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October 27, 2006

Dems Offer Voter Inducements In Local Legislative Race?

That is what it looks like to some observers, especially to former representative Talmadge Heflin, who lost to current state representative Hubert Vo in 2004 by a mere handful of votes.

A Vietnamese-language radio ad campaign that backers call a get-out-the-vote effort amounts to a dollars-for-votes scheme to help a Vietnamese-American legislator, his challenger claims.

The state House District 149 flap concerns ads urging early votes at an Asian-American community center, and pointing out that $5 coupons available at the center can be used at a nearby mall.

The Vo campaign disavowes all involvement in the ad campaign, which is sponsored by a Vietnamese community group. And the group insists {wink nudge} that the intent of the ad is to boost anemic voter turnout in their community, NOT to help Vo.

"We have 35,000 Vietnamese registered voters and only 12,000 actually vote, so what we did was create the One Brings One campaign urging people to bring a family member to the polls to vote with them," said Van Huynh, executive director of the group.

"Our businesses felt it would be helpful and fun to create something enjoyable for voters, so they offered coupons for use at the Hong Kong Mall. Anyone can come for the coupons. We don't obligate them to vote. And we have a disclaimer on our ads saying this campaign is not related to any candidate or any election."

Huynh said the group is awaiting an official opinion from Harris County officials on the legality.

"We have turned over all our scripts," he said. "If the officials say this violates election laws, we will immediately drop the whole campaign."

David Beirne, spokesman for Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman, the county's elections administrator, said he advised the group to stop running the ads and initially thought they had been dropped.

When group leaders continued running them and asked for an official opinion, Beirne turned the matter over to the District Attorney's and U.S. Attorney's offices for review.

But the ad only runs on Vietnamese-language radio, not on any stations that cater to teh wider community in the district. Given that this just happens to be Vo's base, it seems mighty convenient.

And an awful lot like traditional Democrat tactics of offering a beer, a pack of smokes, or five bucks to those who go out and vote "the right way."





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