Heflin Seeks Lotto Helm

Former House Appropriations Committee chair added to short list of Lottery Commissioner finalists.

Talmadge Heflin, once a powerful force in the Texas Legislature, is seeking the top job at the scandal-plagued Texas Lottery Commission. The former chair of the House Appropriations Committee was added to a short list of finalists at a commission meeting on Friday. The commission could vote on its top choice either at its next meeting in December or the first of next year, said agency spokesman Robert Heith.

Heflin will be interviewed by an executive search committee, which had narrowed the field to four candidates before the former lawmaker submitted his application at the request of Commission Chair Tom Clowe.

The 22-year Republican legislator from Houston had recently accepted a position as a state budget analyst with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Heflin would succeed several lottery commission directors to a job that has had no shortage of controversy over the years. Executive director Reagan Greer resigned in July after acknowledging he had approved inflated Texas Lotto jackpot estimates in order to drive up ticket sales. Before that, agency officials drew sharp criticism from legislators for hiring a Las Vegas law firm to draw up legislation to legalize slot machines at race tracks and other locales, a hot-button issue opposed by the far right wing of the GOP, as well as many Democrats. Heflin himself received nearly $30,000 in campaign contributions in 2004 from donors who would benefit from legalizing slot machines, according to Texans for Public Justice.

Heflin narrowly lost his re-election bid last year to Democratic newcomer Hubert Vo. Heflin demanded a recount, which Vo won by just 16 votes. Vo criticized Heflin during the campaign for his role in slashing $10 billion from the state budget in 2003, which devastated the state's social services programs, forcing the Legislature to undo some of the damage in bills passed this year.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Talmadge HeflinTexas Lottery Commission, Talmadge Heflin, Hubert Vo, Texans for Public Justice, Robert Heith, Texas Lottery Commission

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