The Insider

House majority whip Tom DeLay failed miserably in his quest to rid Fort Bend County politics of his ex-partner's wife, proving once again that sometimes his big head can just get in the way. Ever since Jacqueline Blankenship's husband Robert settled his lawsuit against DeLay and others over the sale of Albo Pest Control, the Sugar Land congressman has been pressuring Fort Bend Republicans to steer clear of Mrs. Blankenship, a GOP activist turned campaign operative. When retired Texas Ranger Milton Wright brought her in to manage his party primary campaign for county sheriff, DeLay threw his weight behind Wright's opponent in radio and television ads. That didn't seem to cut much ice with runoff voters, who gave Wright the Republican nomination by a 32 margin. Wright's victory is being attributed to both Blankenship's hard-driving campaign effort and the resentment that DeLay's vendetta against her has stirred in Republican circles. DeLay might have kicked himself for the outcome, except that he's nursing a broken leg recently incurred while breaking in a pair of in-line skates, a 49th birthday gift from his wife. Maybe he'd have done better by sending the skates in an unmarked package to Jacqueline Blankenship.

Sylvia's New Friends
Democrats elected to countywide offices in Harris County are becoming a severely endangered species, but at least one of the party's nominees has had her prospects enhanced by the continuing bad blood in local Republican circles. In the wake of the bitter runoff between Mickey Lawrence and Mike Fleming that ended with Fleming's capture of the GOP nod for county attorney, there's a nascent movement by some of Lawrence's supporters to back chief municipal courts Judge Sylvia Garcia, the Democratic nominee, in the November general election.

"I know plenty of Republicans who are phoning Garcia offering to work in her campaign," says one GOP source, who claims that some GOP activists, especially women, believe that Fleming's campaign smeared Lawrence in the closing days with "blatant lies" that she was pro-choice on abortion and favored the annexation of outlying areas by the city of Houston, a near-mortal sin for suburban Republicans. (Fleming professes no knowledge of such tactics.) Another GOPer predicts that moderate-leaning Republican women who supported Lawrence "will have no problem at all with Sylvia's pro-choice stand. She will definitely get significant support from that group."

For party activists such as Alice Bixby, a member of the Northwest Forest and Magic Circle Republican Women's clubs, Fleming's wholesale backing by County Commissioners Jerry Eversole and Steve Radack was the main source of irritation. "Fleming was not even their first choice," says Bixby, who claims the two GOP commissioners unsuccessfully wooed former state representative Ashley Smith and state District Court Judge William Bell to run against Lawrence before settling on Fleming. According to Bixby, "They entertained for [Fleming], contributed big bucks, even went on the radio on the last day and said, 'Get out and vote for Fleming.' How can this man, if he were elected, turn around and rule against those commissioners that have bought and paid for him?" Look for a "Republicans for Garcia" organization to be formed in the coming weeks, Bixby says.

Fellow Northwest Forest club member Fran Mason seconds Bixby's sentiments, and says it's time for Radack to stop trying to dictate county Republicans' primary election choices. "Why have an election in the first place?" she says. "We should just ask Steve Radack who he wants and then let him appoint them." Well, that would save everybody a lot of money.

"I Love This Game!"
A Houstonian involved in laying the legal groundwork for the upcoming Denver trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh reports that the former soldier appears to be adjusting well to prison life. "He was very nonchalant, very easygoing, and did not appear upset in any way," our source says of his extended contact with McVeigh. "He struck you as an eager-to-please person you'd like to have working in your back yard." (Of course, you might want to restrict his access to lawn fertilizer, just to be on the safe side.) Our source's jailhouse conversation with McVeigh was limited in content, but he says McVeigh did not impress him as an intellectual heavyweight. "It mostly was banality," says the Houstonian, "and remember the great Hannah Arendt line about the banality of evil? Well, this guy was banal. Sit- ting down talking to him, you would never guess he felt intensely about anything." But one subject did seem to spark McVeigh's enthusiasm. When the Houstonian offhandedly mentioned his city of residence to McVeigh, the accused mass murderer perked up and asked, "Do you know Clyde Drexler?"

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