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Names, Trivia, and Money

The ballots are more or less complete, pending court actions and dirty tricks and all the usual stuff. And the annual courtship between the vampires and the blood banks — candidates and financiers — is well underway.

The ballots are more or less complete, pending court actions and dirty tricks and all the usual stuff. And the annual courtship between the vampires and the blood banks — candidates and financiers — is well underway.

So we made some lists.

We merged the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian ballots and have those available online. There's a ranking of the 100 biggest campaign cash balances and the complete, 2,400 line list of everybody with a campaign account available here for download, if you're into heavy research. (All of that stuff is available in the Files section of our website.) But first, some statistics, starting with Congress, then the state Senate and then the state House:

• Only three congressional incumbents face primary opposition, and those three also have contested races ahead in November... Six members of the delegation have third-party candidates and nothing else on the fight card this year... 22 members of the delegation — 11 from each party — have major party opponents in November... U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, is the only member of the delegation who got a free ride this year.

• Three state senators have primary opponents and only one of those — Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo — also has major party opposition in November... Six senators have third party opposition in November and nothing else ahead... Five senators have major party opposition in November but nothing until then. Two will be done with competition once their primaries are over (whether they win or lose)... Only one state senator — Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville — got a free ride.

• 23 members of the Texas House (7 Republicans, 16 Democrats) don't have any opponents all year and another 38 (26 Republican, 12 Democrat) face only third-party opposition before the next legislative session... Eight House races will be decided in March, with the winner there sailing through November... A dozen members face opposition in March and in November... There are 29 primaries on the House ballots (17 Republicans, 13 Democrats, with primaries on both sides in El Paso's HD-78)... And 52 members of the House (24 Republicans, 28 Democrats) won't face an opponent until November.

The County Line

Tom Annunziato claimed residence in Parker County when he filed libel and defamation lawsuits against eye doctors in Florida, Georgia, and New York two years ago. He claimed to live in Tarrant County when he filed to run for the Legislature last month.

But he never moved.

And in all of those documents, the same street address is used; only the city and county change.

The Fort Worth optometrist says his lawyer made the mistake in the court filings — an error that had the effect of moving the venue of those cases from Tarrant County, where he lives, to Parker County, where his lawyer lives and practices.

Annunziato's lawyer is Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford.

In his application for a spot on the GOP ballot in this year's elections, Annunziato signed an application saying he's been a Texas resident for 35 years, a Tarrant County resident for 15 years, and a resident of House District 99 for eight years. 

That's undisputed. Even his opponent in HD-99 — Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth — says Annunziato lives in the district.

Geren said he won't challenge Annunziato's residency on the basis of the court papers. "I wouldn't attempt to challenge that — I know he lives in Tarrant County and I know he lives in Fort Worth," Geren said. "But I'm very disappointed that he would lie to a district court."

In the three lawsuits he filed two years ago against the ophthalmologists, Annunziato's lawyer, King, listed Parker County as his residential address in his pleadings. And in a standard boilerplate, the pleading said "Venue in Parker County is proper in this cause under the mandatory venue provision for libel and slander actions... as the Plaintiff resides in Parker County."

Annunziato said he lives in Fort Worth and in Tarrant County, though he adds that the mail for his neighborhood goes through the post office in Aledo on the other side of the county line. In fact, the Tarrant Appraisal District lists the property as a Fort Worth address, but has an Aledo mailing address for the taxpayer. They don't list it anywhere as a Parker County property. The Parker County Appraisal District lists two unimproved properties owned, in part, by Annunziato, but both are in Weatherford.

Annunziato has a business address in Weatherford, but filed the suit as an individual. Had he listed a Tarrant County address, the case wouldn't have gone to lawyer King's home court in Weatherford, but to one of several courts in Fort Worth instead.

