THE BIG CONVERSATION:
Halfway through early voting, turnout's up, way up. But something's amiss in Harris County.
Dampening the good news that statewide turnout is so far doubling 2006 totals, the news out of Harris this week has been less than rosy, centering on allegations of voter intimidation. And Thursday brought a laundry list of fishy activity, as noted in today's Houston Chronicle story: "[T]he Harris County district attorney forwarded to the county attorney about a dozen allegations filed by poll watchers; voters called the county attorney about alleged intimidation by poll watchers; constables ejected a woman from a polling station for wearing a political T-shirt; and Commissioner El Franco Lee felt compelled to deny an Internet rumor that he had yelled at poll watchers to leave their posts." (Yeesh.)
Earlier this week, witnesses accused members of King Street Patriots, a Houston Tea Party group, of "shouting misinformation" and "following voters and standing behind them" in minority precincts. The Texas Democratic Party has since sued the Patriots, also seeking to force the group to disclose its donors, from which it is exempted as a nonprofit.
Terence O'Rourke, the first assistant county attorney, said the district attorney hasn't taken any civil action in response to the allegations. "There are many rights that are precious here that are frequently in conflict," O'Rourke told the Chronicle. "The secret ballot is sacred. At the same time, we want to have the most transparent process possible."
O'Rourke dismissed the rumors about Lee's attack on poll watchers, though Lee remained critical of their presence. "Poll watchers historically have been designed to intimidate, and this year they are targeting minority precincts," he said.
And all of happens to be unfolding in Harris County, a battleground this election season in a gubernatorial race that features a former Houston mayor. So far this year, despite the drama, early voting is up in Harris by 210 percent.
- In an interview with WFAA on Thursday, Stephen Broden, the Tea Party-affiliated Republican pastor in an uphill battle to unseat longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, tried to backpedal on a number of controversial statements — including a comparison of the Obama administration to Nazi Germany — he's made since last year. But Broden quickly walked right back into controversy, saying that he wouldn't rule out violent revolution as a "constitutional solution" for Americans angry at the government. "Our nation was founded on violence; the option is on the table," he said.
- The seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Texas' John Cornyn, have called for an investigation into the dismissal of hundreds of immigration cases in Houston — evidence, they say, that points to the Obama administration's selective enforcement of the law.
- The New York Times has a report on Bob Perry, the wealthy Houston home builder and prolific Republican donor who was reported this week to have recently given $7 million — one of the biggest individual political contributions of all time — to American Crossroads, a Karl Rove-backed conservative campaign fund. “I’ve never met him or seen him at any of our events that feature our governors, so he certainly is not seeking access,” says one Republican operative of Perry, who hasn't granted any interviews since news of his donation broke this week.
- And speaking of American Crossroads, the hottest 527 outfit of the moment has found a target in Texas, running an ad against Democrat Chet Edwards in Congressional District 17.
- Republican leads polls for Texas railroad commissioner, but Democrats see chance to win a state office, The Dallas Morning News
- Gay Austin student hopes to re-enlist in military, Austin American-Statesman
- Poll finds Dee Margo still leading, but Joe Moody gaining, El Paso Times
- Slain National Guardsman possibly lived in Juárez, El Paso Times
- E-Voting Suit Reveals Frailties of the Ballot Box, The Texas Tribune