s the fraud?

Sure does look like Andy Taylor’s wild claims of massive fraud in the Heflin-Vo race are melting away, doesn’t it? This article says that maybe a hundred noncitizens applied to vote in Harris County, a third of whom were rejected by the Tax Assessor’s office. The one confirmed noncitizen who voted in the HD149 race – he got a voter’s reg card despite checking the “not a citizen” box on the application, an error which one can attribute to the Tax Assessor – voted straight Republican. And Tax Assessor Bettencourt chalks this sort of thing up to mostly honest mistakes and bad paper processing.

Meanwhile, Hotshot Casey brings us the sad news from Taylor himself.

Heflin attorney Taylor says he hasn’t seen anything that “rises to the level of fraud,” but he has not yet questioned some people who are listed as having voted twice.

“There may be innocent explanations,” he said. “I will accept those as true, then I will present to the House that some persons appear to have double-voted.”

But Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt, a Republican, says most or all of those “double votes” will “melt away” after accounting for typographical errors, clerical errors and people who didn’t use early-voting forms that had been sent to them.

He said the level of improper votes in this election was not unusual.

“A lot of people don’t have a firm lock on the county line down there,” he said.

In fact, during a training session I attended for deputy registrars, Bettencourt was asked about what we should do if someone who might be in Fort Bend asks to be signed up. He said to go ahead, his office and his Fort Bend counterpart get a lot of each other’s applications, which they pass along as needed, precisely because many people don’t know which side of the county line they fall on. Seems to me that if someone from Fort Bend voted in the HD 149 race, it’s either because they were issued an erroneous card or because the election judge at their polling place goofed. Maybe you ought to void such a close election as this one based on this sort of thing happening, but I sure don’t see how you can claim that all of the votes – or even enough of them, as Vo would have needed to get 100 of the 167 “illegals” for them to have made a difference – were going one way.

Well, you could interview everyone involved, I guess. Or drag them up to Austin to testify before the House. Or you could maybe just accept that there was no fraud, just some confusion and human error among people acting in good faith, and get on with your life. Will you follow in Jack Stick and Eric Opiela’s footsteps now, Talmadge? The choice, as ever, is yours.

One more thing, on a side note, from the first article:

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington-based group that pushes to reduce immigration, advocates a “national citizenship verification procedure” to ensure that voters in U.S. elections are citizens.

Federation President Dan Stein says it is virtually impossible to determine how many foreign citizens are voting here.

“Making false claims of U.S. citizenship is all but impossible to detect. It’s a huge, gaping, massive hole in the whole integrity of our enforcement structure,” he said.

Without citizenship verification, he said, Americans should have serious questions about the integrity of their electoral process.

“If we continue to have things like Florida in 2000 and these close elections being swung by ineligible voters, the very legitimacy of the electoral process itself is being thrown into question by ineligible voters voting,” he said. “While we sit around concerned about hanging chads and whether votes are counted, no one seems interested in ensuring that people who register are citizens.”

If Dan Stein and his federation sound familiar to you, it’s because they were in part responsible for some real ugliness in last year’s CD32 race. It would have been nice to find a non-crackpot to quote here, but then with immigration “reform” groups, it’s not clear there’s one to be found.

The 1965 AFL All-Star Game

This is a story I’d not known before. In 1965, the All-Star Game for the American Football League was to be played in New Orleans. Upon arrival in New Orleans, the 21 black players in the game quickly realized that the city was especially hostile to them, so they took a stand and refused to play. The game was moved to Houston, and the fallout had an impact on the efforts to start an NFL franchise in New Orleans as well as the eventual AFL-NFL merger. Read about it here.