Annunziato was suing the eye doctors for their comments about an advertisement that showed him wearing surgical scrubs. Optometrists don't go to medical school, aren't doctors, and can't operate on people. He says he wasn't suing them for being ophthalmologists taunting an optometrist, but because of the personal nature of the attacks and the phrases they used. "I would have sued these guys if they were auto mechanics," he says.

He sued Dr. Mark Anthony Johnson of Venice, Florida, for $75,000 in November 2005. Johnson started a string of comments on the website with a withering post about Annunziato's garb titled, "were all the cowboy costumes taken?"

Annunziato sued Dr. David Gerstenfeld of Staten Island, New York, for $75,000 for responding to Johnson's comments on a website by writing, "Amen, brother!" And he sued Dr. Richard Schulze Jr. of Savannah, Georgia, for his responses to the post. As with the other two lawsuits, Annunziato sought $75,000 in damages.

All three cases were settled in 2006 and dismissed. King and Annunziato said all three defendants agreed to pay attorney fees and to write letters of apology.

Did it matter where the cases landed? Two of the defense lawyers in the cases — Dan Barrett of Fort Worth and Carlos Balido of Dallas — didn't return calls (and yes, that's the same Dan Barrett elected last month to finish Anna Mowery's term in the Texas House). Stephen Marsh of Richardson, who represented Schulze, contested the jurisdiction of the case, but not the venue, before settling. He didn't think the interstate claim belonged in a Texas court. He didn't know about the venue problem, but when told of it, he said the Weatherford court that took the case was fair.

"In my case, it didn't matter," he said. "The judge was pretty straight."

Geren wasn't as nice about it. "Sounds to me like Phil was trying to get it to his home county," he said. "They both know [Annunziato's home] is in Tarrant County."

King is also Annunziato's business lawyer and in earlier lawsuits noted his client's business addresses in Fort Worth and in Weatherford, and also that he "resides in Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas." King initially didn't remember why the case was filed in Parker County, but said a staff lawyer who drafted the cases for him was confused about the Aledo mailing address for Annunziato and other residents of his neighborhood.

"I certainly wanted to keep the business in Parker County," he said. "I prefer to do that because it's a mile to the courthouse instead of 25 miles."

After doing some checking, King said he had the option of filing in either county.

"The suit could have gone to Tarrant County, where Tom actually resides, or in Weatherford, where the harm occurred," he said.

Venue in libel cases has to be set in either the county where the plaintiff resided or the county where the defendant resided. Since none of the defendants lived in Texas, that would be Tarrant County.

But King said the comments that set off the lawsuits were brought to Annunziato's attention by a Weatherford ophthalmologist. "You can file where you live or where the harm occurred," King said.

And, he added, it didn't come up at the time. "There was never an objection," he said.

Firefighters Hosed

Wendy Davis can stay on the ballot against Sen. Kim Brimer, after a Fort Worth appeals court threw out a case filed by three firefighters.

The three firefighters sued to take Davis, a Democrat and former Fort Worth city councilwoman, off the ballot, saying she signed up to run for the new job before she was off the council.

But after a short hearing (the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has the blow-by-blow here), the three-judge panel from the state's 2nd Court of Appeals said the three didn't have standing to sue, and tossed out the case without reaching the issue of her eligibility.

Rob Gibson, a spokesman for the firefighters, said they're still deciding whether to appeal the case to the Texas Supreme Court, and said the case has now been rejected twice without any decision on its merits.

"The issue of her [Davis'] eligibility is still out there," he said. "The courts have dismissed this twice on technicalities... my guys are worried that they'll get to November without an eligible candidate. That's what they're trying to avoid."

The group originally filed the case with the Texas Supreme Court, which rejected the case and said it should be filed instead with the lower appellate court. That court's the one that ruled against the firefighters, a ruling that could be appealed back to the Supremes.

The firefighters filed the suit as individuals who live in the Senate District, but they have ties to Brimer. The Fort Worth-based Eppstein Group helped the firefighters pass a ballot initiative in November. That firm is also the political consultant to the incumbent Davis wants to challenge.

