Impossible dreamer

Fearless reformer or legal terrorist? Bobby Wightman-Cervantes makes a run for the Senate. The Texas Bar says he should have his head examined.

Bobby Wightman-Cervantes insists on explaining himself, purposefully slowing the rapid-fire patter of his New York twang to make himself understood.

Yes, just two years ago, he ran for Dallas County district judge as the first openly gay Republican to seek that office. And yes, he is now running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Kay Bailey Hutchison as the first openly gay Democrat to seek that office.

Yes, he has developed a reputation as an utterly contemptuous courtroom lawyer under the name Robert Wightman. And yes, he is running for the Senate under the name Bobby Wightman-Cervantes, adding his Nicaraguan mother's maiden name to take advantage of the burgeoning Hispanic vote.

Mark Graham
Former state Rep. Charles Gandy from Mesquite is clearly the candidate of choice of Democratic Party activists for the U.S. Senate. He says his opponent Wightman-Cervantes is "his own worst enemy."
John Anderson
Former state Rep. Charles Gandy from Mesquite is clearly the candidate of choice of Democratic Party activists for the U.S. Senate. He says his opponent Wightman-Cervantes is "his own worst enemy."
Attorney Bobby Wightman-Cervantes claims that corrupt judges, perjuring attorneys, and courtroom cabals have sought to und0 him and his clients as a result of his zeal to reform the judiciary.
Mark Graham
Attorney Bobby Wightman-Cervantes claims that corrupt judges, perjuring attorneys, and courtroom cabals have sought to und0 him and his clients as a result of his zeal to reform the judiciary.
Dallas Judge David Godbey felt he had no choice but to file a grievance and institute contempt charges against Wightman-Cervantes after the attorney wrote a letter to the judge threatening to "turn his career upside down."
Mark Graham
Dallas Judge David Godbey felt he had no choice but to file a grievance and institute contempt charges against Wightman-Cervantes after the attorney wrote a letter to the judge threatening to "turn his career upside down."

Yes, he is a constitutional scholar with a generous heart who fights for the civil rights of gays and Hispanics. And yes, he is an abrasive personal-injury lawyer who has been repeatedly sanctioned by the courts with fines and contempt charges -- and found himself the subject of a bitter three-year disciplinary proceeding filed by the State Bar of Texas.

"There is only one difference between me and a bulldog," says Wightman-Cervantes. "A bulldog eventually lets go."

Ask the elfin 41-year-old what motivates him, what compels him to stand his ground and damn all consequence, and he pulls out a thick green book titled The Wightman Ancestry and sifts through its pages for the answer. He points to a copy of the death warrant for Edward Wightman, his "grandfather, 13 generations ago," he says.

Because of some incredibly bad timing, Edward was the last person ordered burned at the stake for heresy by King James I of England. Just as Edward felt the heat of the fire burning his skin, he recanted his blasphemy, and the sheriff removed him from the stake. Apparently, Edward couldn't help himself, because once back in jail, he again began to spout his doubts about the divinity of Jesus Christ. So on April 11, 1612, the high sheriff returned him to the stake, where he was consumed in flames.

The story is one of the "things" that guide his life, says Wightman-Cervantes. "If you really believe in something strong enough, you should be willing to sacrifice your life for it."

If his paternal pedigree isn't enough of a metaphor to justify his own fiery existence, Wightman-Cervantes need only look to his mother's maiden name. Like the character Don Quixote by the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes (who may also be a relative, he says), Wightman-Cervantes has always been tilting at windmills, championing lost causes, and playing the legal heretic by blaspheming the bench and bar as morally bankrupt institutions.

