Governor Greg Abbott wants to hold a special election as soon as possible to replace former U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold. Farenthold represented Texas’ 27th Congressional District, a district spanning the coastal bend of Texas’ Gulf Coast from Corpus Christi through Victoria, part of Gonzales County and up to Bastrop County.
In a letter sent to Attorney General Ken Paxton on Thursday, Abbott is seeking guidance on whether he can suspend certain laws that stand in the way of a timely special election.
“It is imperative to restore representation for the people of that district as quickly as possible,” Abbott wrote Paxton. “I am acutely concerned about this issue because many of the district’s residents are still recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Harvey. Indeed, all 13 of the counties in District 27 are still covered by my most recent disaster declaration for the area devastated by the hurricane. Because so many of the hurricane relief efforts depend on action at the federal level, it is all the more important that the voters of District 27 have an effective voice in Washington, D.C., at the earliest possible opportunity. That will require me to call a special election as soon as is legally possible.”
Abbott’s raised concerns on the timing of a special election, since early November would be the soonest date to have one according to the government code. Complicating the issue is the fact that if the emergency election results in a runoff election, then District 27 would be without representation for an even longer time.
“I am concerned that the combination of state and federal laws makes it practically impossible to hold an emergency special election and to replace Representative Farenthold before the end of September,” Abbott wrote.
The governor is asking Paxton if he can use his “authority under section 418.016 of the Government Code to suspend relevant state election laws and order an emergency special election,” so that the district can be properly representative for the rest of the term.
Farenthold resigned Friday, April 6, in a late afternoon video months after reports from the House Ethics Committee stated it would open an investigation into the now former congressman and whether he sexually harassed a former staffer, then retaliated against her when she reported his conduct.
Gonzales County voters will be back at the polls on May 22 for a called a runoff election in the primaries to fill Farenthold’s seat for the full term starting next year. Republicans Bech Bruun and Michael Cloud are facing off while Raul “Roy” Barrera and Eric Holguin are vying for Democrat nod.
Editor’s note: For Abbott’s full letter, click here.