Herman: Ben Barnes, Greg Abbott and my new cemetery plot

12:00 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 Opinion
Texans for Greg Abbott
Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign is raising money by raffling off a Houston Astros flag that was displayed on the Governor’s Mansion after the Astros won the World Series. This is a photo the campaign sent with the fundraising email. TEXANS FOR ABBOTT

It’s the day after Thanksgiving. You know what that means. Even more football!

And leftovers.

So here are some things I’ve been meaning to tell you but haven’t had a chance. Here we go, reheated in the microwave for your edification.

I recently ran into long-ago Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes at a surprise 75th birthday party for Kent Hance. Hance is a former state senator, railroad commissioner, congressman and Texas Tech University System chancellor — where he was apparently known to some as the Hancellor. (Puns up! And stand by for exciting news about Tech’s meat judging team).

Nice party, including video greetings from George W. Bush, whom Hance — then a Democrat — defeated in a 1978 U.S. House race. Bush claims he never would have been president had he won that race. Receive that as you will.

Anyway, the Hance party came not long after the recent New Jersey gubernatorial election in which Democrat Phil Murphy defeated the GOP’s Kim Guadagno, now the Garden State’s lieutenant governor.

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Barnes had an interesting link to the race. First, he’s a big deal in Democratic circles and told me he had helped raise money for Murphy. Second, Barnes and Guadagno have some history.

Some of you might remember back in 1997 when Barnes, then a lobbyist for lottery company GTECH, was mentioned in connection with a federal indictment of a company official in New Jersey. Barnes was mentioned in unflattering ways that we wrote about in this newspaper. The federal prosecutor in that case was Guadagno, then an assistant U.S. attorney, who eventually was ordered by a federal judge to apologize to GTECH and Barnes for improperly releasing grand jury information about alleged kickback deals.

Barnes was never charged with criminal wrongdoing, and, in ordering the apology, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Politan referred to him as an “uncharged individual” who was a victim of a “wrongful disclosure.”

Barnes told me he crossed paths with candidate Guadagno this year. And he said he made a point of introducing himself. Nice move, and Barnes said she seemed to remember him and turned a bit red when she did. I’m guessing that’s a situation in which a blue party guy enjoyed turning a red party woman even redder.

Also in the political world, here’s the oddest fundraising pitch that hit my inbox this week: “Want the Astros flag?” said the subject line of an email signed by John Jackson, campaign director of Texans for Greg Abbott.

“Do you want to win a piece of history?” Jackson asked. “Texans got to celebrate a historic win for the Houston Astros. Now you can win the Houston Astros flag that flew outside the Governor’s Mansion the day after the historic win!”

By donating $3 or more to the Abbott campaign, “you’ll automatically be entered to win the Houston Astros flag that flew outside the Governor’s Mansion!”

But wait, there’s more! “We’ll also send a certificate of authenticity — signed by Governor Abbott — so you can show your friends and family you own a piece of history.”

Someone forgot the exclamation mark on that sentence.

A photo with the email shows the flag hanging on a second-floor railing at the mansion. The photo has an arrow drawn on it, pointing to the flag, and has a caption that reads, “Win THIS flag. Enter now.”

Eeesh. Good thing the Abbotts don’t have a line on which they hang laundry outside the mansion. No telling what they might raffle off to feed the governor’s already-flush campaign kitty.

Anybody else think it’s a bit unseemly to raise political money by raffling off something that has value only because it was displayed on a state-owned building?

And lest anyone think our governor has resorted to illegal gambling to raise political cash, I note the fine print that says “No purchase or contribution is necessary to enter or win. For more information, contact info@gregabbott.com.” Let’s all do that and enter free. The deadline is Friday. Good luck.

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Next: As you probably know, the Texas Tech meat judging team recently captured its 13th national title, coming in first at the American Meat Science Association International Meat Judging Contest in Dakota City, Neb. The victory capped an undefeated season for the Red Raider meat judges. Kansas State University came in second. When those two teams meat, you can throw out the record books.

Here’s the quote, via a Texas Tech news release, from meat judging coach Mark Miller: “The meat judging team was able to achieve perfection because they humbled themselves and trusted God and not themselves. They had great faith in him to deliver the victories. All of the glory goes to their faith and trust in God for this impossible perfect national championship season.”

Apparently out in Lubbock, they don’t worry about separation of church and Tech. Kind of makes you wonder if the coach is needed.

Today’s final leftover deals with my final plans. As I disclosed in a recent column about the ongoing battle over rules at Austin’s city-owned cemeteries, I’m planning to be buried at the city-owned Austin Memorial Park on Hancock Drive, and I faced a deadline to pick a plot to avoid an upcoming price hike.

I’d hate to expire before the lower-price offer does. So I made a recent visit there to pick my cemetery plot. Got a nice one after eyeballing a few from above-ground level, which might not be the best way to choose such real estate.

In making such a decision, some folks look to be near a nice tree or some folks they know (knew?). Because I think I might have a contract that will be hard to get out of, I checked the cellphone service. Pretty good — at least it was at ground level.

Enjoy the holiday weekend.

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