Too often, at least for the State Bar, he cries foul by indicting the entire legal system, claiming that corrupt judges, perjuring attorneys, and courtroom cabals are plotting to undo him and his clients. Rather than just appeal the unfavorable rulings of judges, he often sues them, making them part of the lawsuits they presided over. While other lawyers rarely file recusal motions -- a litigation tactic employed to remove a judge from a case because of alleged bias -- he seems to use them as a matter of practice: Since 1994, he has filed at least 28 recusal motions, sometimes half a dozen in the same case. And what judge wouldn't find it difficult to be unbiased against a lawyer who sues him for $50 million, particularly after the lawyer has threatened to ruin that judge's career? Wightman-Cervantes also has a penchant for suing opposing counsel, claiming they have destroyed evidence, lied about the facts, or engaged in illicit conspiracies with disreputable judges.

It's all part of his self-appointed, one-man reform movement to hold the judiciary accountable. That he may have committed professional suicide by pissing off many of the judges in Dallas County is irrelevant to his crusade. He considers himself a kamikaze for the Constitution, a frontline soldier for civil rights. In his battle with the State Bar, he has been cast as a legal terrorist, a paranoid lawyer who has abused the system and the legal gifts he obviously possesses. To the State Bar, he is an enigma, and its attorneys have even gone so far as to file a motion in state court to have his head examined.

The Democratic Party isn't all that thrilled with him either. In his quest to unseat a powerful incumbent senator, he attempted to place his name on the Democratic primary ballot as Bobby Wightman-Cervantes. But after a complaint was lodged with the state Democratic Party claiming his true last name is simply Wightman, the party chair dropped the Hispanic portion of his surname from the ballot. Wightman-Cervantes then sued the party. He believes Tejano Democrats, the official Hispanic caucus of the Texas Democratic Party, are undermining his candidacy. In trial, he has battled against the interests of several influential Tejano members including attorney Adelfa Callejo and state Rep. Domingo Garcia, and he perceives that the complaint about his name is payback for his support of their rival caucus, the Mexican-American Democrats.

As with so many of his cases, he gave that support for free. "I haven't made more than $30,000 a year since I began my practice," he says. "Money has always been meaningless to me."

A lawyer who doesn't care about money? No wonder the bar thinks he's certifiable.


Bobby Wightman-Cervantes' lineage of self-sacrifice doesn't stop with his English ancestors. His own father turned his back on his patrician New England family, giving up his inheritance and becoming a union organizer in the Rio Grande Valley. "He went to jail more than once," Wightman-Cervantes says. "Not because he did anything more than believe that workers had a right to organize...He was willing to give up everything for what he believed in."

The same goes for his mother, he says, who came from a privileged family in Nicaragua and, after she married, "went from having seven maids to being a maid." The family would eventually settle in New York City, where Wightman-Cervantes was raised as one of seven children. "We were all kind of stubborn," says his younger brother Charlie. "With seven kids in a house where you weren't allowed to hit, screaming to get your point across was pretty much the way to go." Charlie credits his mother with teaching her children to stand up for themselves. But no one took her words more to heart than Bobby. "He was willing to put himself at a loss just to prove a point," Charlie says. "Unless you can definitely prove him wrong, he will not stop."

Wightman-Cervantes fell in love with his Hispanic heritage, became fluent in Spanish, and often traveled to Nicaragua with his mother. Though studious at school, he was socially awkward, confused by his sexual feelings toward men. Few would dare come out in high school, particularly not Wightman-Cervantes, whose extended Hispanic family treated homosexuality as a crime.

After graduating from high school in 1976, he attended the University of Texas at El Paso. "Like every other gay person at that time," he says, "you knew something wasn't right, and you ran away from home."

Although a devout pacifist, he enlisted in the Army in 1981. It was just something Wightman-Cervantes felt duty-bound to do. "I see the military as a defense of flag and the Constitution," he says. "We can't demand the promise of the document and not be willing to die for it."

For more than a year in the Army, he was a soldier's soldier, standing at attention in the movie theater on base when the national anthem was played. But in June 1982, after he was transferred to Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo for surveillance training, he grew ill and was hospitalized for a time with ulcerative colitis. He also became deeply depressed, but couldn't tell anyone why. "I thought I was betraying my government by lying that I wasn't gay," he says. "I couldn't tell them the truth without going to jail."