Going Postal

The mail's flying out there in Election Land, and not just the stuff with the pretty pictures and the red, white, and blue color schemes.

• Take this letter from Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, to his colleagues in the House Democratic Caucus. He's taking up for a couple of Democratic incumbents being challenged in the primaries, and at the lobbyists helping them.

A sample: "Short and sweet — any lobbyist who targets Juan Escobar, Juan Garcia or any member of our Democratic Caucus is targeting me and every one of you. Like you, I find it more than coincidental that one lobbying firm has taken such an open and hostile position against the Democratic Caucus."

He doesn't name the lobby firm. And he didn't mention a number of Democratic incumbents who are being challenged for backing Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick. Some of their opponents were drafted by other members of the HDC. Fischer ends with a pitch for donations for Escobar, who's being challenged in the Democratic primary by Tara Rios Ybarra of South Padre Island.

Garcia has a tough race ahead in November, but no opposition in March.

• Or this one from Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who's trying to knock off one of the Republican House members whose district overlaps his own. Patrick's backing Allen Fletcher, the challenger to Rep. Corbin Van Arsdale, R-Tomball, and laid out his case in a five-page letter mailed into that House district. Van Arsdale says he'll have a response going to voters in the next few days.

Meanwhile, those two are tussling over a radio ad. Patrick's a radio host at KSEV in Houston and Van Arsdale is running spots on that station. They feature people saying they're supporters of Patrick... and Van Arsdale.

• An email got us going on this one. Tom Glass of Houston sent a note to "Firearms Freedom Friends" saying he'll be holding a funder for Randy Dunning, who's running for an open House seat in Northeast Dallas County.

Guests at that shindig will include Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt, among others. Patrick, Bettencourt, and Dallas lawyer Tom Pauken (who headed Gov. Rick Perry's unsuccessful push to limit property tax growth) are backing Dunning because of who he's not. He's not Fred Hill, and he's not Fred Hill's candidate in the race.

Hill is the outgoing state representative and the leader of the successful fight against the property tax limits. His argument then and now was that the caps on local revenue would limit cities and counties that were simultaneously forced to cover the costs of state mandates. And there's the argument that state officials were trying to do to local officials what they haven't been able to do to themselves in limiting spending growth. Anyhow, Hill's for Jim Shepherd, a former member of both the Richardson city council and the Richardson ISD board.

Campaign Notes

State Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, reported two $10,000 loans — made in December, two weeks apart — in his most recent campaign finance filings. What's unusual is that they weren't loans to the campaign. They were loans from the campaign, but they don't list the borrower, which could have been anyone from the candidate his own self to Spongebob Squarepants. Flores didn't return our calls seeking explanation.

• Candidates who get an endorsement from the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Academy of Family Physicians get an Internet commercial in the bargain. That trade group has endorsed five incumbents so far, and posted commercials for them on its website. Each has a local doctor opening and closing the spot, with the middle of the donut filled with pictures and a narrative of legislation backed by the candidate that was good for the medical community. The first five: Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo; and Reps. Betty Brown, R-Terrell; Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin; Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth; and Vicki Truitt, R-Keller.

Tom Annunziato owes it all to his fellow optometrists, at least in terms of campaign finance. The Fort Worth optometrist's first campaign finance report says he raised $178,265 during the second half of 2007. The biggest contributor, as we've reported previously, was the Texas Optometric PAC, which gave him $75,000 and also did $2,955 in mailings on his behalf. But individuals in his business were just as active. If you crack open his report and total the contributions from people who list their occupation as optometrists, you'll find another $77,700. Throw out the people in the eye business, and he raised only $22,610.

