Former state Rep. Talmadge Heflin ended his flirtation with becoming director of the Texas lottery Thursday and decided instead to file for the House district in Houston that he lost by a scant 16 votes in 2004.
"I had made the decision to run for the House about three weeks ago, but I put it off after being asked to apply for the lottery position," said Heflin, a 22-year legislative veteran who headed the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee before being upset by Democratic newcomer Hubert Vo. "I finally decided that I could be more effective serving in the House, so that's what I'm going to do."
Heflin appeared to be the favorite to take over the troubled lottery after commission Chairman C. Thomas Clowe asked him to apply for the $115,000-a-year post. The lottery has been without a permanent executive director since Reagan Greer, a political ally of Gov. Rick Perry's, resigned in July after signing off on the decision to inflate the advertised jackpot for Lotto Texas beyond what ticket sales would support.
Deputy Director Gary Grief was appointed acting director. He can serve for only six months, so a permanent director or a new acting director must be named before Jan. 15. Grief has said he does not want the job permanently.
Clowe's decision to approach Heflin for the job was greeted with mixed reviews by lottery watchers. Rep. Delwin Jones, a Lubbock Republican who serves on the House committee that oversees lottery operations, said the former lawmaker would have been a superb choice to restore trust in the agency. The lottery has weathered a long slump in ticket sales, the jackpot-inflation scandal and strife that has cost several self-described whistle-blowers their jobs.
But Gerald Busald, a math professor at San Antonio College who serves on the panel that is screening candidates for lottery director, said selecting Heflin would have sent the wrong message.
"I felt like even if his appointment weren't politically motivated, it would have had the appearance of being politically motivated," Busald said. "And that's just as bad, in my view."