Cat fight.......The dirty politics in State Senate District 17 uncharacteristically bubbled over in a candidate forum sponsored by the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce this past week at Sugar Creek Country Club. This following story is why the
Republican party is facing a long winter of discontent.
When Kyle Janek resigned his State Senate seat, and it was decided to fill his unexpired term at the November election instead of earlier, budget conscious people applauded. This meant Texas would not have to pay for a special election which can easily cost several million dollars
as the district winds through Fort Bend, Harris, Jefferson, Chambers, Galveston, and Brazoria counties. It would be decided at the same time as the general election.
But it also meant that multiple candidates and parties could get on the same ballot without having to go through a primary process.
So six candidates signed up: Democrat Chris Bell; another Democrat, Stephanie Simmons, who many said was financed by the Republicans to hurt Bell; and Republicans Joan Huffman, Ken Sherman, Austen Furse, and Grant Harpold.
Austen Furse, served in the White House for Bush 41 in the area of domestic policy planning. Joan Huffman is a former state district judge. Grant Harpold is an attorney and GOP precinct chair. Ken Sherman is a Brazoria engineer who owns his own business.
One day I opened my email and lo and behold there was an email from the “Best for Texas PAC” telling me that former District Judge Joan Huffman (and District 17 candidate) had been absent from her job for 78 days each of the last three years she was in office. The email also said
Judge Huffman had accepted $100,000 campaign contribution from the “godfather of para-mutual horse racing gambling in Texas.”
I thought it was very interesting that Huffman was being slimed by a “Best for Texas” PAC so I went to the Texas Ethic Commission web site and looked up the PAC. It seems the PAC was started by a group of people including Keith Lawyer (Joan Huffman’s husband) and Joan Lawyer, whom
I assume is the married name of Joan Huffman.
So I called Mr. Lawyer at his wife’s campaign headquarters and asked him why he was part of a PAC that was attacking his wife. Perhaps they were divorced?
“No,” Keith Lawyer told me, but several years ago political consultant Allen Blakemore asked him to give him $10 bucks to start a PAC and Lawyer and his wife Joan Huffman did so.
Then recently, he said, Blakemore sent back the $10 bucks to the Lawyers saying that he was afraid they wouldn’t like what the PAC would do.
Well, that was interesting. So I looked at the other filings by the PAC and found it had only one other contribution, that being $300,000 from “Friends of Kyle Janek” PAC. According to Janek, whom I asked, this was the money left over when he resigned from office and he decided to
give it to his good friend Joe Slovacek who shares the same address as Blakemore and Associates.
Well, I became even more curious so I looked up Janek’s last filings and discovered he gave away over $500,000 since he resigned. He gave thousands and thousands of it to Blakemore (including even a $25,000 payment) for consulting fees, and the $300,000 to “Best for Texas PAC.”
Austen Furse’s campaign shares the same address as Blakemore and the address of the contribution to Best for Texas.
So at the chamber lunch, I asked Janek, whom I happened to be sitting with, if he supported anyone in the District 17 race. He said he didn’t, but just gave the leftover money to his good friend Joe Slovacek.
However, the first rattle out of the box, Austen Furse said he had the support of Kyle Janek.
THEN, when it was Judge Huffman’s turn to speak, she called on Furse to retract what he had said about her being absent 78 days and said that a visiting judge had been hired for her because she was hearing capital murder trials.
Furse said anyone elected for this job should be someone who was temperate in their relations with others. Whooo.
Sure enough, the next day Huffman’s campaign sent out a letter saying Furse had retracted about her vacation days. I never got that e-mail. When I called Furse, he admitted he was mistaken about the vacation days and claimed he didn’t make any claims about Huffman’s ties to
gambling. When I told him that the e-mail I got made the gambling claims, he then said that she had indeed received money from gambling interests.
Huffman told me Furse hadn’t had a job since he was grown and that he was etc., etc.,
So Kyle Janek, who first wanted to back former Oiler football player and TV commentator Spencer Tillman, only to find at the last minute that Tillman did not live in the district, ended up giving his left over campaign funds mostly to Allen Blakemore and the Best for Texas PAC
which is backing Austen Furse although Furse’s last reported filing said he had no contributions nor expenditures.
Yep, I think he is wet behind the ears.
And Kyle Janek, who I had always thought was so honorable? He’s just another politician who doesn’t want to give up his power.
So rather that get into a fight with all those Republicans, I’m urging my readers to vote for Democrat Chris Bell. He’s experienced and knowledgeable and has done a good job in whatever position he has been elected in the past. Let’s send him to Austin.
Go ahead, Vote for some Democrats. Body parts won’t fall off!