Saturday, June 19, 2010

When It’s This Close, Don’t Get A Red Light Snapshot

Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving), State Rep in Texas HD 105, has had it fairly easy since first being elected to her State House seat in 2002. A product of redistricting that turned HD 105 from a 65% Democratic-safe district to a 75% Republican-safe district, augmented by the Tom DeLay TRMPAC/ARMPAC sweetheart deal that swept in a Republican majority in the State House in 2002, Harper-Brown has kept up her end of the deal by voting a strict conservative line.

Easy, that is up until the last election cycle when Harper-Brown eked out a victory over three time opponent Bob Romano by fractions of a percent (19,857 votes – 48.72% to 19,838 votes – 48.67%). Indeed, each and every election cycle the margin has rapidly approached parity. Look at the history:

2000: Tony Aguilar (R) 9,470 votes (36.35%)
          Dale Tillery (D) 16,576 votes (63.64%)

2002: Linda Harper Brown (R) 13,464 votes (75.84%)
          [No Democratic Opponent]

2004: Linda Harper-Brown (R) 21,599 votes (59.2%)
          Mike Moore (D) 14,884 votes (40.79%)

2006: Linda Harper-Brown (R) 11,881 votes (55.08%)
          Bob Romano (D) 8,865 votes (41.1%)

2008: Linda Harper-Brown (R) 19,857 votes (48.72%)
          Bob Romano (D) 19,838 votes (48.67%)

The trend is clear and HD 105 is ripe for a turnover to the Democratic Party candidate.

So when it’s this close, you don’t want any negative press on either side, do you?

Enter the Texas Values in Action Coalition, a Democratic political action group that has forwarded information about Harper-Brown’s possible ethics violations to state and federal authorities. Harper-Brown, who sits on the powerful Transportation Committee and who has touted the use of so-called “Red Light Cameras” by local municipalities apparently has the use of a 2010 Mercedes E550 sedan bought, paid for, and registered under the name of Durable Enterprises Equipment Ltd.

Durable Enterprises Equipment Ltd, and other companies owned by the same individual have received over $12.3 million in contracts from the Texas Dept. of Transportation in the past 3 years. Another company owned by the same individual, Paradigm Traffic Systems, Inc., produces parts for Red Light Camera systems.

The relationship is odious, but Harper-Brown’s spouse, who owns an accounting firm, claims that these are compensations for his work for those companies, and not for her work in the State House.

All of that aside. Whether this is legal or not, whether it is ethical or not, it certainly smells to high heaven. And in a year when Texans are becoming fed-up with sweetheart deals, and in a district where a mere 19 votes stood between victory and defeat in 2008, Harper-Brown should have known better.
Especially because this year, Harper-Brown will not be facing another man. This year Harper-Brown faces a very credible opponent in Loretta Haldenwang.

Between Haldenwang’s creds and the Mercedes Mess this is a perfect storm that will be fun to watch come November.

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