Today Lisa Falkenberg takes a look at cheating within the GOP on those fake signatures. The Party that always makes a big deal about ballot integrity and security is eerily silent on what just happened in their front yard. Come on! Say something! Where is the outrage! Here is the Falkenberg column:
George Risner, a longtime Pasadena justice of the peace, says he got his 250 signatures to run for office the old-fashioned way. He solicited a civic club, took a clip board to a Houston public school polling place in November, went door to door with neighborhood ladies in Pleasantville.
It never occurred to him, he says, that he could just pay somebody else to do it.
“In 28 years – I know at least 100 judges real well, both Republican and Democrat – I’ve never known any judge paying an outside person to get their signatures,” the Democrat Precinct 2 Place 2 justice of the peace told me Thursday. “Most of them told me they didn’t even know you could do that. You’re talking about money, which most of us don’t have. And, it’s kind of a way to meet and greet your voters, who will vote for you later on.”
Apparently, his Republican challenger didn’t see it that way. Leonila Olivares Salazar turned to someone else to get her signatures. And it seems they didn’t want the job, either.
Risner says Salazar’s petitions were full of falsified signatures, a claim he says he verified himself by knocking on doors to question Republican voters whose names were used.
This week, Risner sued the Harris County Republican Party, arguing that it violated election law by allowing Salazar on the ballot even though party officials had been notified of the alleged forgeries.
Question of integrity
Party Chairman Jared Woodfill told reporters after a Thursday court hearing that he got word of irregularities too late. Meanwhile, questions are swirling about whether any other judicial races will be affected.
Party chairmen say most of their judicial candidates get signatures themselves, or at signing parties sponsored by the party, but they’re aware that some turn to outside individuals for help.
Terry O’Rourke, special counsel to the Harris County attorney, has said his office is working with the District Attorney’s Office to review all judicial races, both Republican and Democrat.
“We regard it as extraordinarily serious. This appears to be forgeries and a fraud on the election,” O’Rourke said this week, referring to the Pasadena race. “This goes to the heart of the integrity of the judicial system of the state of Texas.”
Buck Wood, a veteran Austin election lawyer who is representing Risner, says the Legislature began requiring judicial candidates in the largest counties to get signatures as a way to cut down on candidates whose qualifications amounted to little more than, say, a common, voter-friendly name. He says many judges despise the tedious process, though, and it’s become more common for candidates to hire somebody else to do it.
“It’s getting to be more prevalent and that’s leading to these kinds of situations,” Wood told me. “First of all, they get people who maybe don’t even know it’s against the law and they go and do this crazy stuff. Or maybe they know it’s against the law but they don’t care.”
Not the first time
The kind of election fraud alleged in Salazar’s race isn’t new.
Wood and others have cited an infamous Harris County case in the late 1980s where a Republican political consultant named Rocky Mountain – yes, that’s his actual name – admitted plying a group of Houston teenagers with beer and telling them to “drink up” and “sign some petitions” during what became known as a “forging party” aimed at getting former Delaware Gov. “Pete” du Pont on the Republican presidential primary ballot in Texas.
The teens, hired as temp workers, copied names off voter registration lists onto the petitions, girls signing women’s names, boys signing men’s names, all instructed to occasionally change pens. Mountain received a one-year probated sentence and, along with his political consulting firm, fines totaling $50,000 after a forgery conviction.
Wood said he wouldn’t be surprised if similar problems are found in other judicial races. Several of the petition “circulators” named in the case apparently are hired by other candidates of both parties.
Woodfill said Thursday he’s concerned about two races, but said he couldn’t recall the name of candidates in the other race.
County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis said there are several candidate petitions he believes may be affected, none from Democrats.
I asked how he could be so sure. He cited the party’s efforts to train judicial candidates on the law and the fact that, after Risner raised red flags, Lewis ordered staffers to review Democratic petitions and came up with no evidence of forgery.
As for Risner, yes, he’s hoping his Republican opponent gets booted off the ballot at some point so he can be assured re-election. But he doesn’t seem too put out by the whole ordeal. He says he actually made some Republican friends as he went door-to-door trying to verify their signatures on the petition.
Risner’s shoe-leather sleuthing no doubt stands in contrast to his opponent’s hands-off approach to gathering 250 signatures.
“If it’s not laziness, I don’t know what it is,” Risner says about candidates who hire out petitions. “You’re way too busy for the job.”
Greg Maddux says he won’t have a team logo on his lid for his Hall of Fame plaque. Name the different lids he wore during his MLB playing career.
Commentary attended the HCC Trustees Official Swearing-In Ceremony yesterday. I tweeted that David Wilson was not there. He actually was there but opted out of the public swearing-in. He walked in after the ceremony. He told me he didn’t want to rub salt into some wounds. I told him I didn’t think anyone there would have been too upset.
The Dean attended and was invited to say remarks.
New HCC Trustee Adriana Tamez gave her remarks in English and in Spanish – cool.
FYI – Adriana was actually officially sworn-in on December 23.
Commentary was out on the road this morning and traffic was light.
Greg Maddux wore Cubbie, The ATL, the Dodger blue, and Padres lids of course.
Nothing from The Yard today.
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