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February 25th, 2006:

Carter and DeLay, BFFs

I thought that the recent lovefest for Tom DeLay would generate some campaign material. Mary Beth Harrell is first out of the box with a critique of Carter’s gushing.

Carter took time out of his busy schedule to show up one more time to defend and support Travis County Defendant Tom DeLay, but Carter could not find the time to come back to his own district to visit the veterans at the VA hospital in Temple for their Valentine’s Day tribute to the vets.

[…]

Carter’s office did send a representative to the VA event to speak for Carter. Carter’s rep told us that the Congressman was busy in D.C. and couldn’t be there. Carter’s rep told us that he must be real busy because he wouldn’t normally miss the opportunity to meet and escort Miss Texas on a tour of the VA hospital.

I’m thinking that if DeLay does get convicted in Travis County, or if he gets fingered in the Abramoff investigation, there’s going to be a lot of Texas Congressfolk with some explaining to do to their voters.

Who would have expected that Ciro Rodriguez would have more cash on hand at this point of the primary race than Henry Cuellar?

The most aggressive fundraising leading up to the March 7 primary was posted by freshman Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar and former Rep. Ciro D. Rodriguez, who are waging a rematch of a 2004 primary that Cuellar won by 58 votes.

Cuellar reported raising $319,000 in the first six weeks of the year — in large part because of a slew of contributions from supporters of the Club for Growth, an organization that promotes fiscal restraint and tax cuts. Cuellar has $208,000 left to spend.

The Club endorsed Cuellar last month — its first ever endorsement of a Democrat. Rodriguez says that proves his point that the conservative-leaning Cuellar is a disloyal Democrat.

The reports show that Rodriguez is having some late success in attracting new donors. Rodriguez reported raising $272,000 between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15, which was more than he had previously raised in all of 2005. He had $257,000 left to spend.

Most of Rodriguez’s itemized contributions came from Texas, though he also counted contributors from 15 other states and the District of Columbia. The FEC requires all donations of at least $200 to be itemized.

Rodriguez got a big boost from the liberal political action committee ActBlue, which transmitted about $96,000 to Rodriguez’s campaign from individual donors. Another $28,000 was earmarked from supporters of the liberal political organization Democracy for America, which has argued that Cuellar is a “DINO” — a Democrat In Name Only.

Cuellar’s campaign said its operation is fully-funded and fully-paid and argued that the uptick in funds for Rodriguez is too little and too late.

“Ciro and his special interest friends have arrived at the 11th hour and we think there will be a strong voter backlash to their vitriol,” said Colin Strother, the general consultant to Cuellar’s campaign.

Got that? Everyone who kicked into Ciro’s fund at ActBlue is a “special interest”, but the Club for Growth, why they’re just plain ol’ folks. Link via Kos. Oh, and to answer my own question, Henry Cuellar certainly didn’t expect this.

In the other hot San Antonio-area primary, Frank Madla’s spending habits made it into the Express News. Link via Matt. Remember: Carlos Uresti is the choice here.

Did Carole Keeton Strayhorn vote for Donna Howard last week? PerryVsWorld reads this story and thinks maybe she did. Well, she was a Dem once, and she needs Dems to vote for her now, so who knows?

Take a picture of a Larry Stallings push card out in the wild and win a prize!

Special Election Day in HD106 is this Tuesday. Katy Hubener gives a statement for her candidacy at BOR.

Who will earn the coveted In the Pink Texas endorsement for President in 2008, Joe Biden or Mark Warner. Click and see for yourself. Do Presidential candidates only come in one height these days, or does the Pink Lady adjust herself for those photos? Only her cameraman knows for sure, I guess.

Finally, Anna reports on the continuing pie fight in the GOP primary in HD94, where top DeLay lieutenant Kent Gruesendorf is going against Texas Parent PAC-backed challenger Diane Patrick. As I said before, the House Speakership will ride on races like this one. The Dems do have a contestant, a fellow named David Pillows, but in all likelihood the GOP primary will be the determinant. Keep an eye on that one.

Ricin found at UT

Holy crap.

Ricin, a potentially deadly poison, was found in a University of Texas dormitory Thursday by a student who reported the substance to school police officers.

The dorm was sanitized, and the substance was sent to a laboratory for testing and came back positive for ricin Friday night. University officials said they had not yet determined where it came from.

A “small amount” of UT students living in Moore-Hill dormitory were exposed to the substance, UT police spokeswoman Rhonda Weldon said.

The students are now at an undisclosed location and are in contact with the FBI. They are not showing any symptoms, officials said. Other students living in Moore-Hill were being moved to Jester dormitory Friday night, Weldon said.

There is no threat to the university suspected, but an investigation is under way, Weldon said.