Although a previous Army mental exam found he had "no psychiatric disorder," his commanding officer at Goodfellow believed Wightman was malingering and ordered that he be evaluated at St. John's Hospital in San Angelo. The doctor who performed the evaluation, who Wightman-Cervantes says never examined him, offered this diagnosis in 1982: "It is my initial impression that the patient manifests a paranoid personality disorder." After reviewing his medical records, an Army psychiatrist determined that Wightman suffered from "atypical personality disorder (suspiciousness, self-dramatization, overreaction to minor events, angry outbursts, some grandiose ideation)." On March 31, 1983, Wightman received an honorable discharge from the Army based on this psychiatric disorder, though he says the doctor attesting to his discharge never examined him either.

It was all part of a scam, says Wightman-Cervantes, who claims his commanding officer was the true "psycho," suffering from post-traumatic stress after his tour of duty in Vietnam. Any soldier he decided was a malingerer was diagnosed with a personality disorder and discharged on mental grounds. Wightman-Cervantes says he was responsible for instituting an inquiry with the Inspector General's Office that brought attention to this questionable discharge practice.

In 1986, Wightman-Cervantes applied for a change in diagnosis with the Veteran's Administration, and the examining psychiatrist concluded that Wightman-Cervantes was suffering only from "mild adjustment problems" at the time of his discharge. He petitioned the military at least three times to reconsider his discharge, but the Army Discharge Review Board turned him down each time. In 1989, he filed a federal lawsuit against the secretary of the Army, attempting to change the grounds for his discharge again. But the trial judge dismissed the case, and Wightman's appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was equally unsuccessful.

After leaving the Army, he moved to Arlington in 1983, went to work at LTV Corp. building B-1 bombers, and finally felt safe enough to come out. "Why wouldn't I be openly gay?" he jokes. "People have plenty of reasons to hate me other than being gay." But he resigned from LTV Corp., he once swore in court papers, after a homophobic supervisor attempted to deny him a management position.

Embittered by the 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision that the Georgia statute criminalizing sodomy was constitutional, he decided to attend law school. In 1988, at age 30, he began classes at the University of Houston, but quickly became a pariah.

"On the first day of class, this professor had us stand up and say why we'd come to law school," he recalls. "I told them I was here to fight for gay and Hispanic rights. No one would talk to me after that, not even the gay students."

He did become friends with Tony Olvera, a law student who worked in the school's legal clinic and helped Wightman-Cervantes handle his federal case against the Army. "Robert is an easy person to be friends with," says Olvera, now a lawyer in Dallas. "It's when you know him on a confrontational basis that you grow to despise him."

In 1990, while still in law school, he also filed a lawsuit in a Houston federal court on his own behalf seeking to have the Texas sodomy statute declared unconstitutional. In an 18-page affidavit, which graphically details much of his sexual history, he summarizes the injury he has suffered as a result of the state's criminalizing homosexuality.

"Many gays fight the depression with sex. I have done that," he swears in his affidavit. "Many gays fight the depression with drugs. I have done that. Many gays fight the depression with fighting back. I've done that. For me, fighting back is a form of therapy. It gives me hope."

When the federal judge stayed the proceedings because a similar case had been filed in state court, Wightman-Cervantes fought back. He unsuccessfully appealed the decision to a three-judge panel for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Then he sued all four judges -- his first taste of this tactic -- claiming that because the federal judges dismissed his case and deferred to the state courts, their actions denied him, as a homosexual, access to the federal courts.

He lost.

In 1991, he returned to the Dallas area as a licensed attorney. From his home in Arlington, with scarcely enough money to pay the phone bill, much less the rent, the law office of Robert Wightman was open for business.


Robert Wightman, civil rights lawyer, had little trouble attracting clients to his cause. Immediately upon hanging his shingle, he began advertising in the gay press, seeking out those who had been victims of sexual discrimination. In the criminal courts, he handled public-lewdness cases, claiming remarkable success at convincing judges that engaging in sexual contact in public was more a "coming out" issue than a crime. In the family courts, he fought to keep sexual orientation out of custody cases.

