The story so far: Republican State Sen. Kip Averitt dropped his re-election bid in January, citing health concerns. As it happens, his announcement came after the deadline to withdraw from the ballot, and since the other guy wasn’t well-liked among the establishment, he wound up being supported for renomination on the grounds that he could later withdraw and have a suitable replacement selected. (The Dems would then also get to pick someone.) He won, and then he resigned, and there was a suitable replacement selected for the special election to fill out his term, his predecessor, David Sibley, who would be the selected replacement when he won the special election. Sibley led the field but was forced into a runoff. That runoff election was today, and we pick up the story from there.
With a commanding lead, Republican Brian Birdwell beat David Sibley, a former Republican state senator, in the special runoff election in Senate District 22.
While the election may have ended, the excitement is only beginning. Averitt is still the Republican nominee on the November ballot to determine who will represent the district in January and beyond. Averitt has indicated he might not give that slot up to Birdwell (even if it means returning to the Senate), because Averitt does not believe that Birdwell has met the constitutionally mandated five-year state residency requirement — a question that has been raised, but never legally challenged, throughout the race.
In April, a retired appeals court judge issued a declaratory judgment that Birdwell met the five-year state residency requirement. But the Waco Tribune-Herald reported that legal experts questioned the ruling, citing the fact that only one side of the case — Birdwell’s — was presented.
Got all that? So much for the best laid plans. Averitt fears that if he withdraws, Birdwell’s eligibility will be more forcefully challenged, and it’s possible he could be knocked off the ballot, leaving the seat a free pickup for the Dems, which is pretty amazing when you consider they don’t currently have a candidate in the race. The only way he can test this theory is to actually withdraw, so plan B is to run for re-election, which he will win easily as he would be unopposed; it’s only if he, the actual November nominee, withdraws that the Dems get to fill their slot. He could always resign at some point in 2011, either immediately after the election, which would mean a second shot at electing the “right” guy in a special, or after the session. In the latter scenario, barring any special sessions, even if the “wrong” guy wins he won’t get to do much of anything, since all Senate seats are up in 2012 and he could be challenged in a primary. I’ve seen a lot since I’ve been following politics closely, but this is a new one on me. Stay tuned to find out what Kip decides to do.