The substance found in Moore-Hill was a chunky powder and exposure was limited due to the humid conditions, Dr. Adolfo Valadez of the Austin health department said.

“We were very concerned as soon as we heard about the positive testing late this evening,” said Dr. Theresa Spalding of UT Health Services. “But everything was packed away and tested in an orderly manner.”

That’s appalling, however lucky we are that the prevailing conditions prevented more widespread exposure. I certainly hope the students who came into contact with the ricin remain in good health. I hate to be paranoid, but it’s a little hard to imagine someone casually possessing ricin. Whoever or whatever is behind this, I hope they’re found quickly. Karl-T has more, and there’s some video with the Chron story.

Yates decision Monday

State District Judge Belinda Hill will rule on Monday whether or not Andrea Yates should be tried again for murder or if the false testimony presented by prosecution witness Park Dietz creates a double jeopardy situation.

Dietz testified Friday he immediately notified prosecutors of his mistake. They, in turn, said they notified Yates’ attorneys. Yates’ attorneys, prosecutors testified Friday, seemed satisfied by alerting jurors of the mistake and did not take up Dietz’s offer to return to Houston at his own expense.

Yates’ attorneys have argued that subjecting her to another trial would amount to double jeopardy. If the judge disagrees and Yates chooses to appeal that finding, her trial could be delayed for up to a year, said Harris County Assistant District Attorney Alan Curry.

But if Hill also declares the defense’s double jeopardy claim to be frivolous, Yates’ trial could proceed as scheduled, Curry said.

“Obviously, we’re taking this very seriously,” Curry said after Friday’s hearing. “When Dr. Dietz testified about this, we believed he knew what he was talking about. The court of appeals clearly found there was no evidence of prosecutorial misconduct.”

My gut says that Judge Hill will not grant the defense motion. Dietz’s phony testimony was the grounds for overturning the guilty verdict from the first trial. In theory at least, the appeals court could have taken the extra step that the defense is now requesting, as Curry notes. I don’t think she’ll rule that it’s frivolous, though, so we may be in for a long wait.

Those who testified Friday included Dietz; Tomball area resident Shauna Thornton, who alerted the Harris County District Attorney’s Office of Dietz’s mistaken testimony; and the Harris County prosecutors assigned to the Yates case, Joe Owmby and Kaylynn Williford.

Thornton said she first sent an e-mail to the district attorney’s office one week after the Yates children died to alert prosecutors the A&E network had aired a rerun of L.A. Law that concerned a woman found not guilty of killing her child by using a “postpartum psychosis” defense. The program, Thornton said, aired shortly before the children’s deaths.

Prosecutors followed up by talking to Thornton, but said they did not give her message much weight because there was no way to prove that Yates had actually watched the TV program. They said they were busy chasing down numerous other leads.

Owmby said he mistakenly referred to the TV program as Law & Order when he briefly discussed the matter with Dietz, asking the psychiatrist to check if such an episode existed.

“I really had no interest in the matter except to put it to rest and get it out of the way,” Owmby testified Friday.

When Dietz testified at Yates’ first trial in March 2002, he said Law & Order had aired an episode about a case with circumstances similar to the Yates children’s deaths. Owmby and Williford both said Friday they had no reason to doubt Dietz’s testimony at the time, although they were surprised by it.

Thornton said she sent another e-mail to the district attorney’s office after seeing media coverage of Dietz’s testimony to alert them of the mistake.

“Actually, we shouted at the TV, ‘The name of the show is L.A. Law, not Law & Order,’ ” she recalled Friday.

Owmby said Friday if he had known Dietz’s testimony was incorrect, he would have spoken up immediately.

I dunno. This certainly sounds less than diligent on the part of the DA’s office, but not quite malicious. I think that the remedy already granted was sufficient. But we’ll see.

Chevron moves across the street downtown

Chevron will be moving some employees into the office building I once worked in downtown, across the street from the former Enron building they bought in 2004.

Almost two years after buying the 40-story downtown tower built for Enron, Chevron has leased about 20 stories of space in another high-profile building nearby.

The California-based oil giant will use 465,000 square feet of space in 1600 Smith, the 51-story building that’s also the headquarters for Houston-based Continental Airlines, to consolidate operations now in Sugar Land.

The transaction will be a “major plus to downtown,” said Tim Relyea, vice chairman of Cushman & Wakefield of Texas, who represented Chevron in lease negotiations.

I worked in 1600 Smith for about a year during 1993 and 1994. Had a great view of the Rockets’ victory parade down Smith Street after the won the NBA championship in ’94, too. I’m glad to see the old place still has some life in it.

I linked to this story mostly because Chevron’s purchase of the Enron building had a few bumps in the road. Here’s what I blogged about it at the time.