• It won't affect this year's elections in Texas (except, perhaps, as an issue), but the debate over picture identification of voters is in full swing. Interim committees are holding hearings, and interest groups and legislators are staging press events. The topper: the Democratic Lone Star Project financed a mini-documentary on Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, who blocked Voter ID legislation last session while he was recovering from liver transplant surgery. The video's on their website.

• Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson's exit frees his Texas supporters, a group that includes Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo and Attorney General Greg Abbott. Abbott and Patterson were the campaign's Texas co-chairs. Patterson says he hasn't decided who he'll back now that his favorite's out. He's got reservations about Rudy Giuliani — Patterson's against restrictions on guns and Giuliani, as mayor of New York, was for them — and he hasn't decided on the others. He thinks Mike Huckabee is "too glib," and has problems with the fact that Mitt Romney "keeps changing positions... and has five sons and never has had one in the Armed Services." John McCain, he disagrees with sometimes, but he calls the senator from Arizona a "straight shooter." Abbott hasn't returned calls on the subject. Carrillo was on the road when we tried him.

• Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is backing Rep. Pat Haggerty, R-El Paso, for reelection. Haggerty has a primary opponent and a couple of Democrats are in a primary to battle the winner in November. Patterson says Haggerty backed him in his own statewide races, that he likes him, and that he's returning the favor. The land commissioner appeared at an El Paso fundraiser on Haggerty's behalf this week. And Patterson notes, for the record, that his preference has "nothing to do with all that speaker race stuff."

Eddie Saenz, the Democratic challenger to Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, drew a bummer of a court date. He's been ordered to appear on a September DWI stop next week, in the middle of the primary campaign. The opposition has posted his court documents online.

• Texas Labor made its endorsements in statewide elections at the AFL-CIO's COPE convention in Austin. Their all-Democratic list: Rick Noriega for U.S. Senate; no endorsement for Texas Railroad Commission; Jim Jordan for chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court; Sam Houston for the Place 7 spot there, and a dual endorsement for Susan Criss and Linda Yañez in Place 8. Labor endorsed two candidates for the three races on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals: Susan Strawn and J.R. Molina.

• Rep. Robert Talton, R-Pasadena, won an endorsement for his congressional race from Gary Gillen, the former head of the Fort Bend GOP and a guy with a large email list. Talton's one of ten Republicans vying for a shot at U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Stafford.

• Texans for Lawsuit Reform endorsed Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Richardson, in his reelection bid. He's got a primary opponent, and the winner will face a Libertarian in November.

Carol Alvarado, one of the Democrats seeking to replace Rick Noriega in the Texas House, is getting help at a funder next week from Tilman Fertitta, former Houston Rocket Clyde Drexler, and Houston Mayor Bill White.

Dennis Kucinich won't be on the Democratic primary ballot in Texas. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case against the state party's "loyalty oath." Kucinich refused to swear he'd vote for the Party's nominee in November, a condition the Texas Democratic Party puts on its presidential candidates. It's a symbolic thing, since nobody — including candidates for president — has to share their actual ballot to prove how they voted. But Kucinich refused on principle. The party then turned him away and a federal judge in Austin ruled that the Democrats were within their rights. The Ohio congressman appealed all the way up to the Supremes, but they refused, without comment, to hear his complaint.

Lost Highways

Transportation officials got some 'splaining to do in the coming month, say legislators concerned about the Texas Department of Transportation's postponement of more than 50 construction projects throughout the state.

Simply put, TxDOT can't build new projects because the agency is flat broke, according to House Transportation Chair Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, who says anyone who's been paying attention to the agency should already understand that.

Senate Transportation Chair John Carona, R-Dallas, puts the blame on the board that runs TxDOT. "It's really easy to direct the woes between the Legislature and transportation to TxDOT, when in reality the finger has to be pointed at the [Texas Transportation] Commission. It's the very definition of a rogue effort," he says. "We just can't blindly put money any longer into TxDOT and expect that the good things and the right things will happen."