Before Wightman-Cervantes agreed to represent Timothy Spruel, the businessman had been ordered by two judges never to mention his live-in partner in front of his two young girls, and Spruel had to build a separate entrance to his Irving home so his partner would never be seen.

"Bob was really a bulldog on the case," Spruel says. "He took the case all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, and we finally got all the restrictions removed. I was able to integrate my life, which was very meaningful for me."

Through his friendship with Tony Olvera, Wightman-Cervantes met state Rep. Roberto Alonzo, who was chairman of the Mexican-American Democrats. For more than 20 years, MAD had been recognized as the official Hispanic caucus of the state Democratic Party. But a vocal faction of the organization, led by Dallas lawyer and Hispanic activist Adelfa Callejo, had grown disenchanted with Alonzo's leadership. In January 1996, Callejo, Domingo Garcia (Alonzo's former law partner), and other prominent Hispanic leaders broke away from MAD and formed the Tejano Democrats. Garcia announced that same month that he would run against his old partner for state representative. The rift between the two former friends ripped the Hispanic political community apart and resulted in numerous lawsuits between warring factions. Wightman-Cervantes stepped into the breach, often representing the interests of the Mexican-American Democrats -- with a vengeance.

"He may be Roberto Alonzo's pit bull," says attorney Jose Angel Gutierrez, a MAD member and founder of the La Raza Unida Party. "He can be eccentric, but he is good with the law...and he's not afraid of the judges."

Wightman-Cervantes flagrantly risked the court's contempt in October 1996 when he represented Diana Flores, who had been sued by William Velasco after he lost a runoff election to Flores for Dallas County Community College trustee by 54 votes. Velasco, the Tejano candidate supported by Domingo Garcia, claimed Flores, the MAD candidate supported by Roberto Alonzo, had engaged in voter fraud and sought to set aside the election. Because Wightman-Cervantes refused to recognize the jurisdiction of visiting Judge Webb Biard over the case, he instructed Flores not to answer any of the judge's questions. The judge held Flores in contempt, and as Wightman began to leave the courtroom to post her bond, Biard also held Wightman in contempt, sentencing him to 30 days in jail. He spent only five hours behind bars. "If I know it's going to be a bad day," he says. "I keep a personal-recognizance bond in my briefcase."

Although Biard ruled against Flores, ordering a new election, she appealed, and Wightman-Cervantes' tactics, labeled by Garcia as "procedural legal terrorism," have managed to keep the case alive and Flores in office to this day. And Flores is currently running against Garcia in the Democratic primary for his seat in the Texas Legislature.

"If not for Bob Wightman," Diana Flores claims, "Domingo Garcia would have stolen the election from the people. Bob represented me knowing I was a single mom and didn't have any money to defend this lawsuit."

But it's precisely his "procedural legal terrorism" that has invoked the wrath of so many judges and ultimately the State Bar Grievance Committee. And oddly, besides the Flores case, it's not his civil rights litigation that gets him into trouble, but rather his run-of-the-mill personal-injury practice. Of course, with Bobby Wightman-Cervantes, issues other lawyers might consider trivial rise to the level of constitutional importance when filtered through his hyper-inflated sense of injustice.

Wightman-Cervantes represented Glenda Lane in a car-accident case, which he believed he had settled with a Farmers Insurance adjuster for $7,500. In later discussions with the adjuster, Wightman-Cervantes says, she reneged on their original deal and offered him only $7,000. "I should have told [my client] to take the lesser offer and eaten the rest out of my attorney's fees," he says.

Instead he sued Farmers for breach of the settlement agreement in Dallas Judge David Godbey's court. Wightman-Cervantes grew outraged after a pre-trial hearing in front of Godbey, claiming that lawyers with the Dallas firm of Touchstone, Johnston, Bernays, Beall & Smith had destroyed evidence of the adjuster's settlement notes and that the judge tolerated their contemptuous behavior in court. In a May 21, 1997, letter he wrote to Godbey, Wightman-Cervantes essentially accused the judge of being bought and paid for by the insurance defense bar.

