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Is the fix in for Heflin?

Keir Murray, a familiar name but a new blogger around here, reports a conversation he had with a state senator, who thinks the House may override the result of the Hubert Vo-Talmadge Heflin election.

I spoke last night with a state senator, who shall remain nameless, who now believes the State House GOP may decide to seat Heflin and bump Vo out, overturning Vo’s legitimate win in District 149. Like most folks familiar with the Legislature, until recently he didn’t think there was any chance of that happening. He’s changed his mind. The reasoning is as follows:

The legislative session begins next week, and Democratic House members begin baiting Craddick from the back microphone — “Mr. Speaker, if you are indicted, will you step down from your leadership post?” — and so on. The session quickly dissolves into a partisan lockdown, and Vo loses on a party-line vote.

Sound far-fetched? Think for a moment about what the GOP, at both the state and federal level, has had the audacity to do in the last couple of years — redistricting, ethics changes, now trying to eliminate the filibuster from the U.S. Senate, etc — and you may reach the same conclusion the state senator has. “These guys just don’t give a sh*t.” Bad press? Who cares. Public outrage? They’ll get over it. Politically dangerous? Not a chance — all we have to do is win a GOP primary anyway. Democratic retribution? (After several moments of laughter) Who?”

The senator (and I) believe the GOP will make every attempt to do this for one reason, they can. They have the votes and they value power above all else. If they can take a little bit more, they will, integrity and the public be damned.

If that were the only scenario for this outcome, then there’s an easy enough way to avoid it: have the Democratic House members stay on good behavior until the contest is officially settled. Surely if Jim Dunnam could convince 50 colleague to ride a bus to Ardmore, OK, last session, he can manage that this time around.

I fear, however, that such provocation isn’t necessary. As Greg notes, Harris County Tax Assessor Paul Bettencourt has announced that an open records request says that there were 167 illegal votes cast in the HD149 race. Of course, who those people voted for, or even if they did vote in the HD149 race, is something we can’t know unless we drag them onto a witness stand and ask them under oath. But if the House GOP leadership wants to seat Heflin, the mere existence of those votes would be a sufficient fulcrum for them. Jack Stick laid some groundwork with his own charges of vote fraud (though to his credit, Discovery Master Will Hartnett hasn’t bought it, and apparently Stick’s ideas of what constitutes fraud include voter registration). But who’s to say that can’t or won’t happen?

I will say this: Whatever happens later this month, Talmadge Heflin has won his last race. Whether he retires from public service and slips into a lucrative lobbying job now or in 2007 is still an open question, but he’s done as a candidate. His actions now may be enough to poison the well for a long time in HD149 for all other Republican hopefuls. Not that this bothers me, of course.

Lastly, Keir and Greg both also talk about the likely impact of seating Heflin on two other Republican State Reps, Joe Nixon and Martha Wong. Nixon’s district is even more Vietnamese than 149 is, and like Vo, Wong has benefitted from crossover support from Asian constituents. Further, Moldy Joe is already a prime target for 2006, and Wong’s district is about as swingy. For sure neither one will want to risk opposing Vo; the real question is whether they’ll publicly support him.

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8 Comments

  1. Chris Elam says:

    So the Democratic strategy for ’06 will be to unseat Martha Wong and Joe Nixon by playing the race card two years early?

    Why not? The race card gets played earlier and earlier in every cycle. Why not two years out?

  2. km says:

    The race card, huh?

    Gee, that wouldn’t be anything like Heflin claiming that a “certain kind of voter” in a “certain part of the district” was responsible for fraudulent voting, would it?

    Or how about when Governor Perry ran those ads about Tony Sanchez — I mean, since he’s a border Mexican, he must be a drug dealer, right?

    For you guys to even try to cry “race card” doesn’t pass the laugh test.

    The reality is this: Nixon and Wong live in districts that are competitive — we plan to compete to beat them, period. You see, we’ve started to catch on to your attitude after watching it these last years. It’s just about winning, right? Nothing personal.

  3. Chris Elam says:

    So that’s a “Yes, but….”

    Gotcha. =)

  4. Rob Booth says:

    I think you all are misunderstanding what Stick wrote. (And I’m no Jack Stick fan. There’s a story, but anyway….) I think what he’s saying is that there’s no way possible, legally, to register that many actual people in the time frame claimed.

    He’s saying, without exactly coming right out and saying it, that you all cheated by registering people that don’t exist.

    What I’m betting is that you all held back registrations as long as legally possible. That and the normal last minute push would account for it. I assume Travis County GOP had judges/alternates/poll watchers in each of those precincts, so voting hundreds of non-existant people would be pretty hard.

  5. John Greenman says:

    My God, I think I’m going to be sick. If Republicans do this, it will be the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen.

    And I have the awful feeling that Democrats will let them. Why, why, why would you think for a second that Republicans would hesitate to do this? Because of their decnency? They have none. Because of their honor? It doesn’t exist. Because of their sense of wrong and right? And why, why, why, didn’t somebody (Charles Soechting? Ron Kirk? Somebody?) make Kelly White file a challenge, so that we will have a record to fight with when the case goes to court, as it inevitably will?

    Look, fellow Democrats, we have to know a few things. First, the people we are fighting are awful. It is simply foolish to appeal to or wait on their decency. Second, there is no use bemoaning that fact. It won’t change anything, and it makes us look weak. Third, we need to fight like lions to beat them.

    Why won’t somebody stand up?

  6. Charles Soechting says:

    Regarding John Greenman’s post about “why didn’t Charles Soechting….make Kelly White file a challenge”? Be assured that Kelly ran an excellent race and made her own decisions based upon the facts. I can assure you that she adequately explored her options. As Chair I don’t make anyone do anything that they do not want to do. More importantly, it has to be done for the right reasons. That’s what seperates us from the R’s.

  7. John Greenman says:

    Mr. Soechting,

    As a loyal Democrat, let me say that I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. I also understand the reasons that Kelly White didn’t bring a challenge that was, on its face, meritless. But I’m simpy baffled and frustrated that a variety of factors–including, at times our own ethical contsraints–keep us from hitting the Republicans as hard as they hit us. Knowing that we have candidates like Kelly is some consolation. But sooner or later, we’ve got to figure out how to win.

    Anyway, I’m glad to know that you’re out there and listening. I’ll send a donation to the Party to say thanks. I apologize for my bad temper, and urge you to keep on fighting the good fight.

  8. Mathwiz says:

    Keir Murray: “I spoke last night with a state senator, who shall remain nameless, who now believes the State House GOP may decide to seat Heflin and bump Vo out, overturning Vo’s legitimate win in District 149.”

    I was under the impression that seating Heflin isn’t an option; that the only options for the GOP are to seat Vo or to call for a new election.

    Otherwise, it would seem the GOP could simply throw every Democrat out of the House – or at least enough to prevent another quorum-busting boycott – in which case, what’s the point of having an election at all? Can someone clarify the law here?