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Late Hits

We take you now to Runoff Land, where a handful of candidates are still smacking each other for a chance at their party's nomination.

We take you now to Runoff Land, where a handful of candidates are still smacking each other for a chance at their party's nomination.

Fred Roberts is after Ken Legler for using his Social Security number in a mailer. The Legler gang says it was a mistake, but Roberts says he's filing criminal complaints and civil suits as a result. He says it'll lead to identity theft. The risk in bringing it up: Roberts brings attention to a Legler mailer that attacked him for unsettled federal tax debts. That's a GOP runoff, in HD-144.

Late money for Roberts came from the Texas Parent PAC, $10,000. Legler got runoff help from Houston builder Bob Perry, $25,000; Beer distributor John Nau III, $10,000; Dallas billionaire Robert Rowling, $10,000; and Empower Texans PAC, $6,901.

Ralph Sheffield, with third-party help, took a swing at Martha Tyroch for her spending during a Washington, D.C., trip she took while on the Temple City Council. The details: She upgraded to a $450 per night room at the Mayflower Hotel and had a $30, seven-block cab fare on her expense report. The allegations didn't come from the Sheffield camp, but from Austin-based Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. The two Republicans are in a runoff in HD-55.

The only late money in that race was a $10,000 check to Sheffield from Dr. James Leininger of San Antonio, who's also one of the biggest backers of TFR. Tyroch's biggest helpers are the Texas Association of Realtors PAC, which gave $33,541 since the primary election.

Tryon Lewis hasn't been able to get a debate scheduled with Rep. Buddy West in HD-81. "We have a number of differences," says Lewis, a former district judge currently in private practice as an attorney in Odessa. "Mainly public education, the gross margins tax and immigration."

Lewis says his opponent voted for the 2006 gross margin tax (which pays for cuts in school property taxes). He thinks it should be "eliminated or strongly changed." He hasn't proposed an alternative. Lewis isn't a fan of the TAKS test, but says West sponsors it. He also criticizes his opponent's position on giving drivers licenses and in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. He says he hasn't attacked anything about West but his voting record. We called West — he's not available for interviews, according to aides. Jesse Gore and Randy Rives — the other two primary candidates – are backing West.

Notable: West's post-primary contributors include a half-dozen of his House colleagues: Byron Cook, $500; Delwin Jones, $1,000; Edmund Kuempel, $2,000; Tommy Merritt, $1,000; Jim Pitts, $10,000; and Allan Ritter, $2,500.

• The HD-112 race — a remarkably hard-fought race to succeed Fred Hill in the House — has a mess of interesting money floating around. Since the primaries cut the field from three to two, Angie Button got money from Sen. John Carona, $5,000; Texas Instruments Chairman Thomas Engibous, $10,000; Hyperion CEO Albert Huddleston, $5,000; Diodes Inc. CEO Keh-Shew Lu, $10,000; former Texas Republican Party Chair Fred Meyer, $2,500; and finally, a $150,000 loan from the candidate herself, bringing her total loan balance to $310,000. Randy Dunning's purse isn't as large. He got $5,000 from Bob Perry, $10,000 from the Texas Home School Coalition PAC, and $7,569 from Empower Texans PAC (which makes in-kind expenditures instead of giving money).

At the end, Dunning lost the support of one of the state's best-known conservative financiers. Button, gleefully announced that Dr. James Leininger of San Antonio decided to get off the Dunning bandwagon. According to Button, Leininger called to say he won't give further support to Dunning and didn't give any specific reason other than saying he'd been misled.

Her camp is stepping up the attacks in these last days before the start of early voting. They're also shooting at Dunning for a letter to The Dallas Morning News in which he blasted the federal government for its handling of the Branch Davidian standoff near Waco. In a press release, she referred to Dunning's "fascination with the lunatic fringe" and his "ravings."