"You are either one of the biggest idiots to take the bench, or you are hopelessly corrupt...I will not tolerate a judge who allows attorneys to disgrace the profession with outright lies and deception. The bottom line is, you are about to have your career turned upside down."

Wightman-Cervantes filed a motion to recuse Godbey and sued the judge and the Touchstone law firm in 1997. He accused them of a cover-up and complicity regarding the destruction of evidence, along with perjury and fraud -- accusations they vehemently deny. Wightman-Cervantes sought $50 million on his client's behalf, though he would later dismiss the lawsuit against Godbey.

On the day he received the letter, Godbey, who has the highest Dallas Bar poll approval rating of any district judge in the county, filed a grievance against Wightman-Cervantes with the State Bar. The judge also instigated contempt charges against him. "This is not a matter of my personal sensitivity," Godbey says. "I felt I had no choice. I had an obligation to report to the State Bar conduct that is unethical or calls into question a lawyer's fitness to practice...I believe he needs mental care, and I hope he gets it."

After months of legal wrangling on the contempt charge, retired Dallas Judge Leonard Hoffman sentenced Wightman-Cervantes to 90 days in jail. But Hoffman was willing to let Wightman-Cervantes off the hook if he would recant his accusations and apologize. Like his ancestor Edward the heretic, who couldn't help but speak his mind, Wightman-Cervantes was willing to go down in flames. He refused to apologize, claiming he had a right to criticize judges under the First Amendment. The problem is, no judge -- state or federal -- has yet agreed with his constitutional claim, and his contempt citation, though still pending, stands.

"I will stand my ground regardless of personal consequences even if it means going to jail," Wightman-Cervantes says. "The Constitution has no meaning if we are not willing to stand our ground."

It only underscored Wightman-Cervantes' conspiratorial theme when Godbey assigned his friend and former colleague Bobby Rubarts to prosecute the contempt charge. Certainly, judges who come from big law firms (Godbey and Rubarts both worked at Hughes and Luce) are destined to rule on cases involving those firms. And just as certainly, a system that elects judges can't help but seem corrupt when the lawyers who contribute heavily to judicial campaigns later appear before those same judges in court. But active collusion between lawyers and judges? Obstruction of justice? Destruction of evidence? These are the particulars of Wightman-Cervantes' incendiary accusations -- accusations that have cast him in the role of legal heretic and caused others to question his sanity.

"I could be wrong, but I am fighting to restore integrity to our courts," Wightman-Cervantes says. "What do opinion polls tell us about judges and lawyers? They are disfavored. So what are we talking about, mass paranoia?"

But to many of the lawyers who oppose him, his methods are decidedly less high-minded: After an adverse ruling by the court, they say, he will file a recusal motion or a lawsuit against the judge, hoping to bait the judge into bias by branding him a "tyrant" or a "whore for the insurance companies" or a "defendant" in one of his lawsuits. The result is procedural gridlock, one recusal motion following another, one judge deciding whether another judge can be impartial. Rarely will a case get heard on its merits. Rarely does he win these procedural debacles. Delay, abusive threats, frivolous filings -- all are part of his vindictive campaign to terrorize the legal system.

"Simply because a judge rules against you, it's not grounds to recuse him," says Dallas attorney Ralph "Red Dog" Jones. "And anytime opposing counsel does something Wightman doesn't like, he sues them too."

In a dispute stemming from a car accident that originally involved a $10,000 insurance claim, Wightman-Cervantes sued three Tarrant County judges, Jones, and Jones' client, Dallas mediator Gary Berman, who was brought in to help resolve the case. Wightman-Cervantes sent a letter to all the Dallas district judges, castigating Berman for intimidating his client into settling the case and asking the judges to investigate Berman before assigning him any more cases to mediate. Berman sued Wightman-Cervantes for defamation.

