Published Online: March 18, 1998

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Partisan spirit

A rare alliance between a state Democratic leader and a group with ties to Republican causes has shattered.

Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock of Texas was seeking bipartisan support for a pilot school voucher program last year when he became the honorary chairman of Putting Children First, a statewide pro-voucher group.

But earlier this month, Mr. Bullock left the post after learning that the group had distributed a fund-raising letter in January on behalf of Republican candidates for the state legislature.

"Since partisanship has been introduced into this effort, I feel I can no longer serve as the group's honorary chairman," Mr. Bullock wrote in a letter to James M. Mansour, the organization's chairman.

Mr. Bullock still backs a pilot voucher project for students in low-performing schools, a spokesman for his office said.

Mr. Mansour apologized for the broken accord and said the letter was written without his knowledge. In a written statement, he said, "I understand completely why [Mr. Bullock] took the actions he did."

For the defense?

The West Virginia Department of Education has had a hard time finding a lawyer to represent it in a school finance lawsuit.

Three likely candidates have had to bow out because of their prior involvement with the case.

The first, Cynthia Evans, the director of legal services for the state school board, withdrew from consideration because she represented the state Senate in the same legal action in her previous job. The Senate and the education department are both defendants in the suit, but should they find themselves on different sides of the legal fence, Ms. Evans could face a conflict of interest.

The second candidate, West Virginia Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw Jr., cannot serve because he was a member of the state supreme court that rendered a decision key to the new lawsuit. That 1982 ruling required equalized school funding, which the new suit contends has not been achieved.

In his stead, Mr. McGraw appointed Richard Neely. But he also had to turn down the offer, saying that as another former member of that court, he too, faced a conflict of interest.

Last week, state officials put together a list of three other lawyers they hope present no problems. The list has gone to Mr. McGraw, who is expected to pick one of the three soon.

--ROBERT C. JOHNSTON & BESS KELLER

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