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with TRLA lawyer George Korbel in San Antonio. Korbel filed Casarez’ suit against the county, alleging that hundreds of improper absentee votes from Laughlin alumni had swung both races and diluted the vote of the minority communityviolating the Voting Rights Act. The losing Democratic candidates intervened on the plaintiff’s side, the Republicans intervened on the defendant’s, and on December 30, District Judge Hippo Garcia issued a temporary restraining order requiring the incumbents to remain in office until a preliminary hearing in January. At that point, Korbel said in an interview in his San Antonio office, all parties should have agreed to settle. “We offered. What we wanted was new elections. In a lawsuit like this, everybody loses [if the case goes to trial]. But they refused.” Had the defendants settled, Korbel explained, the $300,000 to $500,000 it will cost to try the case could have been saved. If Casarez, Gonzalez, and Coronado prevail \(and based on Judge Biery’s ruling, the plaintiffs believe and the State of Texas, which has intervened with the defendants. An early settlement would have made life easier for Murry Kachel, who while under oath told Judge Biery that he had never been a member of the Ku Klux. Klan. A settlement would have discouraged the press from looking into D’Wayne Jernigan’s ill-fated 1990 Rio Grande expedition. And had the parties settled, , TRLA’s fundingfrom Washington and Austin would be more secure from Senator Gramm and Governor Bush, who claim the agency exceeded its mandate when it got involved in a what they call a “political lawsuit,” then requested legal fees. And if the parties had settled, Senator Gramm would be attending to the pressing requirements of the 105th Congress, rather than conducting a public relations war with the Legal Services Corporationthe governing board and funding mechanism for TRLA. But the defendants refused. “We won the election,” Murry Kachel said in a telephone interview. “We outsmarted them and won fair and square. Why should we settle?” On the eve of the preliminary hearing, the Val Verde Commissioners Court agreed, voting to instruct its attorneys to refuse the plaintiffs’ offer to settle. The two Republicans who won the contested races on election day, Murry Kachel and D’Wayne Jernigan, had resigned from their jobs last year to run for office: Kachel quit his Laughlin air traffic controller post to enter the race for Precinct 1 Commissioner, and Jernigan left his job at U.S. Customs to run for sheriff. Both are small, slender, florid-faced men, ham radio operators and members of clubs like the American Legion and Knights of Columbus. In a region that gave rise to the big, powerful rancher of legend, these two men spent years holding the sort of bureaucratic posts in which you might carry a gun but would never have occasion to use it. After entering the race Jernigan opened a campaign office in San Feliperight across the plaza from TRLAwhere he and Kachel collaborated from time to time. They ran shoestring campaigns typical of small towns: they distributed signs and bumper stickers; went door-todoor; paid for political spots on Tejano Jamzz, the Mexican radio station in Ciudad Acuria; and bought ads in the Del Rio News-Herald. Perhaps they plotted a win-by-absentee-ballot campaignthough it seems unlikelyor maybe Kachel and Jernigan picked up a few more Jovita Cksarez Lou Dubose the lawsuit: a U.S. Senator, on the floor of the United States Senate, reads interrogatories mailed to witnesses in an ongoing federal lawsuit. An ex-Klansman, just elected to public office, stakes out the house of an indigent grandmotherand then claims in a deposition that he took photos of her house because “I just felt that I wanted to make that a Kodak moment.” And the threat of a shutdown of a statewide legal aid program with a staff of 115 and a $5.7 million budget, in response to a lawsuit filed by that grandmother. The peculiar nature of the case drove even Fred Biery, the Federal Judge who presided over the January hearing, to alliterative excess: “Were there a magic judicial wand,” he wrote in his opinion, “the Court would require the residents to be reconciled to live in rapprochement rather than be ravaged by rancor.” There is no such wand, and the “tumult” Biery diagnosed “in the body politic of Val Verde County” has metastasized. Answering the judge’s question”Where legally may mobile minions of military members mark ballots for offices?”is going to be costly and painful. That question began to take shape after the election, when Padilla in Del Rio. Padilla discussed the election with Democratic candidates, Gonzalez and Coronado, and arranged a conference FEBRUARY 14, 1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9