Wightman-Cervantes attempted to explain his actions in a 1995 letter he sent to the mediator: "Mr. Berman, I am driven in my efforts to bring integrity back to the legal process. If the price for my efforts is the loss of my law license -- So what?"

If the State Bar has its way, Wightman-Cervantes may be risking just that. Berman has joined Godbey, along with Domingo Garcia's client, William Velasco, in the disciplinary petition filed against him on February 7, 1997. Rather than being humbled by the procedure, Wightman-Cervantes sued his accusers, naming one district judge, the Commission for Lawyer Discipline of the State Bar, and the entire Texas Supreme Court as parties. Anticipating how pugnacious he would be, the Bar retained its own pit bull, Dallas family-law attorney Mike McCurley, to prosecute its case. On September 10, 1998, McCurley filed a "motion for a mental examination of Robert Wightman."

"All appropriate measures must be employed to assess Wightman's established pattern of aberrant behavior," McCurley wrote. "Perhaps the most chilling evidence that Wightman has placed his mental condition into controversy are Wightman's own writings and utterances..."

No judge has yet to compel Wightman-Cervantes to submit to a psychological evaluation, perhaps because he has filed seven recusal motions since the case began. Wightman-Cervantes believes that "McCurley is the Bar's thug" who is attempting to build a case against him by obtaining his Army medical records. If the Army thinks he has a paranoid personality, how much easier for the Bar to prove it. "But the Bar knows that the VA cleared me," Wightman-Cervantes says. "So this is all about harassment."

Not true, says McCurley. "My motivation was to try and help him," he says. "It was my job to balance protecting the public and helping the lawyer. Getting a psychiatrist involved seemed the best way to do that."

Not surprisingly for Wightman-Cervantes, there's an overarching ideal that must be vindicated. "In this country we have the right to say things about people," he argues. "If we make truthful statements that offend judges, we don't send them to a psychiatrist." He says he will never submit to a mental exam. "I will give them my license back first on principle."

No matter the result of the grievance petition, Wightman-Cervantes believes he can no longer be an effective advocate for his clients. "Every lawyer knows when you stand up against a judge, your career is over," he says. "I accept that I am worthless to myself and my clients -- on that point, the judges win. If I could wave a magic wand and give someone else my practice, I would."

But he wasn't giving up just because he lost the battle of judicial reform in the courtroom. "I know now the war has to be won on the legislative level," he says. So on January 3, Wightman-Cervantes formally announced that he would be a candidate in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate.

Kay Bailey Hutchison, beware.


Two things sounded oddly hypocritical about the Democratic candidacy of the high-minded Bobby Wightman-Cervantes. In 1998, he ran for Dallas County district judge on the Republican ticket. And until he filed for the Senate, he had always referred to himself as Robert Wightman. As with everything in his life, there was an explanation.

Running for judge as a Republican was all part of his long-term strategy to run for the Senate as a Democrat. "I wanted to go into the lion's den," he says. "I knew I could be short with people if they irritated me. I needed the experience of seeing if I was mature enough to handle the gay issue in public."

And handle it he did.

"Here was this guy who would go to these Republican women's clubs and tell them he was gay," recalls Judge Harold Entz, who at the time was running for re-election, though not against Wightman-Cervantes. "He said he was a Republican and proud of it. You could just feel the brains of the audience shut down."

His message of inclusion certainly played better with the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay political organization that has historically been denied credentials at Republican Party conventions. "He came to our meetings and was passionate about the issues," says James Campbell, state vice president of the group. "A few of our members did give him nominal financial support."

Wightman-Cervantes says he believed he had no choice but to run as a Republican. By 1998, there were no Democrats left on the Dallas bench, and he wasn't the first Democrat to turn Republican in order to become a judge. Not that it made much difference: He came in fourth in a field of four, garnering just over 7 percent of the vote.

Having "tested the waters" as a judicial candidate, Wightman-Cervantes decided that if no one with a "statewide name" ran as a Democrat against Hutchison, he would enter the race. When former Mesquite state Rep. Charles Gandy and three political unknowns decided to run, Wightman-Cervantes joined them. That he held himself out as a Republican as late as July 1999 made no difference to him, but it certainly gave his opponents reason to question his loyalty.

