Special election bill starts feud between Texas gov., ex-Congressman

Posted at 12:20 PM, May 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-04 04:32:05-04

AUSTIN, TX (RNN) - Gov. Greg Abbott and former Rep. Blake Farenthold are sparring publicly over paying for a special election for Farenthold's replacement.

Abbott thinks the lawmaker who stepped down amid swirling sexual misconduct claims should pay for the special election.

Last week, the governor called out Farenthold in a letter and on Twitter over the cost, telling Texans "RT to tell Blake Farenthold to pay for the special election that had to be called to fill the seat he resigned from because of his disgraceful conduct. Taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for his misdeeds."

Farenthold, who represents the Corpus Christi area in the 27th Congressional District, resigned in April amid a House ethics investigation into allegations that the lawmaker paid $84,000 of taxpayer money to settle a 2014 sexual harassment lawsuit by a former staffer, CNN reported.

Even though he promised to repay taxpayers, Farenthold hasn't yet.

He had previously announced in December that he wouldn't be seeking re-election.

The special election, to be held on June 30, is expected to cost more than $200,000, according to the Victoria Advocate. This will select a lawmaker for the remainder of Farenthold's term, which ends in January.

Farenthold responded to Abbott in a letter posted to his old campaign website, calling attempts to make him resign before his term "a political witch hunt" and denying claims of sexual harassment, blaming it on his relaxed office atmosphere.

He apologized for not telling the governor in advance of his decision to resign, blaming it on an inability to get through to Abbott. He also expressed disappointment over Abbott releasing a letter to the media instead of talking to him first.

"I know you are an honorable man who is above cheap political shots, bullying and kicking someone while they are down, especially a fellow Republican," Farenthold said. "I'll just chalk it up to bad advice from your staff."

Farenthold also disputed the need for a special election in his case, "As to the special election, under Texas law it is my understanding that you did not have to call an emergency special election or could have set one to occur simultaneously with the November general election," he said.

Amid departures from Congress, factions within states have sparred over special elections: when and whether they should be held and how to fund them.

In Wisconsin, a group backed by Eric Holder, a former U.S. attorney general under President Obama, sued Gov. Scott Walker over his refusal to call special elections to fill open seats, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said in February.

After the lawsuit and orders from three judges to follow the law that calls for special elections to be help promptly, Walker called the special election for offices that had been vacant since December, the Journal Sentinel reported. The state's Republicans had been planning to vote on a bill to leave the seats vacant.

In January, after a Democrat won a special election to the U.S. Senate, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a law to eliminate special elections for the Senate, instead opting for an appointee to serve the unexpired term until the next general election. The measure stalled in a Senate committee.

In addition to the special election in Texas, voters will take to the polls in Ohio's 12 District on Aug. 7 to choose who will fill Rep. Patrick Tiberi's seat. Elections for three other Congressional vacancies will be held on Election Day, Nov. 6.

This comes as Democrats are making inroads in districts Trump won in the 2016 election, even winning some races.

Of the nine special elections already held for this session of Congress, two of the seats have changed partisan hands. The U.S. Senate Seat vacated by Jeff Sessions went to Democrat Doug Jones, and Democrat Conor Lamb won Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District seat previously held by Republican Tim Murphy. 

Murphy resigned in October 2017 amid reports he asked his mistress to have an abortion, the Washington Post reported.

Lamb's new district is set to change boundaries as part of Pennsylvania redistricting, which itself has been the subject of legal battles over gerrymandering.

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