TCR Comment: This is an important report on how a GOP officeholder has endangered a Republican seat in the Texas Senate. It is a sad ending to a long career in the legislature.
As a Republican Precinct Chairman, former SREC Committeeman for Senatorial District 17, and activist in SD 17, I am extremely concerned about the prospect of losing the SD 17 seat to Democrats in November.
The former Republican Senator for SD 17, Kyle Janek, resigned from office in the middle of a 4 year term to become a lobbyist. This means that there will be a special election for the seat in November. Janek, who wants to cash in on his contacts and experience, raises major concerns with the way he has orchestrated his resignation and his attempt to hand pick a successor who will be his man in the Senate.
I have several problems with the way Mr. Janek has handled his transition into lobbying.
First, I think Janek was deceptive when he asked voters to elect him to another 4 year term when he knew he was resigning. My father taught me that I could not quit in the middle of a commitment. I believe that this is a breach of trust.
Second, I have a problem with the fact that Janek was not candid with many of us when he was questioned about his potential resignation during the last few months. When several of his constituents asked if he was planning to resign, he responded with a number of cover stories while he was executing his move. This behavior can be termed disingenuous and borderline deceitful.
Janek sold his home in West University in May of 2007, which immediately raised questions regarding his tenure in Office. His first cover story was that he was going to move to another home in the district where his boys would have a larger yard. (See attached "No Longer a Neighbor") He told the reporter that story even though he had already purchased a home in Austin. The story changed at a precinct chair dinner in the Grotto in Houston on September 13, 2007 when he told several precinct chairs from the district that he was moving his family to Austin, but wasn’t resigning his Senate seat. He said he would keep a home in Galveston, so he could maintain the required residency.
He justified his actions by telling those of us at the meeting that he missed his boys while the Legislature was in session and wanted them to be in Austin during the next Legislative session. This didn’t appear to be logical because it meant before the next Legislative session he would be practicing medicine in Houston and “commuting” to Austin for 14 months.
Finally, the real story came to light when Janek revealed that he was going to resign in early March because we deserved a Senator that lived in the District and not a commuting Senator. He said that by resigning in early March, Republicans would be able to elect a new Senator in May.
But, this is where the story gets takes an interesting twist.
Janek invited SD 17 Precinct Chairs to dinner on January 28th in Sugar Land to execute the final stroke of his plan. He gave his cover story and we were all sympathetic with his desire to be with his family and concerned that we would be able to find a strong conservative replacement as soon as possible. He claimed that he was looking into working with an Anesthesiologist group in Austin. At that meeting, Janek was unequivocal in his resolve to resign on March 10 and said he had done the research and by resigning on March 10, a special election could be held on the next standard election date since all of the municipalities in the district except Bellaire had May elections.
While Mr. Janek claimed he did not have a candidate in mind that he would be supporting, when I asked the same question of Janek's consultant, Allen Blakemore, he said he did have a candidate, but would not name that person until the next day. It was not until later that I found out that the candidate being positioned was broadcaster and former Houston Oiler Spencer Tillman, who was favored by Janek and Blakemore.
At this point, the plan began to unravel and the cover story changed yet again. On the way home to Austin after the meeting, Janek was informed in a cell phone conversation that there was a problem. (I would be interested to find out how this inconvenient detail was discovered at the last moment.) The undoing of the plan was that Mr. Tillman’s home was situated in SD 18, not in SD 17. So, he could not meet the residency requirements to run for the SD 17 position.
At this point, Mr. Janek made a 180 degree turn and had to retract his cover story. He now claimed that having the election in a short time frame would not allow many of the candidates who were interested in the race the time they needed to get into the race. In reality, this translates as – “Blakemore and I need some time to find another candidate for us to endorse and fund so we will have influence with the next SD 17 Senator.”
In less than 24 hours, a new cover story was provided to the news media.
The new story was, "I took a group of precinct chairs to dinner last night to explain what I would do today. The timing was not even a major part of the discussion. (Contrary to what all the precinct chairs there heard him state to the contrary.) The fact is by having a special election in May and making it a more compressed time frame, you are now favoring somebody over somebody else. That has the effect of shoving out the other 700,000 people who might be interested in running or in the race. By allowing more people to look at more candidates, we have a fairer process. I did not fully appreciate it at the time until a few precinct chairs explained it to me after the dinner. That is why I made my decision."
Coincidentally, by pushing the resignation date out, it effectively eliminated any existing State Representative from running for the position because it meant they would have to resign from office to run for SD 17.
Anyone reading this commentary can judge for themselves whether a few precinct chairs changed Janek’s mind or if Spencer Tillman not living in the Senate district was the true reason for the shift in direction.
It is my understanding that Allen Blakemore and Kyle Janek then held their own "SD17 Idol" auditions for prospective candidates who were asked to give pitches of why they should be chosen as preferred candidates for SD 17 with support from the insiders.
A major requirement for Janek’s support was that the candidate had to choose Blakemore as their consultant. It is my understanding that Blakemore and Janek are joining forces in a lobbying firm.
The winner of the 1st "SD17 Idol" competition was Austen Furse. He is supported by some of the "powers that be" in the Party establishment and Mr. Janek has committed to use the over $300,000 left in his political account against any Republican competitors. By trying to hand pick his replacement so he would have a friendly vote in the Texas Senate, I believe Mr. Janek has put this seat at extreme peril in the next election.
It is rumored that Democrat Chris Bell is days away from announcing as a candidate in the open special election for the SD 17 position and, with a possible Obama tidal wave in November, it is critical that Republicans in SD 17 find a strong candidate to support and not just one who can be controlled by the guy who used to hold the position.
I do not necessarily fault Austen Furse for this strategy. Others are also interested in representing SD 17. I congratulate my fellow precinct chair Grant Harpold for his interest in the position and there are other good candidates like former District Judge Joan Huffman and State Representative Charlie Howard who have expressed interest in the race.
In addition, Allen Blakemore is in the business of making money as a consultant who represents successful candidates. He makes no bones about it and wants to add another office holder to his stable. My main problem is with Mr. Janek, who should not have tried to "play a game" and deceive the voters who trusted him.
I am sure Mr. Janek will offer yet another explanation of his actions. He will sound sincere and convincing. I imagine in his heart of hearts he would like to use Jack Nicholson’s line from "A Few Good Men" – "You Can't Handle the Truth."
But, I am not ready to "Make Nice." I am "mad as hell" and tired of being manipulated by the GOP Establishment. The voters and conservative activists in Senatorial District 17 deserve the truth from their elected officials and they should be able to expect that the elected official to serve out the term they have asked to be elected to, regardless of the financial gain they may be able to gain by resigning.
All of us must look critically at the qualifications of candidates to replace Mr. Janek and support someone who has both conservative credentials and a good chance of winning in November. We cannot allow ourselves to be defeated because the manipulative tactics of someone who is concerned with personal gains over philosophy.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Precinct Chair 128, SD 17 Harris County
Former SREC Committeeman for SD 17
Patriot Group, Ltd.
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Bellaire, TX 77401
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Fax: (713) 664-9126
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