Jockeying began in earnest Monday for the post being vacated by Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt, who announced late last week he was resigning to take a private-sector job.
At least two dozen names were being floated, including potential Houston mayoral candidate Bill King, ousted District Clerk Theresa Chang and Republican political consultant Court Koenning, who was the chief of staff for state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston.
Diane Trautman, a Democrat who lost to Bettencourt in the Nov. 4 election, nominated herself as well, saying Bettencourt's decision "deprived the voters of an opportunity to decide who will lead the tax office at this critical time in our county's future."
The choice now falls to the five members of Commissioners Court, where the Republican Party's three-seat majority makes the selection of a Democrat unlikely.
The court is not expected to discuss the vacancy at today's meeting. The next regularly scheduled meeting is Dec. 23, though the panel could call a special meeting before then. Bettencourt said he is willing to stay on the job until Christmas.
What a swell guy. Let's continue breaking down Liz Peterson's article:
Chang, whom the court picked to replace District Clerk Charles Bacarisse when he resigned to challenge County Judge Ed Emmett in the Republican primary, is the most prominent person openly campaigning for the position. Mary Jane Smith, Chang's campaign consultant, said Chang already has expressed interest to some members of court. ...
Bacarisse also has been mentioned as a possible candidate, but he laughed when asked about his interest in the job. He said he is committed to his role as vice president for advancement at Houston Baptist University.
King, a former Kemah mayor and councilman who previously was managing partner of the law firm that collects delinquent taxes for Harris County and other local governmental entities, shrugged off speculation that he would seek the position. He said he had not given the idea much thought because he is focused on a possible run for Houston mayor or council.
"I guess if the Commissioners Court was interested in me doing it, I would at least talk to them about it," he said.
Overwhelming enthusiasm on your part, Mr. King. You're right; it's probably a lot more work than you really want to do.
Koenning, a former executive director of the Harris County Republican Party, did not return a call.
Among the other possible contenders are four current or former state representatives, four former Houston council members, a Republican judge who recently lost his seat last month, and three others who recently lost bids for various offices.
Mark Ellis, one of the former Houston councilmen named as a possible candidate, said he is happy with his job at an investment bank and wants to continue helping oversee the development of freight and commuter rail in Harris and Fort Bend counties as head of the Gulf Coast Freight Rail District Board.
"I'm interested. I'm intrigued. I'm flattered, but at the end of the day, I think they need to pick somebody who would really want to be a serious candidate for that position, and right now, that doesn't really fit with my life," said Ellis, who has a 4-year-old daughter.
Some current and former members of Bettencourt's staff also have been mentioned as possible successors, including Tom Moon, who spent five years in the tax office's voter registration department before joining the County Clerk's Office.
Moon said he has thrown his hat in the ring, but "it's a very small hat, and it'll probably get stomped on."
I mentioned that Vince mentioned Ed Johnson. Moon and I have exchanged eye contact on Election Night a time or two at Clerk Kaufman's ballot cave. He's as dry and low-key as this quote indicates.
Dwayne Bohac is one of the state representatives interested. I'm guessing Crazy Bob Talton, formerly of HD-144 and HCRP chair Jared WoodenHead's law partner -- also one of the defeated in the scrum last March for the right to replace Nick Lampson in CD-22 -- is a name in the hat as well. Recent GOP councilpersons include Michael Berry and Pam Holm. There's more than 20 Republican judges who lost their jobs last month. Oh yeah, Tommy Thomas and Mike Stafford. I'm pretty sure neither one of those two is in the running.
Another guess: nobody currently serving in the Lege is going to get it. At least not until Tom Craddick's fate is known, and unless a meteor falls from the sky and takes him out, that won't be before January 13, when the Texas Legislature convenes for its 81st session. We'll have somebody by December 23, as Peterson indicates.
Commissioner Sylvia Garcia said she is backing Trautman, but knows there is little chance the education professor would prevail. She said she also has asked lawyers to investigate whether there is a way for the court to call an election before 2010. Barring either of those options, she said the court should appoint a "caretaker" who will promise not to run for re-election in two years.
"I think it is an affront to the voters, and I think the voters should speak loudly," she said. "We should really hear a public outcry about this and why we're being put in this position."
Sylvia is trying to muster some outrage, but nobody whose vote matters is paying her any attention.
Bettencourt has said serious discussions about his new job did not occur until after the election. He said the January filing deadline for re-election is so early, incumbents have no way of knowing where they will be in life nearly a year later.
"People can express whatever opinion they would like, God bless 'em," he said.
God bless you too Paul, you sorry son of a bitch.