This hyper-congenial county tax assessor-collector has burnished his image with consumer-oriented reforms, while at the same time utilizing the office as an attack arm of the local GOP. Bettencourt has churned out studies criticizing Mayor Lee Brown's tax policies, not so coincidentally the identical position as his political mentor, Harris County Republican Party chair Gary Polland. He's also become a major resource for the party in the current redistricting battle to keep the county Commissioners Court dominated by Republicans through 2010. His weakest performance came in a halfhearted effort to defeat the second referendum to build a downtown basketball arena. Apparently under pressure from downtown interests, Bettencourt conveniently muted his opposition as the arena proposition easily won approval. Don't be surprised if somewhere down the road, he and this year's Best Democrat, Eric Andell, meet head-on in a contest for the county judgeship currently held by Robert Eckels.