Covert Aid for Lee Brown?

So far, former police chief Lee P. Brown's mayoral bid has yet to make itself official, and probably won't until May, when the Rice professor's academic responsibilities are fulfilled. But at least one reliable source indicates that Mayor Bob Lanier may not wait to begin giving Brown covert aid, including the services of his top political operative, Dave Walden.

Walden denies any intention of working for Brown, but also acknowledges that he's a good Lanier soldier and follows his commander-in-chief's orders. Given Dave's history of denying moves he later made (such as his short-lived work with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and subsequent return to City Hall), that denial almost counts as a confirmation.

Although Brown leaves no doubt he's running for mayor, he diplomatically claims his top priority is finishing his commitment to Rice. He allows that he'd be delighted with any help Big Bob can offer and would welcome Walden with open arms.

Brown also claims to have no worries about the imposing list of downtown types supporting Rob Mosbacher or Mosbacher's early lead in campaign organization. "No, none whatsoever," says Brown, who offers this bit of wisdom: "People that will be supporting me will support me." Those folks, avers the undeclared candidate, include the Three M's: philanthropist John Moores, Gallery Furniture's Jim McIngvale and shopping center king Jerry Moore. Now if Brown can just get that big L on board ....

Invasion of the Mosbaggers
Mosbacher Energy should be well represented on the Houston municipal ballot next November, assuming Representative Ron Wilson doesn't manage to derail term limits and lengthen mayoral residency requirements. Not only is Rob Mosbacher, the company's president and CEO, a declared candidate for mayor, but the firm's senior engineering technologist Annise Parker plans a third run for City Council this year, aiming at the at-large Council seat that is being vacated by another mayoral wannabe, Gracie Saenz.

Parker, an openly gay Montrose community leader, impressed political observers with a gutsy campaign for an at-large City Council seat in 1995, finishing just behind eventual winner John Peavy and his runoff opponent, Katherine Tyra. Parker also ran and lost in 1993 in District C to incumbent Vince Ryan.

Mosbacher and Parker may work for the same company, but don't expect them to run as a team. Parker makes it clear they are hardly political soul mates.

"I'm regularly asked, 'How's your man doing now that he's running for mayor?' " says Parker, "implying that we have similar platforms and similar beliefs. Frankly, I have no idea, because he's never expressed any interest in city issues."

Parker says she's not criticizing her boss, "since he does pay my salary ... [but] I do think it's better to have candidates who have a track record on city issues. And that's one of the things I think I bring to the table."

Some Mosbacher opponents have floated a rumor that as mayor he would support spousal benefits for unmarried city workers who have live-in relationships, be they gay or straight. Parker shoots down that speculation, pointing out that Mosbacher Energy does not provide that kind of coverage for its own workers. When Mosbacher addresses an upcoming Houston Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus power brunch, he may have some explaining to do.

Mosbacher has been a major backer of term limits; Parker opposes the concept. But she is also against the Wilson bill to stretch the limits for city incumbents. "I don't like term limits," she says, "but the citizens of Houston voted and enough is enough. I don't like the idea they're using an 11th-hour push to overturn them."

Rob and Annise aren't the only likely municipal candidates with a Mosbacher Energy connection. Councilmember Chris Bell, who is up for reelection, is married to a former Hot Flash from Mosbacher's band, Midlife Crisis and the Hot Flashes. Alison Bell is no longer a backup singer, but she is still an insurance administrator at Mosbacher Energy.

Never Forgive. Never Forget.
Jon Lindsay may be a state senator now, but it seems he still has scores to settle from his days as Harris County judge. Into the troubled waters of the current legislative session, Lindsay has dropped a number of legislative mines, including a bill that would permit county commissioners to hire outside counsel, effectively undermining the authority of county attorneys.

The bill continues the legal war that Lindsay waged against former county attorney Mike Driscoll for two decades. After Lindsay insisted on appointing outside lawyers for his toll-road projects, Driscoll sued and won a court victory upholding his right to oversee the legal work. Lindsay struck back via a friendly legislator, who sponsored a bill specifically allowing commissioners to appoint toll-road counsel; the bill eventually became law. But Driscoll didn't surrender on other fronts. Instead, he launched another court battle to retain supervision over tax collection efforts, a legal action that continues under recently elected county attorney Mike Fleming.

Behind Lindsay's bill, some county government observers see the hands of the downtown law firm Mayor Day Caldwell & Keeton and its county operative, Bob Collie. Mayor Day provides counsel for Metro and the port commission; if commissioners could hire outside counsel, the firm would be a logical source.

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