Leininger has given $15,000 to Dunning's campaign. Among his other contributions this cycle is a $100,000 donation to Empower Texas PAC, a group that "continues to proudly support" Dunning, according to Michael Quinn Sullivan, the exec there.

In a written statement, Dunning acknowledged the Leininger defection without naming him, saying, "our campaign is not and has never been about the agenda of one person." And then he renewed his attacks on Button for supporting Democrats — like Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk — in past elections.

Gunplay in Williamson County

With less than a week to go, the candidates in HD-52 are finally arguing about something.

Both Dee Hobbs and Bryan Daniel have capitalized on their positive, clean campaigning. They debate the issues, shake hands and make jokes. But on Mar. 25, Daniel sent out a mail piece showing the Texas State Rifle Association's rating of the candidates — "A" for Daniel and "hostile toward 2nd Amendment issues" for Hobbs. Then, Hobbs responded with an e-mail defending what he said was an A rating for himself, too. A letter from TSRA dated Mar. 19 proves that. Wait, there's more. On the 27th, Daniel sent out another mail piece with a side-by-side comparison of the candidates on issues and endorsements. It mainly shows how Daniel's got big conservative PACs — like Texas Right to Life and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility — on his side and Hobbs doesn't. It also repeats TSRA grade of "hostile." So, Hobbs sent another retort.

Alice Tripp, the legislative director for TSRA PAC, says the NRA mails the candidate questionnaire in January to every state candidate and asks for it to be returned to TSRA Feb. 4.

"Daniel and 99.9 percent of the other candidates got it in immediately," Tripp says. "That cutoff date is to build a sense of urgency."

Tripp says she wanted to get the info on the Web site by Feb. 19, on the 14, she noticed the one from Hobbs was missing. Apparently, he was the only Republican that hadn't returned the questionnaire. She couldn't get a hold of him, so she had to give him a rating of "?" which on their legend equals "should be considered hostile to 2nd Amendment issues."

"I didn't assign him that title," Tripp says. "He took it on himself."

Hobbs and Tripp e-mailed some and eventually, he got the questionnaire in on the 19. The same day, Tripp sent Hobbs a letter saying his answers gave him an "A" rating. But, she didn't change the voter's guide on the TSRA PAC site right away. She didn't change it until the early morning hours of the 28th — there's a footnote explaining Hobbs' tardiness there, too.

Daniel says when he sent both mail pieces, the voter's guide still showed "?" next to Hobbs. Anyone could find that info by checking the site. He checked it again after sending the mail pieces on the 27th and found an "A" next to his opponent's name and says he called the post office and tried to stop it. Too late.

So what does Hobbs have to say about all this? He says his questionnaire didn't come on time and as soon as he got it, he sent it in. That would be just before Mar. 19.

"His mail piece makes people think I'm hostile to every Republican issue out there," Hobbs says. "You start talking to Texans about taking their guns away and they're going to ask questions. Even people who don't have guns will fight for the right for their neighbor to have one."

Daniel says he doesn't think the conflict will be beneficial or harmful for either candidate — and he's frustrated that the site changed before voters received his mail piece.

"I'm in an unenviable position," he says. "Some voters think he just submitted the questionnaire for political gain, others think that he's hiding something, but that's not for me to decide. I didn't make a personal judgment here."

— by Karie Meltzer

From the Debunking Squad

Texas House candidate Ken Legler owns properties in Harris and Galveston counties, but don't buy the line that he's got homestead exemptions on both of them. Local tax officials say it ain't so, in spite of what they've posted on the Internet.

Texas law only allows one homestead exemption per taxpayer. Former Rep. Gene Seaman, R-Corpus Christi, lost a reelection bid two years ago with a similar issue playing a role; he had exemptions on properties in Travis and Nueces counties, and blamed his wife for the mistake. Legler's foes thought they caught him making the same mistake, but it's a bogus claim.

The websites for the appraisal districts in Galveston and in Harris counties indicate Legler has homestead exemptions in both places.