"For most Democrats, the fact that he ran as a Republican two years ago is the biggest strike against him," Gandy says.

Even the Stonewall Democrats, a gay and lesbian political club, were bothered by his party-hopping. "Yes, we were a little leery," says Christy Kinsler, the group's past president. "Democrats in general are not real trusting of people who used to be Republicans." Wightman-Cervantes had hoped the gay community would embrace him because of his civil rights work on its behalf. But nearly every gay and lesbian group around the state has instead endorsed Gandy. "Bobby comes across as brash and abrupt," Kinsler says. "Gandy has held elected office before, and he just looks more senatorial."

If his party-changing wasn't bad enough, his name-changing didn't exactly make him the candidate of choice for Democratic activists. In December, Wightman-Cervantes says, he informed state Democratic headquarters he intended to place his name on the ballot by adding his mother's maiden name to that of his father's last name, saying it was a well-established tradition within the Hispanic culture. "Everyone had full disclosure way in advance," he says. "There was no problem."

Wightman-Cervantes claims his decision was based on cultural reasons. "Anyone who knows me knows what a big part my Nicaraguan heritage plays in my life." Yet his timing smacks of political opportunism, which he reluctantly admits also factored into his thinking. "I am not stupid. Every time an Hispanic runs at the top of the ticket, the Hispanic community turns out."

But on January 27, he received a letter from Molly Beth Malcolm, the chair of the Texas Democratic Party, informing him that she had concluded that Cervantes was not part of his legal name. Therefore she was certifying him on the ballot as "Bobby Wightman."

Two days later, Wightman-Cervantes filed a lawsuit with the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Austin, asking that the name Bobby Wightman-Cervantes be placed on the ballot. He alleged that Malcolm violated the election code and had discriminated against him based on his Hispanic heritage. Both the state appeals court and the Texas Supreme Court denied his claims -- the name Bobby Wightman will appear on the Democratic primary ballot.

That didn't stop Wightman-Cervantes, who had his name changed legally and threatened to file a federal lawsuit if he didn't get his way. To him, this was just some backroom deal struck to placate the Tejano Democrats seeking retribution against him for representing Mexican-American Democrats.

"At the end of the day, the fact that Molly Beth Malcolm is an idiot and got herself into a battle between Tejano Democrats and MAD is not serving the Democratic Party," Wightman-Cervantes says.

Gandy sees this whole Cervantes issue as "Wightman's little tantrum," a distraction from who will be the best candidate to take on Kay Bailey Hutchison. "I was the one who asked the party to look into it," he says. "I knew that Wightman was misrepresenting himself, trying to pull a fast one."

Certainly the best candidate in the eyes of Democratic Party loyalists is Gandy. He has received the endorsement of every major Democratic group in the state, save the Mexican-American Democrats, who stand behind Wightman and his right to use the name Cervantes. Gandy says he is one of the few candidates in the race who is not "on medication" and considers Wightman-Cervantes "his own worst enemy. He rarely shows up for candidate forums, even after he agrees to be there."

But when he does show up, Wightman-Cervantes can stump with the best of them. "If I am elected, I will stand on the Senate floor from day one and humiliate everyone in the room until every woman in this country who is pregnant is guaranteed prenatal care. I will stand on that Senate floor and humiliate them until every child in this country has health insurance. I will stand on that Senate floor and humiliate them into using the budget surplus to make sure that every senior citizen never again has to go without medication. Charles Gandy is not going to do that. He's a politician. I'm not."

Although he has no money to speak of, and even less support, he intends to keep running as Cervantes and to carry the Hispanic vote on primary day, March 14. And if, by some amazing turn of fortune, he manages to tilt a windmill and win the Democratic primary, Kay Bailey Hutchison should take notice:

She may have her landslide victory come November, but she'll know she's been in one hell of a fight.

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