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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.

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