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January 26th, 2005:

Checking in on Rose Spector

Geez, this special election for the open HD121 is less than ten days away, and early voting is already going on. Here’s a little news roundup for you:

Ken Rodriguez says that in a race this short you’ve gotta have some juice to win.

In a race that begins and ends so quickly, you have almost no chance to win unless you’re anointed to win. Which means you need the blessing of the prominent and the powerful.

The anointed one appears to be [Joe] Straus. In a heavily Republican district, Straus has the support of influential GOP leaders, including U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith.

Though Jones has not publicly endorsed a successor, her family is putting up yard signs for Straus.

While appearing before the Express-News Editorial Board on Monday, Straus noted his friendship with Jones and cited relationships with legislators in Austin.

Also helping Straus is Frank Guerra, a Republican consultant who worked on President Bush’s campaign.

Even with strong GOP support, Straus says he isn’t counting on an easy victory. “Rose Spector is a formidable opponent,” he says. “She’s working hard. So am I.”


Spector knows that Straus is the heavy favorite. “People say I don’t have a prayer,” she notes.

But Spector also believes she can overcome the GOP anointing that makes Straus the front-runner.

“When I ran for judge, every time I did well in this district,” she says. “I have beaten two Republican incumbents.”

You’d think having a seasoned operative like Frank Guerra on your team would help you avoid bush-league errors. You’d be wrong.

[The] Bexar County Democratic Party [has] lodged an ethics complaint against Republican candidate Joe Straus III.

The complaint, filed Monday, claims Straus, a first-time candidate, sent out campaign materials without the “paid for by” disclaimer required by law.

Straus’ campaign said the omission was an inadvertent error on a small batch of campaign fliers and that all his other materials carry the message.

“When you’re dealing with an extremely compressed campaign and you have so little time to get out so many materials, you’re bound to have little things happen,” said Frank Guerra, a well-known Republican consultant advising Straus.

Try giving better advice next time, Frank.

What kind of legislator would Joe Straus be? Here’s a hint.

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, endorsed Texas House hopeful and longtime supporter Joe Straus III at the opening of the candidate’s campaign headquarters Sunday.


Straus has been involved in many Republican campaigns, but this is his first run for elected office. He served as campaign manager for Smith’s first congressional campaign in 1986.

“If there was ever a role model for a young legislator, it’s Lamar Smith,” Straus said. “He does the hard work of legislation without seeking the spotlight.”

Great choice of role model, Joe.

If you think the Lege doesn’t need any more of Tom DeLay’s waterboys in it, consider giving Rose Spector a hand. Click the More link for a message from Richard Morrison regarding this race (courtesy of Byron.


The decline and fall of the Illinois GOP

Very interesting read about how the implosion of the Republican Party in Illinois was a long time in coming, even before Alan Keyes showed up to lecture everyone. I daresay there may be a lesson or two in there for folks of both major parties here in Texas. Check it out. Via your one-stop shop for all things Illinois, Archpundit.

One more day till the Heflin-Vo hearing

The end of Talmadge Heflin’s crusade to regain his seat can’t come soon enough for the voters who have been singled out by Heflin and Andy Taylor.

Ignatius Okeze has been voting since he became a citizen in 1998 — same neighborhood, same precinct.

“Of course I’m proud that I can make a contribution through the voting process,” Okeze said.

But in the contest between Hubert Vo and Talmadge Heflin, Okeze’s vote was one of those called into question and he is none too happy.

“I am knowledgeable about the voting process. I know who I am voting for. I know the values I stand for. And I voted correctly,” Okeze insisted. “I’ve been voting for years now.”

He wouldn’t tell questioners who he voted for. That is not the way it’s done he says.


The last thing Manu Patel says he wants is another election. Way too much taxpayer money he says.

“Fixing the roads, there are a lot of other things they can do, you know, for the people,” said Patel.

The good news is that at least some Republican House members are not making with the crazy talk, which is a nice contrast to their Party leadership.

“I’m trying to go into it with an open mind,” said Rep. Rick Hardcastle, R-Vernon, who won his first election by 350 votes, “but I’m pretty well convinced that the voters are never wrong, unless something went seriously wrong.”

If the case were to go strictly along party lines, Mr. Heflin would win his contest because the committee and the House have a Republican majority.

But just about everybody agrees that the politics are on Mr. Vo’s side. Democrats can’t lose: If Mr. Vo’s election is upheld, they’ve gained a rising star and secured their first House gain in 30 years. If he loses, they can cry that power-hungry Republicans are defying the voters.

Republicans, however, are caught between a rock and a hard place.

Houston GOP Rep. Gary Elkins said he’s gotten some e-mails from constituents asking him to consider the evidence seriously.

But unlike his party leaders, Mr. Elkins hasn’t decided what the evidence proves. Several House Republicans said the burden is heavy on Mr. Heflin, and he would have to prove outright election-rigging among the 44,000 ballots cast.

“I just don’t see us overturning the will of the people,” Mr. Elkins said. “I’d have to see the evidence, of course, but unless there’s blatant and undeniable fraud, I don’t see it. We’ve never overturned an election and handed the seat to someone [other than the winner]. I don’t see what’s going to be different this time around.”

I’m glad to hear you say that. I just hope that attitude is prevalent among your colleagues.