According to information from TxDOT, 54 projects in 28 counties — ranging from construction of curbs and gutters to the building of Interstate interchanges — won't begin until at least the end of August. Estimated costs range from $346,000 for landscaping along IH-20 in Harris County to $181 million for a tollway interchange with IH-30 in Dallas. The total tab is $1.16 billion.

"If we are able to identify other funds later in the year, if gas tax revenues take off or there is some other influx of money available, we may try to bring some of these projects back on the books," says Christopher Lippincott, a TxDOT spokesman. "But there's no promise of that. So communities are being asked to brace themselves for this to be the list."

Carona calls the decision to delay the projects "part of a political agenda that is very ill-timed, and we intend, beginning on Feb. 5, to get to the bottom of it."

You might be watching presidential results on that Super Tuesday, but the transportation-minded will be bird-dogging TxDOT and its governing board. First thing that morning, the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security will convene for its regular quarterly meeting. They'll be joined an hour later by the Senate Finance Committee for a joint session. And that afternoon, the Legislative Study Committee on Private Participation in Toll Projects meets for the first time.

The senators want to hear why TxDOT and TTC are freezing the projects. "It's not as simple as, 'Is TxDOT running out of money?' But that's one of the big questions that comes up," says committee director Stephen Polunsky.

In the afternoon, the Legislative Study Committee authorized by Senate Bill 792 (the toll road moratorium bill) will hold its first meeting with the idea of producing a report by the next legislative session.

The study committee comprises: Sens. Carona, Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, and Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands; Representatives Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, and Wayne Smith, R-Baytown; and public appointees John Johnson of Houston (like Sen. Nichols, a former TTC commissioner), Robert Poole of Florida (the Reason Foundation's director of transportation studies) and Grady Smith of Duncanville (secretary of the Dallas Regional Mobility Coalition).

Setting the stage for those hearings are a pair of federal transportation reports and a TTC commissioners' meeting taking place in Victoria next week (the first since the death of TTC Chair Ric Williamson).

The first federal report, from the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, spurred criticism by Gov. Rick Perry and others for its recommendations to raise gas taxes and give the feds more control of transportation infrastructure planning.

A second federal report — a preliminary one — is also coming within a week, this one from the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, says Krusee, who's a member of the commission.

Krusee says the first report dealt with how to fix existing problems with and meet future demands of the nation's transportation infrastructure. His commission is charged with figuring out how to pay for it.

The first report "was widely declared DOA," says Krusee, due to its proposal for gasoline tax hikes. "No legislature is going to vote for that."

The second won't push for higher gas taxes, he says, but will include a proposal to tax automobiles according to mileage. (This is called Vehicle-Miles-Traveled, or VMT.)

Providing backdrop for the Feb. 5 meetings is an ongoing inquiry into TxDOT by the Sunset Advisory Commission. The Lege doesn't meet until next year, of course, but new Sunset member Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, says the commission should have some types of recommendations about TxDOT soon — "by, say, April."

Hegar's main concern entering into the Sunset study is that if TxDOT is as broke as it claims to be, why didn't it come out during a legislative session in which transportation was a major topic?

"I don't see how we could be broke today in this form or fashion," Hegar says. "In several years, I see a long-term potential problem. I don't see how all of a sudden these decisions [to delay projects] need to be made today."

"TxDOT has done a pretty god job convincing everyone that, 'The sky is falling, and you better do what we say,'" says state Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, a frequent critic of the agency. "But it's just not working... It's just not working."

Pickett says that TxDOT has brought in about $500 to 600 million above its estimated budget for each of the past five or six years, and he won't buy into TxDOT's postulations of penury until they show him where the money went, all $3 billion of it.

One of Pickett's assertions is that TxDOT might be engaging in accounting sleights of hand, by shifting money for construction projects into the more-loosely-audited maintenance account.

"The timing of the decision to go from construction to maintenance is very suspect," concurs Carona. "I think that knowing what I know today, I would agree with that characterization."

