"It was just a freak, freak accident," she says. "As [Steven] said, 'The Lord must have wanted him, because a quarter inch either way, he would have survived.' "
With the tragedy in the past, his practice expanding and his oldest daughter getting married, it's now a hectic, fulfilling time in the doctor's life. Hotze's brother Jim says he's slowed down a bit, and seems to be enjoying his business and political successes. And as he's matured, Hotze has modulated his rhetoric and demeanor, at least for mainstream consumption. Commissioner Radack says the new Hotze is more accessible, and acceptable.
"I think that Steve Hotze has adopted some methods that definitely make him a force to be reckoned with," opines Radack. "He's more open-minded and listens to more views, and I think that's paid big dividends for him in having some of the influence he obviously has on elections here in Harris County."
Betsy Lake dreads the prospect of Hotze's acquiring even more influence and acceptability. "He's going to stumble at some point," she predicts, "because I truly feel that the voters of Harris County are going to wake up and say, 'Look at what this man is trying to do. He's trying to control everything. He and his group of men.' "
In a speech two years ago at a banquet staged by the conservative American Vision organization in Marietta, Georgia, Hotze told the audience he had daydreamed he was elected mayor of Houston, and on his first day in office ordered Police Chief Sam Nuchia to close all the abortion clinics.
But then reality intruded.
"Of course," he conceded, "I couldn't be elected mayor."
But if you can't be the king, the next best job is kingmaker. In one of his mailouts from Citizens for American Restoration, Steven Hotze quotes the Bible: "Civil government has been established by God for the purpose of providing justice. The word of God alone defines what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong."
The Almighty, however, doesn't issue endorsements at election time, at least in Harris County, so someone has to interpret the word. With his old-time religion and his new taste for funding and power, Steven Hotze has carved out an ingenious role for himself as God's own political consultant.