But the Galveston website is out of date. It's got the old owner listed (though Barbara Legler shows up on a tax payment) and says there's a homestead exemption. Officials with the Galveston Central Appraisal District say they're in the process of updating it, and say the Leglers don't have and haven't applied for a homestead exemption there. The Harris County exemption — that's the house that's in teh House district — is apparently the only one they've got.

Legler's daughter goes to Friendswood High School, which is in neither the school district nor the House district where Legler is running for office. But he's got a house in both places.

Macias Goes to Court

After coming up short in the official recount, state Rep. Nathan Macias, R-Bulverde, is going to court to try to keep his seat.

A copy of the lawsuit is posted here. One point of attack: He contends a "fairly large" number of people voted in both the Republican and Democratic primaries.

Macias lost the election by 38 votes in the initial count. The recount closed that to 17. He won the seat two years ago by a similarly narrow margin. His opponent then, Rep. Carter Casteel, elected not to go to court.

The winner, for the moment, is Doug Miller, former Mayor of New Braunfels.

Macias' lawyers — Rene Diaz and Trey Trainor — say Miller benefitted from some votes that shouldn't have been counted, and that Macias suffered because election officials didn't count some votes they should have counted. They contend the number of questionable votes was greater than Miller's margin of victory. And they're asking the court to either figure out the real result or order a new election.

Miller says he was "saddened" by the lawsuit and compared Macias' effort to Al Gore's push for a Florida recount in 2000: "You hope the guy would do the right thing and allow the voice of the people to be heard."

Moonlighting

As long as you don't have a direct conflict of interest, you can apparently work for the state and have a private law practice at the same time.

House staffer Trey Trainor is working off hours as an attorney on an election law case — an arrangement that's unusual, but apparently legal.

Trainor is one of two lawyers representing Macias in his suit seeking to overturn the primary election that ousted him after one term by 17 votes.

Trainor is also the clerk of the House Committee on Regulated Industries and a top aide to its chairman, Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford.

He admits it's an unusual circumstance, but says he checked state law and the House's own rules before signing on with the lead lawyer in the case, former Judge Rene Diaz. He's not representing anyone with business before the House or the committee, and the rules of the House say you can have a second job if you've got your employer's approval. King, he says, approved. And, he adds, he's not working on the case on House time.

He says he's done legal work for his family while on the state payroll. And he's listed with the Republican National Lawyer's Association in the "hire a Republican lawyer" section.

Trainor says he's involved because of what he knows about election law after working for a year for then-Secretary of State Roger Williams. "I have a unique perspective," he says.

Doug Miller, who won the primary — at least so far — says Trainor's involvement surprised him. "He was on the recount team, too," Miller said. "It amazes me... like a Republican governor giving $20,000 in a Republican primary. What's going on here?"

Gov. Rick Perry contributed that amount to Macias.

Dirty Laundry

One loop in the race for Travis County District Attorney works like this:

1. An anonymously authored political website posts "news" that House Parliamentarian Terry Keel is helping candidate Mindy Montford.

2. The other candidate — Rosemary Lehmberg — sends out mailers (see below) repeating that and other bits from blogs, a statewide political journal, and the local paper.

That's not an unusual two-step in the political ecosystem. But there's potentially a dirty trick in this example. It turns out that political consultant Kelly Fero, who's working for Lehmberg in this race, is the anonymous blogger on that first website (credit the first report on that to the Austin American-Statesman). He apparently wrote the bit about Keel, and still vouches for it (though he didn't sign it at the time).

Keel, who works for House Speaker Tom Craddick, says he hasn't played any role in any of the DA campaigns. He's not saying explicitly what he'll do, but expect legal action that hits on libel, slander, campaign finance, and political ethics.

