Santa's Push Cards

Aspirants for Houston City Council are always thinking up new and ingenious ways to get a foot in the City Hall door, but attorney Gordon Quan may be the first to try to ride in on Santa's sleigh. Quan is bombarding a selected political mailing list with his family Christmas card, displaying the future candidate posing with his wife Sylvia and their three charming daughters.

"We wish for you and your family a wonderful and joyous Holiday season, and a New Year filled with hope, peace, and goodwill toward all," says the card. It tactfully omits any wishes for a Quan victory in At-large Position 2, to be vacated by term-limited Joe Roach next year.

Asked whether she had coordinated the Quans' Christmas blitz, Quantum Consultants' Nancy Sims hemmed and hawed and finally fessed up. "We certainly talked to them about doing a Christmas card, definitely," says Sims. She earlier signed up to assist Quan in his Council candidacy.

Meanwhile, there are more additions to the flock since a recent Insider early-bird survey of 1999 City Council candidates. Among them is northwest District A entrant Toni Lawrence, a GOP activist who had previously denied reports she would challenge first-termer Bruce Tatro.

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Lawrence is backed by the former holder of the seat, Helen Huey. The candidate says she has secured the promise of Tatro's runoff opponent in the last election, Dave Wilson, to stay out of the race if she runs. Waving her partisan Republican flag, Lawrence picked a recent breakfast for Congressman Bill Archer to unfurl her candidacy flag. Real estate businessman Chris Branson is also expected to make the race.

And some rumored candidates want to make it clear their names won't appear on the ballot. In that category is Manny Barrera, current chief of staff for term-limited District H Councilman Felix Fraga. Barrera notes he doesn't currently live in the district and is backing the candidacy of another Fraga aide, Abel Davila, a Houston Community College Board trustee.

City Housing and Community Development staffer Anthony Hillary is plumping his near-certain candidacy for the District B seat of term-limited Councilman Michael Yarbrough. Among Hillary's early supporters is Bob Lee, the brother of County Commissioner El Franco Lee and the one who titles himself "Da Mayor of Fifth Ward."

Not to be left out of the fun is George Singleton III, last year's election loser to Yarbrough, who was hurt that he was not mentioned in the speculation about future candidates. "I will start off next year trying to secure this Council representative position," explains Singleton. "But if you print articles showing there are already people with confirmed support, then I will not have a chance to fairly win."

Yarbrough is set to go to trial early in 1999 on bribery and conspiracy charges in the city hall federal sting -- the same case that brought guilty verdicts against former councilman Ben Reyes and former port commissioner Betti Maldonado. Given that pair's speedy convictions, perhaps Hillary and Singleton, as well as likely District B birds Richard Johnson and Carol Galloway, should be gearing up for a possible early-bird special election if Yarbrough is removed from office. And there could be an unexpected opening in District I if incumbent and co-defendant John Castillo should suffer the same fate.

-- Tim Fleck

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