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Lange also represents Devine, and turned in his filing papers for the county attorney's race at the same time. Apparently Heidi had a little too much Devine on the mind.

A literal reading of the Texas Election Code would seem to rule Gamble off the March primary ballot for his own bench, opening the way for an automatic victory in the November general election by the sole Democratic candidate, Tasso Triantaphyllis. For a giddy moment Harris County Dems thought they might have accomplished the goal of winning a judgeship ten months before the election.

But never underestimate the power of a GOP-controlled judiciary. After party officials refused to certify Gamble, his attorney Mike Stanley hustled over to the courthouse to seek a restraining order forcing the party to keep Gamble as the incumbent candidate. His suit argued that the GOP was responsible for correcting any problems in Gamble's filing papers.

When Stanley filed the TRO request, the ancillary judge was none other than Lange's ex-husband, Judge Link. Faced with a legal hot potato involving both an ex-spouse and a colleague, Link punted to fellow Judge Tracy Christopher, who lateraled it off to the regional administrative judge, Olen Underwood.

Using the rationale that the case should be handled by a non-Harris County judge, Underwood assigned the case to visiting jurist P.K. Reiter of Mexia. The only problem with Underwood's reasoning is that Reiter gets visiting judge appointments almost exclusively from GOP jurists in Houston. That makes him even more vulnerable to political pressure via the paycheck than elected judges such as Link and Christopher.

Reiter quickly ruled that Republicans must keep Gamble as the 270th District candidate pending a hearing next week. Democrat Triantaphyllis is expected to contest the ruling.

Democratic chair Sue Schechter figures, "If the law is followed, we've won a judgeship before the election has even started. If the law is not followed, we'll just have to win it in November."

Not being one to gamble on a GOP-controlled courthouse, The Insider lays odds that the contest will be decided at the polls next fall.

Political Alchemist

For anybody worried that attorney Gary Polland, the resigned Harris County GOP chairman and state senate hopeful, had lost his knack for turning political connections into personal cash, be reassured by a dispatch from O'Dwyer's PR Daily newsletter.

According to the New York City-based publication, Polland is a 37.5 percent owner of Team Barakat, a joint venture that signed on with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan shortly before the September 11 attacks. The firm's stated purpose is to lobby the Bush administration on behalf of General Pervez Musharraf's regime.

According to O'Dwyer's, Polland's firm reports directly to the Muslim general and has a $180,000 contract. Not bad for a little ol' Jewish criminal defense lawyer from Houston, one whose previous political patrons have been local GOP judges showering him with court appointments.

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