Keel's involvement in the race would be a big deal, if true. He's a former first assistant to DA Ronnie Earle (as Lehmberg, Earle's favorite in the DA race, is now). Earle has been in Craddick's political business since the 2002 election that put Craddick in power, so Keel, who's generally been a defender and friend of Earle's, might have a motive to get involved.

Whatever his motive, he researched the Austin Political Report, called the registrars in Bryan/College Station, found out Fero was the owner, and called foul. He's not commenting further at this point because of "pending litigation."

So be agnostic about this for a minute. The election is Tuesday, and chances are good that voters will go to the polls either suspecting Montford of getting help from Republicans, or suspecting Lehmberg of paying for laundered news she could use in her political mailers to slime the opposition.

Who's the trickster? We'll know sometime after Election Day. And if there is a crime under all of this, the prosecutor in charge would be... the candidate who wins next week.

Flotsam & Jetsam

On the eve of their county and Senate district caucuses, Texas Democrats were telling their voters that the deal was still on and that rumors of cancellations were untrue. They got reports at the state party headquarters of people sending emails and making automated calls to tell delegates that the caucuses have been canceled. Apparently, few people bought it: The Democrats say their regional meetups drew 100,000. It's not final until June, but both sides admit Barack Obama will get out of Texas with a win over Hillary Clinton in the only numbers that count toward a nomination: delegates.

• The Houston Chronicle, following its sister paper in San Antonio, is dropping distribution in Austin and other spots outside of the main service area. Both papers are owned by the Hearst Corp. By this time next week, neither will be available in racks in the state capital nor for home delivery. Get thee to the Internet; both are free online, at chron.com and at mysanantonio.com.

Political People and Their Moves

Glenn Shankle will leave the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, where he's the executive director, as soon as his replacement is named (they want someone new in place before the start of the legislative session in January 2009). He told the board this week and they'll start a search to replace him. One name in the hat is Shankle's number two, Mark Vickery. Shankle held the post since mid-2004 and worked for the agency for a decade before that. In fact, he retired once before and returned, joining zillions of other long-term state employees allowed by the Legislature to collect retirement checks and paychecks at the same time. Before he joined the environmental agency, Shankle worked in the Texas Senate and for the Comptroller of Public Accounts.

Dr. Kenneth Shine will take over as interim chancellor of the University of Texas System. He's currently the vice chancellor for health affairs and will fill in until the Board of Regents names a permanent replacement for Mark Yudof, who's leaving to run the University of California System.

Tom Krampitz is leaving the Texas Motor Speedway, where he's been general counsel and head of government affairs for six years, to hang his own shingle in Fort Worth. He's the former head of the District and County Attorneys Association in Austin; he'll specialize in transportation and economic development.

State Sens. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio and Kirk Watson of Austin will co-chair the Texas Democratic Party's state convention in Austin in June. Keeping score? She's for Clinton. He's for Obama.

Ken Anderson, appointments director for Gov. Rick Perry for the last six years, is moving on. That job goes to his deputy, Theresa Spears, who's worked for several years in Perry's political office with grassroots groups and issues. From her new perch, she'll handle Perry's appointments, the latest of which include:

Luke Inman of Wellington as district attorney for the five-county 100th judicial district. He's a private attorney and will replace Stuart Messer of Memphis, who left the job when Perry appointed him to a judgeship.

• Ten new members to the Brazos River Authority Board and named Christopher DeCluitt of Waco to chair that panel. The newbies include Patricia Bailon, a retired political consultant from Belton; Richard Ball, co-owner of Wes-Tex Vending Co. in Mineral Wells; Grady Barr, president of Double Barr Corp. in Abilene; F. LeRoy Bell, president of Compass Financial Strategies in Tuscola; Peter Bennis, CEO of First State Bank Texas in Cleburne; Zach Brady, a Lubbock attorney; John Brieden, a Brenham insurance agent; John Sloan, president of First Texas Bank Round Rock; Scott Smith, a consultant with A.G. Edwards & Sons in Cedar Park; and Salvatore Zaccagnino, an associate at LPL Financial Services in Caldwell.

