Texas GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold resigned Friday, roughly four months after news broke that he had settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with taxpayer money.
“While I planned on serving out the remainder of my term in Congress, I know in my heart it’s time for me to move along and look for new ways to serve,” Farenthold said in a statement Friday. He said he sent a letter to GOP Gov. Greg Abbott resigning his position effective 5 p.m. Friday.
“Leaving my service in the House, I’m able to look back at the entirety of my career in public office and say that it was well worthwhile,” Farenthold said.
Watch: Farenthold Resigns from Congress
Farenthold had already decided in December not to run for re-election following a renewed Ethics Committee investigation into sexual harassment, inappropriate comments to staff and discrimination based on gender. Politico first reported in early December that the Treasury Department had paid $84,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit with Farenthold’s former communications director.
National Republican Congressional Chairman Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, thanked Farenthold for his service in a statement and said, “I hope Blake is true to his word and pays back the $84,000 of taxpayer money he used as a settlement.”
“As I have said repeatedly, Congress must hold ourselves to a higher standard and regain the trust of the American people,” Stivers said. “I’m confident we’ll have a Republican in this seat come November.”
The answer to if and when there will be a special election to fill his seat is murky.
According to Texas law, a special election for a vacant House seat shall be held “on the first uniform election date occurring on or after the 36th day after the date the election is ordered.”
Texas Secretary of State’s spokesman Sam Taylor wrote in an email to Roll Call in March that the two uniform election dates are May 5, the municipal election date, and Nov. 5, the general election. Since 36 days before May 5 is March 30, the special election would have to be ordered no later than March 30 for the election to occur on May 5.
Because this vacancy is occurring after March 30, the next date at which the seat could be filled is Nov. 6. In that case the winner would serve out the remaining two months of Farenthold’s term.
Taylor clarified in a brief phone interview on Friday that the governor does have the option to declare an emergency special election that would not have to take place on May 5 or Nov. 6.
If the governor chooses to do so, he would have to submit a statement explaining the nature of the emergency. That emergency election would occur between 36 and 50 days after the election is ordered. There would not be a primary for a special election.
The race for Farenthold’s seat is already headed to a primary runoff. The 27th District is expected to remain in GOP hands. President Donald Trump carried the district by 23 points in 2016 and Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican.
Former Texas Water Development Board Chairman Bech Bruun and former Victoria County GOP Chairman Michael Cloud both advanced from the March 6 primary to the May 22 primary runoff. Bruun was endorsed by former Texas Gov Rick Perry, while Cloud has former Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s endorsement. The Democratic side is also heading into a runoff between Roy Barrera, a security officer at a federal courthouse, and Eric Holguin, a former congressional staffer.
Farenthold had announced his intention to retire after the state’s filing deadline, and Republicans had to sue to remove his name from the ballot. Under normal circumstances, the race for his seat likely would have garnered a very crowded field of Republicans.
“There’s probably a lot of folks in that area who are kicking themselves for not at least filing,” a GOP consultant who works in Texas said in February.
Watch: What’s the Status of the Anti-Harassment Bill on Capitol Hill?