On the editorial side of things, the Star Telegram bends over backwards to be fair to Heflin, but still draws a line.

Finally, while House members must give Heflin every chance to prove his case and must not let an improper election stand, they cannot ignore the hazards of public perception. They are judging a contest brought by a once very powerful Republican to a Republican-controlled legislative body. Nothing but a clear and convincing case will avoid a perception of political cronyism if this election is set aside.

This is Heflin’s case to prove. If he is able to do so, clearly and convincingly, he asks that the House seat him instead of Vo. Alternatively, he asks for a new election.

If House members are convinced that action is necessary — and that is far from clear at this point — sending the contest back to a new vote in District 149 is as far as they should go.

I’m sure Heflin realizes he won’t win a do-over election, which is why he’s pushing so hard to be declared the winner. Will he win over the Hardcastles and Elkinses? Tune in tomorrow.

The Smartest Guys at Sundance

Apparently, the new Enron documentary is knocking ’em dead at Sundance.

With moonlight drenching the ski slopes outside the theater Saturday night, a collection of about 150 viewers, many with connections to the film, watched the premiere of the nearly two-hour distillation of the people-driven saga of the Houston company.

While paparazzi scoured Main Street for a look at Elijah Wood, Lisa Kudrow, Michael Keaton and Sidney Poitier, the stars of the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, are ex-Chairman Ken Lay and ex-CEO Jeff Skilling. That’s the way director/producer/writer Alex Gibney wanted it. “Jeff Skilling plays Jeff Skilling,” Gibney said.


The picture, with multiple screenings that sold out quickly here, is by no means all fun. It soberly deals with mark-to-market accounting, rank-and-yank management style and the heartbreak of an Oregon electrical lineman whose company Enron swallowed and whose $348,000 retirement stockpile collapsed into a $1,200 shadow of itself.


It’ll be at least late April before the movie opens in theaters.

Then a national audience will get to see this overview of the scandal made more amusing with a clip of Homer Simpson on a roller coaster called Enron’s Ride of Broken Dreams, Marilyn Manson music backing footage of wild motorcycle rides like those Enron’s executives used to take, and the by-now-obligatory topless-club footage thanks to the ex-exec who married a stripper.

Speaking for all Houstonians, I just hope they gave Wayne Dolcefino a cameo in that last segment. And I also hope that Pete can tear himself away from the schmoozing, hot tubs, and near beer long enough to review this flick for us.

Gaddie on the re-redistricting review

Keith Gaddie, who commented on the reconsideration of the 2003 re-redistricting case here, has a guest post at BOR in which he expands on his initial remarks. He thinks the key to the review may not be the Pennsylvania Vieth case, but the Georgia Larios case. Check it out.

One quibble I have with Professor Gaddie:

In Texas, the old maps made a minority of votes into a majority of seats, whereas the new districts do not. In Georgia, the illegal map that was thrown out made a minority of votes into a majority of seats.

I guess it depends on how you define “a minority of votes”. As has been noted before, under the old map six Democratic incumbents (including the now-Republican Ralph Hall) were winning in districts that were otherwise strongly Republican, meaning they got a lot of crossover support. To be sure, they had the advantage of incumbency, but they still couldn’t win on Democratic voters alone. What we most certainly did not have was a map where any Democrat would have a natural advantage in 17 of the 32 districts.

Now, one of the original arguments made for re-redistricting (and this may have been Prof. Gaddie’s point) was that a majority of Congressional votes overall in Texas went to Republican candidates, yet they had a minority of the delegation. True enough, even if the numbers cited at that time were a tad misleading, but by that logic we should have had an 18-14 GOP split, not the intended 22-10 division (again, this is probably Gaddie’s point). We could have even achieved that 18-14 ratio had uber-DINO Hall switched parties a decade ago when he should have and had a couple thousand votes changed sides in the close CD11 and CD17 races of 2002. And of course that line of reasoning was dropped soon afterwards in favor of the argument that only the Lege can draw the lines, and from there it was an easy reach to a map with maximum partisan advantage.

Anyway. The argument is that the Texas and Georgia cases are otherwise identical. We’ll see if the court agrees.

We don’t care it everyone else was doing it

Another loss in the courts for TRMPAC.

Lawyers for Texans for a Republican Majority lost another attempt this morning to show that their clients, accused of breaking Texas election laws, were just doing what the Democrats had always done.

After a morning hearing, State District Judge Joe Hart dismissed the Republican organization’s request that the Texas Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee and the Texas Partnership, a political action committee once headed by Democratic Speaker Pete Laney, provide documents about inter-party transfers of money.

Texans for a Republican Majority and its treasurer, former State Rep. Bill Ceverha of Dallas, are accused in a civil lawsuit of collecting and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in corporate dollars in the 2002 legislative elections. State law forbids corporate money from being spent on politics, but lawyers for Texans for a Republican Majority, a group created by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, are arguing that the law is vague and Democrats were doing the same thing.

Mike Lavigne, the party’s chief of staff, denies it: “We didn’t do the same thing as the TRMPAC.”

As for the Republicans’ “everybody-else-was-doing-it” defense, Lavigne quipped after the hearing, “My mother never bought that excuse.”

Sorry, fellas. Try again later.