The Harris County Democratic Party worked Wednesday to take district attorney nominee Lloyd Oliver’s name off the ballot, deciding to go forward without a candidate in November’s general election.
Whether they can actually take the outspoken and controversial lawyer out of the race remains an open question because state law does not appear to allow the party’s actions.
“There are ways to remove a candidate, but not the way they’re doing it,” Oliver said. “And my ultimate remedy is an injunction in the federal court, and I think the federal courts will agree with me.”
Oliver, a perennial candidate who has run as both a Republican and a Democratic, usually in judicial elections, said he did not know why the party wants to take him off the ballot.
Chad Dunn, the party’s attorney, said the party’s actions are lawful.
“All of the federal court decisions addressing this issue have found that political parties have an intrinsic right, as a private political association protected by the First Amendment, to choose and select their nominees,” Dunn said. “I think the law is very clear that political parties can’t be forced by the state, either by statute or some state officer’s requirement, to have a nominee in a race they don’t want to have a nominee in.”
I still don’t see it, but I remain a non-lawyer, so what do I know. Oliver is a barnacle on the political process and I have zero sympathy for him, but that doesn’t make this legal or right. I presume a judge will eventually decide the former; the latter is for you to determine. I hope Dunn et al are correct about the law, because this will be a debacle otherwise. I’ll say again, I hope the lesson learned is that the party needs to be involved in the primary when a clearly unsuitable candidate files.
Mark Bennett objects to this move on principle. I’ll leave the principle to others to discuss, but I will offer a pragmatic defense: If this sticks, it at least ensures that an unqualified boob like Lloyd Oliver cannot be elected DA. How likely would that be? If Harris County is roughly 50-50 as it was in 2008, then I’d have bet money on Mike Anderson winning. If Harris in 2012 is to 2008 as 2008 was to 2004, then Oliver could easily win on partisan momentum. If it’s somewhere in between, who knows? Point is, as long as Lloyd Oliver is on the ballot there’s a non-zero chance he could win. Your opinion of that risk will likely color your opinion of the HCDP’s action. Murray Newman has more.