Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tuesday's Bettencourt Follies

This promises to be the holiday gift that keeps on giving. First, the Texas Democratic Party will have a press conference tomorrow morning to announce the next step in their legal action against Paul Quittencourt:

Bettencourt's announcement that he would resign came suspiciously the day after additional legal activity was undertaken by the Texas Democratic Party—action which could shed light on misdeeds that have occurred within Bettencourt's office for years. It appears Paul Bettencourt is hoping that he can sneak off behind a late-night resignation announcement and the problems facing his office will simply go away. But that is not the case.

“The TDP will continue its efforts to bring accountability and transparency to the Harris County voter registration process. And Paul Bettencourt will have to take responsibility for any wrongdoing that has occurred within his office,” said TDP attorney Chad Dunn.

Wednesday December 10, at 10:30 a.m., at 1300 McGowen in Midtown. I'm going to try like hell to be there.

And Liz Peterson has a couple of interesting developments to report:

The Harris County Administration Building is still abuzz with rumors over who'll get picked to replace Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt.

The most intriguing scenario mentioned so far involves the possible nomination of Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, who would give up her seat to position herself to challenge County Judge Ed Emmett in 2010 or to run for a statewide office.

Picking Garcia would give a Democrat control of the voter registration process, something that party has got to want. But Emmett would get to pick her replacement, likely giving the GOP a fourth seat at the table.

Garcia said the rumor is "absolutely not true."

Color me skeptical as well. But this is definitely more intriguing ...

The new Republican supermajority could just move the voter registration duties from the tax office to the County Clerk's office, headed by Republican Beverly Kaufman.

That idea, apart from any Garcia chatter, is already being circulated by Jim Harding, a Republican who chairs the county's bipartisan ballot board.

Last month, he blamed faulty work by Bettencourt's staff for delaying the counting process. Harding's comments triggered a bit of a brouhaha after Bettencourt left an emotional message on his answering machine.

In an e-mail to Commissioner Jerry Eversole, Kaufman and leaders of the Harris County Republican Party, Harding said such a move would "streamline all of the voter activity from initial registration to final certification of an election under County Clerk leadership."

This shift of responsibility seems to me to be distinctly possible, given the controversy of Bettencourt's tenure as voter registrar, the steadier reputation of Kaufman, and more significantly the rumors of her retirement before 2010, when the election of County Clerk is scheduled to appear on the ballot. I doubt Ms. Kaufman is anxious to take on the management of this rather large task at the end of her career. Furthermore, Councilwoman Sue Lovell is strongly rumored to be interested in the job, with Kaufman in the race or not (Kuffner notes Lovell has a few unfriendlies).

More juicy details in tomorrow's Follies, without a doubt.

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