Politics

Texas Governor Wants Blake Farenthold to Pay for Special Election

GOP lawmaker resigned earlier this month over sexual misconduct and hostile workplace allegations

Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, resigned from Congress in April amid an Ethics Committee investigation into him and his office for a hostile work environment and sexual misconduct. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is asking former Rep. Blake Farenthold to pay for the June 30 special election to fill the seat the congressman vacated when he resigned earlier this month.

Abbott wrote a letter to Farenthold Wednesday to “demand” that he “cover all costs” for the June 30 special election in Texas’ 27th District.

Farenthold resigned on April 6 amid an Ethics Committee probe into the congressman and his office for alleged sexual harassment, inappropriate comments to staff, and discrimination based on gender.

When media reports surfaced in December that Farenthold’s office had paid a former employee an $84,000 settlement over such claims, he promised to reimburse the Treasury Department fund that covers member offices' labor and workplace disputes.

Farenthold has not yet followed through on that promise.

Abbott urged Farenthold to instead distribute that $84,000 among the counties in the 27th District that will be responsible for staffing and assembling poll locations and counting ballots.

“This seat must be filled, and the counties and taxpayers in the 27th Congressional District should not again pay the price for your actions,” Abbott said.

Abbott announced Tuesday that he had called the special election for June 30 after receiving legal clearance from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who issued a non-binding opinion Monday that paved the way for Abbott to bypass laws prohibiting him from scheduling the election before the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

Both officials cited the 27th District’s continuing recovery from Hurricane Harvey as the reason for suspending certain state election laws so Abbott could schedule the election as soon as possible.

“All counties contained within this district continue to be under the state disaster declaration related to the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, making it imperative that we fill this vacancy as soon as possible,” Abbott said in a statement Tuesday. “Hurricane relief efforts depend heavily on action at the federal level, which can only occur if Texans residing in disaster zones have full and effective representation in Congress.”

Three candidates who are competing in their party’s primaries for the general election in November have already said they will file for the special election.

Republicans Bech Bruun, a Texas Water Development Board chairman, and Michael Cloud, a former county GOP chairman, told the Texas Tribune they will file to run.

Democrat Eric Holguin, who faces Raul “Roy” Barrera in the May 22 runoff, will join them on the ballot.

The 27th District is expected to remain in GOP hands this cycle. President Donald Trump carried the district by 23 points in 2016.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican.

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