Republican party leaders stand behind Eversole

January 12, 2011 8:51:34 PM PST
Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole was just reelected two months ago. He ran unopposed. But through their votes, thousands of voters said they wanted another choice. John Tobin admits he doesn't know much about politics, in fact he doesn't even vote. But he sure likes the fishing spot at Jerry Eversole's Jesse Jones Park.

"You'll catch a 40 pound blue catfish right here," said Tobin.

For 24 years, Eversole's been the county commissioner for a huge swath of Harris County, maintaining roads and bridges and building parks like Jesse Jones Park.

Despite ethical and potential criminal problems, Eversole was reelected in November without an opponent, but not without opposition.

"He should move aside for the good of the party," said David Jennings, a Republican activist.

Jennings is a Harris County Republican voter and blogger who questions why Eversole appears to get a free walk. And he's not alone. Despite running unopposed, more than 71,000 voters decided not to vote for Eversole. That's nearly 30 percent of the total.

There were more so-called 'undervotes' in Eversole's race than any other county wide.

"Hardcore Republicans, I think they really are tired of Mr. Eversole," said Jennings.

Republican party leaders are not.

When we asked him if the party has a responsibility to police its own, Harris County Republican Chairman Jared Woodfill replied, "Yeah. sure it does."

Woodfill says a committee is now looking at the Eversole bribery and conspiracy indictment and will report next month. But it's been two and a half years since Eversole told a reporter he expected to be indicted.

"I didn't ask him about the comment itself," Woodfill said.

It's been a year and a half since Eversole paid a $75,000 ethics fine.

"I never asked him about the fine," said Woodfill.

And more than weeks since he was indicted by the feds.

When we asked Woodfill if anyone from the Republican party asked Eversole about the indictment, he replied, "I personally have not."

Eversole is a powerful politician, partly due to his position, but also due to the millions he had in his campaign finance accounts.

"It's called a war chest," Eversole said.

He gave $4,000 from that war chest to the Jared Woodfill reelection campaign and $51,000 to the Harris County Republican party since Eversole said he expected to be indicted. But the party says it wasn't to buy favors.

"Absolutely not. Absolutely not," said Woodfill.

Eversole says he will continue to do his job and that he may even run again if he's not convicted. It sounds a little bit like the fishermen who may not pay attention to politics, but do know how to find Eversole's park.

"Given to the fisherman, there wouldn't be a time to leave. There's not a quitting time," said Tobin.

The Republican party can't remove anyone from office, or from the ballot. After the current party investigation is over, the party could decide to censure Eversole or possibly draft a primary opponent in four years.