But Carona doesn't wholly agree with Pickett's assertion that TxDOT has "money coming out of their ears." On that point, Carona's in line with Hegar.

"I do believe that fundamentally we have a shortage of funding. Fundamentally, it's the job of the Legislature to fix that," Carona says. "What is happening in the [TTC] is so many of its policies have been politically driven, with an agenda toward the privatization of roadways. And they use every opportunity to speak out on the shortage of funds, and, on occasion, they create those opportunities."

He says committee members "are not going to browbeat" TxDOT officials and TTC commissioners at next month's meeting, but they will ask them to explain some things. To wit: "One. Why they have the cash-flow problems that they do. Two. Why they chose at this particular time to move funds from road construction to maintenance. Three. We'll ask specifically for the steps needed from the Legislature to correct the problem."

"What is not an acceptable answer will be any recommendation for further public-private partnerships," Carona says.

A few things everyone (except Pickett) agrees upon is that TxDOT's financial troubles stem from multiple causes, including high rates of inflation, lower-than-expected receipts from the federal government and diversion of highway money (in Fund 6) to non-highway-related projects.

About $1.5 billion in highway money will be spent on other priorities during the 2008-09 biennium, says Lippincott, estimating TxDOT's annual budget will run a little more than $8 billion per year.

Add SB 792 to the list of reasons for TxDOT's fiscal woes, says Krusee, because the law takes away the agency's ability to obtain private financing, which it was banking on in order to build new roads.

"They absolutely are running out of money, and I hope the Sunset will serve to better educate the members," he says.

"They [state lawmakers] decided to take a pause, and so this is the consequences," Krusee says.

Pickett is skeptical: "There needs to be a complete wholesale cleaning. Normally, Sunset would be the time for that. I don't see it happening."

—by Patrick Brendel

Money Looking for a Game

Some say a change in state law allowing racetrack owners to have interest in three, not just two, tracks is no more than a tiny glimmer of hope for the gaming industry.

But with primaries not far off, even that "quiet" legislation — brought to the fore by the Houston Chronicle — could mean the gaming interests will start pushing further.

A lobbyist in the middle of it says "things are developing" and moving forward with the elections in mind, but it doesn't seem like anything new. Those in the horse and dog-racing world still want to bring VLT's (video lottery terminals) to the tracks. Those in the gaming world still want to open casinos all over the state, despite their failures in the last session.

Andrew Wheat at Texans for Public Justice thinks any talk of gambling expansion is hype. "Two years ago they all announced they were going to shoot the moon and make gambling happen, and they spent a lot of money... but I don't know if this is going to be anything more than we've seen in the past."

But there's a rich PAC — Texans for Economic Development — attracting attention with its $1 million-plus treasury.

The funders include the Texas Horseman's Partnership, led by Tommy Azopardi, which gave $150,000. Muy Buena Suerte Ltd. out of McAllen gave a total of $96,909.56. Maxxam PAC, run by Charles Hurwitz, contributed $150,000. The LaMantia family, which the Houston Chronicle notes may be "poised to leap into the racing business," gave a total of $200,000. (It sounds like they're mid-leap). Gulf Greyhound Partners, Ltd. gave $100,000. Dallas-based Atlangroup LLC gave $150,000. Tilman Fertitta, CEO of Landry's, gave $100,000.

Paul Cowen, chief-of-staff for Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, calls expanding gaming in Texas "like the guy who cried wolf, they just know it doesn't happen. You get their hopes up and they get nothing."

— by Karie Meltzer

Medina and Wife Un-Indicted

At the request of Harris County prosecutors, a Houston court dropped the indictments against Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina and his wife and later, the charges were nullified when a judge found the grand jury had been improperly held over and didn't, as a matter of law, have the power to indict a ham sandwich, much less a Supreme Court justice.

