Truth or Consequences

Jon Lindsay is an admitted liar and an accused perjurer. Should Harris County voters take him at his word - again?

One Daughter of Liberty, the wife of a major Harris County GOP contributor, suggests there is a hidden backlash vote lying in wait for Lindsay come primary day. Asking for anonymity, she opined that her friends were remaining publicly polite to Lindsay's face but planned to vote for Dumas.

"Republicans have got to put up people with a clean record," she whispered outside earshot of the gathering. "I'm not sure everybody even believes that what he was accused of was all valid, but they believe probably some of it was. We can't put up people who have a gray area."

If anybody comes in shades of gray, it's Jon Lindsay.
The Daughters' difficulties in accepting Lindsay's less-than-doctrinaire stance raises the question: have his worldly ways made him too liberal for his old stomping grounds in District 7? Asked later about the chilly reception at the Fondren restaurant, Lindsay says, "You're judging by a group of ladies that are probably, I wouldn't say all of them, but a percentage of those ladies you saw the other day would be more conservative or ideological than I am in some ways."

Which ways, for instance?
Well, Lindsay suggests, some folks might even consider him a liberal on "children and mental health-mental retardation and hospital" issues.

"You don't really find too many Republicans who really have an interest in those kinds of things," he avers.

If the crowd at Vargo's didn't constitute a Lindsay constituency, those who had gathered for a fundraiser the previous evening at the Piney Point home of C. Jim Stewart were much more to Lindsay's taste. Of course, Stewart, head of the massive manufacturing conglomerate Stewart and Stevenson, might have reason to sympathize with Lindsay's legal plight, since Stewart and Stevenson and four of its employees are under federal indictment for fraud, conspiracy and making false statements in connection with an Air Force subcontract to supply diesel generators to Saudi Arabia. The company was also temporarily banned from doing business with the federal government. In Lindsay's circles, that's akin to being chased out of Eden.

The event at Stewart's home had been organized by former Metro board member P.J. Lionetti, and the mayors of the upscale west-side villages had turned out to give Lindsay a mass endorsement and make it clear they considered all that negative stuff about the judge to be, well, just unproven allegations. Never mind that most of them had never even bothered to meet the current holder of the office, Don Henderson, and that no one could recall the mayors doing a joint endorsement in a political race before.

The milieu was pragmatic Republican, and the participants included the likes of Bob Lanier intimate and Metro trustee Holcombe Crosswell; County Clerk Beverly Kaufman, a onetime Lindsay assistant who received large contributions from him in her own 1994 campaign; and State Representative Beverly Woolley, who, with Lindsay's support, narrowly survived a challenge from the far right two years ago. The candidate circulated easily, at home with people who measure accomplishments in terms of road funding and contracts for government work rather than moral stances against abortion, homosexuality and liberal Democrats.

Dumas, in fact, says the group that convened at the Stewart home is typical of Lindsay's base of support.

"There are those who will ignore [the ethical issues] simply because they have in the past profited from their association with my opponent," he says. "They'll vote for him to see that situation arise again, in some form or fashion."

Dumas should hardly be surprised by the coalition behind Lindsay. From the start of his professional life in Harris County back in the mid-'60s, Lindsay has pursued a career based on the confluence of interest between elected officials and the private companies they hire for public works. In doing so, he's amassed a sizable personal fortune, as well as the substantial campaign fund that he's put to all sorts of creative uses.

Denver-born Jon Lindsay grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the son of a nurse and a door-to-door salesman who never had much money, but did manage to purchase land that later escalated in value as the city became a playground for the arty and the rich. Lindsay earned an engineering degree through a work-study program at New Mexico State, where he met future wife Tonita Davis, a home economics major, in the school cafeteria. During summers he worked in the electronics shop and ran construction crews on the White Sands missile range, and later surveyed for the U.S. Forestry Service in Montana. After graduation, he took a commission in the Air Force as an engineer and eventually, through an odd coincidence, wound up in Houston. Lindsay had already perused an engineering magazine, found a hundred companies, and wrote them all. Ten job offers, including one from Brown & Root in Houston, came back.

During the closing stages of his Air Force hitch, Lindsay had worked with a Korean Air Force major assigned to his unit to learn American procedures. "He had a buddy on the Air Force base in San Antonio," recalls Lindsay. "They went to a San Antonio bar, were drinking, and met a contractor from Houston who was looking for a civil engineer. He called from that bar that night and he offered me the job." The pay was $600 a month, better than the salary offered by Brown & Root, so Lindsay packed up the family, which now included two young boys, and moved to Houston.

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