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Testimony begins in Heflin-Vo case

It’s showtime today in the Heflin-Vo election contest, and you can add Select Committee on Election Contests Chair Terry Keel to the list of Republicans making reasonable public statements about the whole thing.

“You are going to have to have a high level of commitment to integrity and fairness and honesty, and your pursuit of those duties is likely not to ever, in any instance, make people happy,” said Keel, a legislator since 1997. “It’s more likely to always make somebody unhappy.”


Activists from both parties tried to influence lawmakers, but Keel said there’s too much at stake for those efforts to work.

Some questions have been raised about Keel’s role as chairman because he was the treasurer of the Stars Over Texas political action committee, which raised money last year for Republicans in tight election contests. The committee did not give money to Heflin’s campaign, though Heflin once gave money to the group.

Keel said his connection to the group should not cause concern because members regularly help their parties win seats.

Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, said he’s confident Keel will be fair because he knows him well. But he said Craddick should have appointed a committee chairman who did not have such visible ties to a group such as Stars Over Texas. “Why set up a situation where these are questions that can be asked?” said Dunnam, who is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.


Keel said the House rarely calls for a new election and usually decides to seat the person who was declared the winner on Election Day. But he said history will not determine what happens this time.

“The integrity of the House is the bottom line here,” he said. “Consideration of party label or friendship or any other feelings on this matter have to give way to the law and evidence and the standards that we operate under.”

Actions speak louder than words, Terry. That’s ultimately how we’ll judge you.

Discovery Master Will Hartnett is also joining the chorus.

“I’m concerned about the use of the word fraud based on what I have seen so far,” Hartnett said, adding that he views fraud as intentional misdeeds by individuals seeking to thwart an election. “I’m going to be emphatic on determining what evidence there is of fraud.”

If actual fraud is the standard, then there’s just no way Heflin wins. We’re talking about 200 or so apparently honest mistakes in an election of 40,000 votes cast, which is to say one half of one percent of the votes. Remember, even Andy Taylor has said there wasn’t any fraud. What else is there to say?

Well, there’s this:

Amy Wong Mok, an Austin businesswoman and community activist, says Asians here and abroad are closely following this case. The outcome, she believes, could have long-lasting effects on the overall political landscape of Texas – home to the fourth-largest Asian population in the country. “If they take away Hubert Vo,” said Mok, “Asian-Americans are going to be very angry for the next two generations. It would be a slap in the face.” Mok, a former candidate for Austin City Council who leans Democratic, says the state GOP will have a hard time justifying itself to those Asians who traditionally vote Republican. “Many different Asian organizations are united behind Hubert Vo,” she said. “As we see it, this is about arrogance … it’s about not accepting defeat gracefully.”

Gracefulness has been markedly absent so far, that’s for sure.

Three further items. First, from the Chron story:

Michael Baselice, an Austin-based Republican pollster, will testify as an expert witness for Heflin. University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray and Waco economist Ray Perryman will testify for Vo.

Baselice isn’t just any Republican pollster, he’s Rick Perry’s pollster. Consider that another strand of evidence as to where Perry stands on this issue. The AusChron article says that some people believe Perry would be happy to have the election contest derail school finance reform so that the courts have to do the dirty work (and get the blowback for it). Make of that what you will.

Speaking of the AusChron story:

“I have no numbers to back this up, but the ‘Rs’ have already been hurt in Texas by this effort to seat Heflin,” said Kelly Fero, chief strategist for Take Back Texas, a sister organization of the state Democratic Party. Fero points out that Rep. Martha Wong, R-Houston, the first Asian-American woman elected to the Texas Legislature, is herself vulnerable and could lose her next re-election bid – “with help from the Asian community.” Rep. Joe Nixon, another Houston Republican, could also draw a challenger, already identified as attorney Robert Pham, a Vietnamese-American with a compelling success story like Vo’s, Fero said.

I’ve heard a rumor about a different potential challenger to Nixon, also a person of Vietnamese heritage. That’s all I can say at this time.

Finally, The Red State notes that today is also when committee and committee chair assignments will be announced. This is where Democrats will pay the price for last session’s Ardmore walkout. Regrettable, but not unexpected.

UPDATE: Greg tunes into the webcast of the hearings and commences banging his head against the wall.

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One Comment

  1. kevin whited says:

    Baselice isn’t just any Republican pollster, he’s Rick Perry’s pollster. Consider that another strand of evidence as to where Perry stands on this issue.

    You’re reaching.

    Not many pollsters make a living by sticking to one client. You can track down various clients who have used Baselice. Yes, Perry is one of them.

    Good pollsters/consultants would reject the notion that various professional activities (yes, testifying in such a matter is a professional activity of sorts for a pollster, as it is also for Dick Murray, whom you neglect to point out is now an admitted Dem activist in addition to respected political scientist) that they take part in is a reflection of ANY particular client’s views.

    Once a pollster goes down that road, he has a credibility problem. Most folks I know in the industry think credibility is pretty important to their livelihood. Do you have any reason to suggest that Baselice is not representative of his industry in that sense? If so, please do share.