By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
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By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
And despite a counseling session early in his term from the district attorney's office on Election Code rules regarding contributions and gifts, Eversole spent his lavishly endowed campaign account wildly on golf clothes, gifts and even several firearms. He justified the clothing purchases as items to be auctioned off. Asked to explain why the clothes all seemed to be in his own sizes, he allowed that by wearing them he made them more valuable items at the charity events. He regularly submitted monthly credit card tabs to be paid from the campaign account, and included billings for golf greens fees that were paid by others. The spending spree and questionable documentation earned him eight indictments for perjury and false campaign reporting. So far Eversole has fared well in court, with a recent appellate ruling knocking out the perjury indictments. The D.A.'s office is appealing. (Eversole was unavailable to discuss the campaign and did not return a Press phone inquiry.)
Even with his legal problems, the commissioner remains in the catbird seat in north Harris County. Jon Broadbooks, the executive editor of the Kingwood and Humble Observer newspapers, says that Eversole's standing among voters is high. "He's worked with these people for years and he's extremely popular," says Broadbooks. "The Humble-Kingwood area and Atascocita are probably [among] his strongest bases of support. Even when the court case was at its heights, people were still very, very supportive of Jerry Eversole. And remain so."
Another reason for Eversole's likely staying power is the Republican-controlled Commissioner's Court redistricting plan that sheared much of the minority vote from Eversole's turf. Black voting precincts in Acres Home and the Heights went to Precinct 1's El Franco Lee and Hispanic neighborhoods were transplanted into Jim Fonteno's Precinct 2. What remains is a rock-solid Republican bastion likely to stick with the GOP, no matter how damaged the incumbent, no matter how attractive the Democrat challenger.
So that leaves Lindeman on a quest where money is short and he's likely to be outspent by a huge margin. He's in a contest that's being fought with few personal confrontations between the candidates. No debates between the two have been planned since Eversole pulled out of the only scheduled engagement, and a joint appearance at a Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce gathering allotted brief three minute speeches to each candidate.
Eversole has the backing of Harris County political powers such as Port Commissioner Ned Holmes and Jim Edmonds, chief of the Greater Houston Association business coalition. Lindeman, meanwhile, is being bypassed by big Democratic money in favor of other races where the prospects of victory are brighter. He estimates he's raised about $50,000 so far, and is loaning the campaign an equal amount out of the family account. His only paid media is likely to be radio spots, and not nearly in the quantity Eversole is buying. If this is Politics 101, the tuition is steep.
Lindeman has a knack for residing in neighborhoods that don't quite suit his current vocation. A decade ago the newly hired assistant district attorney and his family lived on a scruffy block in Montrose where street people and drug dealers provided a cultural clash with a Pepto Bismol-pink church with a purple neon Bible sign. Eight years ago the Lindemans moved to Kingwood in the familiar suburban search for better schools, safer neighborhoods and cleaner air. Unfortunately for Lindeman's political ambitions, it's also a place where elected Democrats are rare. Understates Observer editor Broadbooks: "This is a very conservative area. Just going back and looking at previous elections, conservatism certainly does tend to rule here."
So why didn't Lindeman position himself to run in a Democratic district and avoid the uphill climb? "I thought about that," he admits. "But my children are very happy in Kingwood. I had people who suggested I move to [Mike] Andrews' congressional district because they figured he wasn't going to run." Some supporters even suggested Lindeman run for Andrews' congressional seat while living in Kingwood, but, as he explains: "County government I understand, and it needs somebody who understands ethics and law enforcement."
A record number of Harris County assistant prosecutors are running for office this year, but all the others are seeking judicial posts. "I didn't go to law school to be neutral," says Lindeman. "When I worked in the D.A.'s office I enjoyed the advocacy role as a lawyer for the people .... I respect all the work the judiciary does, but it's just not a role I want to assume."
Other than his own cash, Lindeman has little to lose if he's defeated. Any showing better than 40 percent of the vote would be viewed as an achievement by most political observers. As a loyal Democrat running in hostile territory, he establishes party points for support in a future countywide race, including the county attorney position likely to open up at the end of Mike Driscoll's current term. While Lindeman won't say whether he's interested in the post, he immediately inquired whether county judge candidate Vince Ryan is likely to run. (Ryan flatly rules out a campaign for county attorney if he loses his race against Robert Eckels.)