Political Flights of Fancy

Dem Hispanic stars collide while a resigning judge targets the county attorney

Devine was reportedly angry after Fleming and Stafford authored a legal opinion against the Metropolitan Transit Authority holding an area-wide light rail referendum. As a judge, Devine issued an order stopping the rail project, but the Texas Supreme Court overturned his ruling and the Main Street rail construction went forward.

Stafford consultant Allen Blakemore says Devine has been on an erratic political course for several years.

"The guy's been all over the map. He ran for Congress once before. It was widely rumored he was considering three different races, and twice during the year rumors circulated he was leaving imminently to join a law firm. All this says one thing: not that John Devine wants to be county attorney, but that he wants not to be a judge anymore."

John Devine, who tried a congressional race earlier, is now knocking at the county attorney's door.
Scott Gilbert
John Devine, who tried a congressional race earlier, is now knocking at the county attorney's door.

Blakemore doubts that Devine will be able to use his network of evangelical Christian supporters to mount an effective campaign.

"I feel very comfortable about this race, mostly because so much of the support is already pledged and committed," notes the consultant. "Devine is going to have to go to people and ask them to go back on commitments they're already made…It'll happen some, but not enough."

Stafford should have no problems raising a sizable campaign war chest. Last spring, four influential supporters who do business with the county (see The Insider, "Some Very Special Friends," March 15) wrote off $100,000 in campaign loans they made to him for the district attorney race. Stafford is also backed by westside County Commissioner Steve Radack.

When Devine cleaned out his chambers last week, he also packed a veritable gallery of patriotic and religious-themed art valued at more than $17,000 that had adorned the walls of the 190th courtroom for years. Much of it had been purchased with money from the judge's campaign account.

When The Insider dropped in for a walk-through, gone was the $1,235 bronze of a sultry blind justice, which formerly occupied a pedestal in the front of the court. Likewise departed was a portrait of the founding fathers in prayerful poses, paintings of stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, and a selection of Revolutionary War battle flags. Inexplicably left behind over the jury box was one banner depicting an eagle, and a print of "The Lawyer's Prayer" by Thomas More.

Venturing deeper into the judge's vacated, disorderly chambers, The Insider came face-to-face with a lonely red "Vote for Devine" sign pinned to a wall-- and the discovery that the good judge was apparently a fan, or at least a reader. Stuffed in a trash can next to his emptied desk were three different back issues of the Houston Press.

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