Texas GOP Picks Two Time Loser Talmadge Heflin as New Executive Director

Posted on 07/31/2007. Filed under: brad vincent, Dan Grant, imigration, Lottery, Mike Engelhart, natomi austin, rick noriega, scandals, Talmadge Heflin, Texas GOP, Texas Republicans, YDA convention |

The Texas GOP is just as crazy as we have always known they were.

linkFormer state Rep. Talmadge Heflin, a Houston Republican who served two decades before losing a re-election bid three years ago, was hired Monday as executive director of the Texas GOP.

“Talmadge Heflin has over 25 years of conservative leadership and experience as both a leader in the Texas Legislature and a businessman,” Republican Party Chairman Tina Benkiser said.

Heflin succeeds Jeff Fisher, a former Van Zandt County judge who will continue as an adviser to the party, Benkiser said.

Heflin was a state lawmaker from 1983 to 2004, including a stint as the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

In November 2004, he lost by 16 votes to political newcomer Hubert Vo, a Democrat who became the first Vietnamese to serve in the Texas House. An election recount showed Vo’s victory margin over Heflin was 33 votes and Heflin challenged the results before the House. While Heflin gained 17 votes in the investigation, he withdrew his challenge in February 2005 to avoid the possibility of a bitter partisan fight.

He then lost once again to Rep. Vo in 2006 but not before applying for a job to head the Texas Lottery even though he had taken lots of money from gambling interest to help pay for his failed 2004 campaign.

linkThe possible future executive director of the scandal-plagued Texas Lottery Commission would come to the job with disturbing ties to the gambling industry. Lobbyist Ralph Reed targeted then-Rep. Talmadge Heflin in 2001, when Reed and now-indicted federal lobbyist Jack Abramoff were helping to orchestrate a crackdown on Texas Indian casinos on behalf of a competing tribe in Louisiana. Heflin also took $29,392 from donors with an interest in legalizing slot machines for his failed 2004 reelection campaign.

Correspondence recently released by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs reveals that Reed wrote Abramoff in April 2001 that he was targeting Heflin in their efforts to defeat legislation that sought to legalize legally questionable Indian casinos in Texas (HB 514). Reed’s email informs Abramoff that he is “Visiting with the staff of Rep. Talmadge Heflin to see where Rep. Heflin is on the HB 514.” Reed also writes that he would, “See who out of Reps. Talton, Corte Heflin and Wohlgemuth is close to Rep Walker to see if they are willing to call Rep. Walker to get the bill held up in Calendars Committee.” While the House passed HB 514, it died in the Senate Business and Commerce Committee.

And less anyone forget, Rep. Talmadge Heflin hired an illegal immigrant to work for him in near slave conditions and then tried to steal her child from her.

It should have been an immigrant’s dream.

Mariam Katamba, born in Uganda, found herself taken under the wing of one of the most powerful men in Texas. True, her accommodations in state Representative Talmadge Heflin’s storage room were not air-conditioned and were sometimes wet underfoot from a leaky roof. But her infant son lived like a little king: The Heflins eventually installed his crib in their bedroom, where they said he would be more comfortable.

Katamba, who lacks a green card, was allegedly hired as a live-in worker in the home of the veteran Republican legislator to take care of Gram, his mother-in-law. Beginning in July 2003, she says, she was paid $100 a week in cash for feeding and cleaning up after the house-bound octogenarian. The under-the-table salary gave the single mother a chance to care for her baby, Fidel Odimara Jr., while she worked.

But Katamba, who is in her forties, eventually realized she was less popular with the Heflins than her son was. Gram didn’t like her because she was black.

Katamba found another off-the-books job paying $250 for an 85-hour week caring for patients in a home for the mentally disabled. She saw her son Wednesday and Friday mornings, and also planned to see him on weekends.

After her first week, however, she returned to the house to find the Heflins had taken Fidel Jr. to Austin. They did the same the next week. She told them to drop her son off at her job before they left, or allow his father, Fidel Odimara, to pick him up. But every weekend, she came home and her son was gone. “They would always have an excuse for why they took him,” she says.

The Heflins quickly became possessive of Fidel Jr. In addition to keeping him in their bedroom, they offered to buy him milk, arguing that the milk Katamba received through WIC wasn’t good enough, she says. And Hall attended many of Fidel’s hospital visits, telling the doctor the boy’s name was Jude.

On a Wednesday in mid-July, Katamba asked the Heflins to bring her son to her workplace. She says they arrived without him, and instead dropped off two documents for her to sign. They told her the documents were “not legal” and would simply allow them to make medical decisions for her son in the event of an emergency, she says.

The papers looked far from informal, however. One waived Katamba’s right to testify before a child custody court; the other appointed the Heflins “co-sole managing conservators” of her child. Katamba later showed them to her boss. “He told me, ‘This paper means they are taking away your son from you.’ “

The next day, Katamba told the Heflins she would not sign the papers. She finished work on Friday, emerged from her room Saturday and asked for her son so she could take him to Chuck E. Cheese’s. The Heflins told her they would have to go with Fidel Jr. on all outings. Katamba said, “I don’t think you can tell me what to do with my son.”

A confrontation ensued. Heflin’s wife, Janice, now demanded that Katamba sign the papers. When she refused, she says Janice Heflin told her, “Okay, let’s meet in court with your green card.”

“I told her, ‘I don’t have a green card,’ ” Katamba says, ” ‘but I have rights to my son.’ “

Katamba left and stayed with a Ugandan friend, Grace, whose last name she withholds. “I couldn’t even talk,” she recalls. “I was just crying. I cried, like, 30 minutes, and then I tried to explain to her” what had happened.

Luckily, with a good lawyer and a judge who saw through the political shenanigans Heflin and his wife were pulling Katamba was reunited with her child. 

This is the type of man Perry and the rest of the Texas GOP thinks is a good leader for their party.  The man has ties to Abermoff, hires illegal immigrants and tries to steal their children, and obviously has no moral fiber at all.  I think the Texas GOP is running scared and this is our year to put them in their place.

We have a great candidate running for US Senator from Texas, Rick Noriega, who is honest and believes in making things better for all Americans.  Dan Grant running for US Congress in  TX-10, Brad Vincent running in TX-11, Michael Englehart for District Court 151 in Houston and many others running for State Rep and judicial seats.  2006 is our year to bring honesty and leadership back to Texas!!!!  Let the GOP keep honoring their criminals and we will honor and elect Leaders!!!

Natomi Austin, Deputy Finance Director of the Texas Democratic Party singing the National Anthem at the YDA convention in Dallas.

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