• Seven new members to the Office of Rural Community Affairs and put Wallace Klussman, a rancher and retired Texas A&M University professor, in the chairman's spot. The new members are David Alders of Nacogdoches, president of Carrizo Creek Corp. and manager of Alders' Enterprises; Woodrow Anderson, owner of Anderson Farms in Colorado City; Bedias Mayor Mackie Bobo, an education consultant; Charles Butts, CEO of Medical Arts Hospital in Lamesa; Remelle Farrar of Crowell, director of the Knox County Visioning Team and the Texas Prairie Rivers Region; Joaquin Rodriguez, an Eagle Pass attorney; Linda Saenz, who owns a realty company in Carrizo Springs; and Patrick Wallace of Athens, an administrator at East Texas Medical Center there.

John Eckstrum of Montgomery to run the Texas Real Estate Commission, and named Avis Wukasch of Georgetown to an open spot on that board. Both are real estate brokers.

William Berry James of Palestine to the Upper Neches River Municipal Water Authority Board of Directors. He's an orthodontist. And he'll replace Joe Crutcher of Palestine.

Douglas Saunders, who owns an eponymous company in Amarillo, to the Oil Field Cleanup Fund Advisory Committee.

Lewis McMahan of Dallas to the Texas Water Development Board in place of William Meadows of Fort Worth. McMahan is a retired veep at Texas Instruments.

• Named David Duree of Odessa the chairman of the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy and added Stephen Peña of Georgetown to that panel. Both men are CPAs.

Maybe he did something bad in a previous life: Chris Lippincott is the new head of media relations for the Texas Department of Transportation. He joined that agency after a stint with the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault and until now was in the federal legislative affairs section.

Nora Belcher, until recently the deputy director of the governor's budget staff, left the Pink Building for Strategic Partnerships, where she'll be a senior consultant.

Republican consultant David Weeks — founder of Austin-based Weeks & Co. — is this year's "outstanding alumnus" of the College of Communications at the University of Texas.

Deaths: Darshoel "D" Willis, who for years was the clerk to the House Committee on Business and Industry, of cancer. He was 33.

Quotes of the Week

Former Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox, quoted in the Austin American-Statesman, telling Hays County Democrats he'd seen polls showing supporters of Clinton and Obama saying they wouldn't support the other candidate against the Republicans in November: "If you understand the math at all, that defeats you right there. What's more, if you are part of that 16 percent, you need to get up and get the hell out of here right now."

Democrat Gwendolyn Cline, quoted by the San Antonio Express-News on her way out of the senatorial district caucus, where she started as a delegate and wound up as an alternate to the state convention: "I'm not going away mad. But I am leaving confused."

Senate District 17 Chairman Bert Anson, caught during the caucuses by the Houston Chronicle: "It's going very good. I've only been yelled at and cursed twice. I've only lost my temper once. No, I've lost my temper twice."

Texas A&M Athletic Director Bill Byrne, quoted in The New York Times on the success of women's basketball and other sports there: "We've been trying to change the culture, as far as making sure every sport is important. Football is very important in Texas, but I've always had the philosophy that when you keep score, you might as well try to win."

Democratic strategist Morris Reid, talking about modern campaigns in the Houston Chronicle: "You really have to be able to have an online and an offline strategy to address all the misinformation that's out there. There is no policing, no arbiter of last resort on the Internet, and you have to worry about your reputation all the time."

Gov. Rick Perry, quoted by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times: "I have a lot of things I want to get done during the next session. If I get those things done I may ride off into the sunset. But if I don't I'll run for re-election."

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who's talking about running for governor, quoted by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on the prospect of Perry seeking another full term in 2010: "Whatever."


Texas Weekly: Volume 25, Issue 14, 7 April 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 biz@texasweekly.com. For news, email ramsey@texasweekly.com, or call (512) 288-6598.

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