Texas GOP moves to dismiss Farenthold ballot lawsuit

U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R- Texas, 27th District) surveys damage in Rockport days after Hurricane Harvey. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R- Texas, 27th District) surveys damage in Rockport days after Hurricane Harvey. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Republican Party has moved to dismiss a lawsuit it filed last week against the Secretary of State’s Office that originally aimed to remove U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas 27, from the March 2018 primary ballot. Farenthold announced Dec. 14 he would withdraw from the race amid verbal and sexual harassment allegations at his office.

Farenthold’s announcement came after the formal deadline to withdraw, leading to the state party’s challenge of Section 172.052 of the Texas Election Code, which says, “A candidate for nomination may not withdraw from the general primary election after the first day after the date of the regular filing deadline for the general primary election.” In Farenthold’s case, that would have been Dec. 12.

Chris Gober, an attorney representing the Texas Republican Party, said the Attorney General’s office told the party the Secretary of State doesn’t have the authority to enforce the statute. The Secretary of State’s office is tasked with administering state elections.

Instead, Gober said GOP Chairman James Dickey is able to submit a list of names to the Secretary of State’s office that can include or leave out any name he wants to and the Secretary of State’s office has no enforcing power on those names.

“If they effectively don’t have that power, there’s really no reason for us to be in court today,” Gober told reporters after the hearing.

Gober said it’s now up to Dickey to determine what to do for the ballot certification process, which means if the judge issues an order dismissing the lawsuit, Dickey can send a list of names to the Secretary of State’s office with or without Farenthold’s name included. A spokesperson for the party says nothing has been decided yet.

Chris Gober, an attorney representing the Texas Republican Party, speaking to reporters after a federal court hearing regarding a lawsuit to remove U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold's name from the March 2018 primary ballot. (Nexstar Photo/Steffi Lee)
Chris Gober, an attorney representing the Texas Republican Party, speaking to reporters after a federal court hearing regarding a lawsuit to remove U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold’s name from the March 2018 primary ballot. (Nexstar Photo/Steffi Lee)

“It was not Blake Farenthold’s intent to game the system, to choose the successor or even to get out the race at the time the ballot period closed,” Gober said.

There are other possibilities for other people to challenge a ballot without Farenthold’s name on it, however, Gober said.

“You would have to have a plaintiff that has standing to bring a lawsuit to challenge that certification,” Gober said. “That’s certainly a possibility, and if that’s the case, but those are legal proceedings that would play out in time with presumably a plaintiff, a defendant and people with ability to enforce that, whereas the Secretary of State’s office has made the assertion that they do not.”

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