The indictments were handed up by a Harris County grand jury after prosecutors took it to them. But Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal and his staff decided they didn't have enough evidence to indict, and went to court to get the charges dropped.

The lawyer for Mrs. Medina, Terry Yates, filed suit against two grand jury members who went public with their disgust over Rosenthal's decision. Yates wanted them held in contempt for talking to reporters about a case that's still open. The jurors told the Houston Chronicle and the Quorum Report that they'll consider re-indicting the Medinas over the objections of the DA's office. But when the judge said the grand jury wasn't in office, Yates had no grounds to sue.

The charges stem from a fire at the Medina's home in Spring last summer that investigators suspect was intentionally started. The grand jury accused Francisca Medina of arson and Justice Medina of tampering with evidence.

Political People and Their Moves

Rene Lara, who left the Texas Federation of Teachers for a gig in Minnesota, is returning. He'll be the new legislative and political director for the Texas AFL-CIO. He'll start in June. That job's been open since Walter Hinojosa retired in 2006.

Terry Franks is leaving Sen. Dan Patrick, D-Houston, and joining House Speaker Tom Craddick. He's been working on the Senate side of the building for 13 years, so this could involve some retraining. Franks will be on Craddick's policy staff.

Craddick appointed Salem Abraham and Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, to the Select Committee on Public School Accountability. Abraham is president and owner of a futures trading company in Canadian and is president of the Canadian ISD school board.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst appointed Dallas banker Ron Steinhart and Sens. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, and Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, to that panel. Steinhart is on the board of Raise Your Hand Texas, as is one of Gov. Rick Perry's appointees, Larry Kellner.

The two legislative leaders have five more appointments to make before that committee can get started.

Gov. Perry made several appointments, naming:

Kent Conine of Dallas as presiding officer of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs and adding two members to that board. Leslie Bingham-Escareno is CEO of Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville, and Tomas Cardenas is president and CEO of ECM International in El Paso.

Gerald Byron Alley of Arlington to the Texas Public Finance Authority. He's the president of Con-Real L.P.

Arlene Marshall of Marshall, Frank Pagel of Tivoli, and Jim Powers of Dripping Springs to the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority Board. Marshall is a former Calhoun County Judge and is president of that county's economic development corporation. Pagel, who's being reappointed, is a farmer. And Powers is a consultant for Stellargy Services and did two terms as Hays County Judge.

Deaths: Former Texas Republican Party Chairman Chester Upham of Mineral Wells, and oil and gas businessman who helped build the modern GOP in the state. He was 82... Neal Miller Jr., bomber pilot, Golden Gloves champ, and longtime lobbyist for Chevron, from congestive heart failure. He was 82.

Quotes of the Week

Robert Ryan, foreman of the grand jury that indicted Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina and his wife, telling the Houston Chronicle what he thought of prosecutors' plans to drop the case (the indictments were later nullified by a district judge): "This is ludicrous. This is not right. This is a miscarriage of justice. If this was David Medina, comma, truck driver, comma, Baytown, Texas, he would have been indicted three months ago."

Luci Davidson, one of Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal's division chiefs, quoted in the Houston Chronicle on the effect his troubles have had on the office: "It's awful. You never know when you wake up and turn on the news what they're going to be saying about us, globally. We're all clumped together on being unethical and racist and liars. It's very depressing, and it's hard to stay focused."

John Moriarty, inspector general for the Texas prison system, quoted in the Austin American-Statesman on plans to let inmates make phone calls that are monitored by authorities: "It's going to be a big job. It'll be like keeping track of all the calls in a city the size of Waco."

Rick Perry spokesman Robert Black, talking about a state senator in an email made public and written about in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Truth can be mean."

Texas Weekly: Volume 25, Issue 4, 28 January 2008. Ross Ramsey, Editor. Copyright 2008 by Printing Production Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. One-year online subscription: $250. For information about your subscription, call (512) 302-5703 or email For news, email, or call (512) 288-6598.

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