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Blake Farenthold

Blake Farenthold is a gift that keeps on giving

Oh, Blake.

Blake Farenthold

Nearly a month after abruptly resigning from Congress in the wake of revelations over lewd and verbally abusive behavior, former Corpus Christi Rep. Blake Farenthold had been angling for several days to get a lobbying job at a port authority in his district.

And he appeared to be getting antsy.

“What’s up with the lawyers?” Farenthold wrote to Calhoun Port Authority director Charles Hausmann in an April 30 email, which was obtained by The Dallas Morning News through an open records request. “I’m ready to get work for y’all.

“Any problems that I should know about?”

Farenthold ended up landing the gig this month.  He  started Monday as a $160,000-a-year legislative liaison who will seek to boost the port’s “presence and visibility in Washington.”

The new position — which Farenthold announced in a radio interview — has created a stir in South Texas and beyond, in no small part because the former congressman said this week that he would not repay $84,000 in taxpayer money used to settle a sexual harassment suit against him.

Never stop never stopping.

Asked Friday about a news report that said former U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold’s recent hiring as a lobbyist for the Port of Port Lavaca may have violated the Texas Open Meetings Act, the Republican said he “wasn’t involved.”

The Victoria Advocate reported Friday that Farenthold’s hiring may have been illegal since the notice posted by the Calhoun Port Authority, which oversees the port, was too vague in describing what was going to be said at a closed meeting where the former congressman’s hiring was discussed.

“I’m trying to get on with my life. I wasn’t involved other than I talked to them about a job. I don’t know anything about it,” Farenthold said after an event hosted by The Texas Tribune. “I’m not talking to reporters. I’m a private citizen now.”

According to the Advocate, the posting said the board would meet “for the purposes of deliberating the appointment, employment, compensation, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline or dismissal of a public officer or employee.” But the Texas Supreme Court ruled that these notices need to be specific when they concern high-profile people.

Like flies to a garbage can, you know? Some people just have a knack for this sort of thing.

Farenthold, in a brief phone interview, said that he’s “a private citizen now” and is “trying to not be a news item anymore.” He declined to comment on what the Florida reference meant. He didn’t dispute the general timeline for how he obtained his new employment.

“I started looking for a job as soon as I was out of office,” he said.

Heck of a job not being a news item, dude. Maybe next time check and see if Chili’s is hiring first.

Farenthold finds a trough

It’s the circle of life.

Blake Farenthold

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold has accepted a lucrative position lobbying for a port in his ex-Texas district — mere weeks after resigning in disgrace amid fallout from using public funds to settle a past sexual harassment complaint.

The Calhoun Port Authority announced Monday that Farenthold would promote its interests in Washington and assist “in resolving funding issues.”

“Blake has always been a strong supporter of the Calhoun Port Authority and is familiar with the issues facing the port,” it said in a statement. Port Director Charles R. Hausmann said Farenthold’s annual salary will be $160,000.

The port is located in the Gulf Coast community of Point Comfort, an area hit by Hurricane Harvey last summer.

A former Farenthold congressional staffer didn’t return messages seeking comment Monday, but the ex-congressman himself told radio station KKTX that he’d taken a job about a 90-minute drive from his home in Corpus Christi.

We should all be so fortuitous with our employment prospects. And just to prove that it’s better to be lucky than good, there’s this:

Former House members are prohibited from acting as lobbyists for at least one year after leaving office. But there’s a loophole: The lobbying restrictions do not apply to employees or officials of federal, state or local governments. Since the port is run by the government, Farenthold does not have to abide by the mandatory one-year “cooling-off” period.

Life sure is beautiful, ain’t it?

Farenthold tells Abbott to go pound sand

Well, what did you expect?

Blake Farenthold

Blake Farenthold — a disgraced former Texas congressman who resigned last month — will not fund the special election to replace himself, he told Gov. Greg Abbott in a letter Wednesday, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Abbott had asked that Farenthold pay for the election, set for June 30, as a form of recompense: Farenthold resigned in April, months after it came to light that he had settled a sexual harassment claim from a former staffer with $84,000 of taxpayer money.

That payment mechanism is allowed under federal law but has nonetheless drawn sharp criticism on both sides of the aisle since it was uncovered last fall. Farenthold had originally pledged to repay that sum to taxpayers, but has yet to do so, claiming he is acting on the advice of his lawyers.

Farenthold, who is worth well over $2 million, according to a recent financial disclosure form, has now said he won’t pay for the election either.

“Since I didn’t call it and I don’t think it’s necessary, I shouldn’t be asked to pay for it,” his letter said.

See here for the background, and here for a longer version of that Chron story. I’m actually kind of glad there isn’t a copy of the letter to share, because the various closings I can imagine him using – “See you in hell”, “Kiss my grits“, “Insincerely yours” – are all way more entertaining to me than what he no doubt actually used. The point here is that just as Congress can’t touch Farenthold for the $84K he swiped, neither can Abbott for the special election that he insisted (quite reasonably, in my opinion) on calling. And Farenthold damn well knows this, which when combined with his utter lack of shame or conscience, is how we got here. See you in hell, indeed.

UPDATE: Okay, fine, you can see the letter here.

Abbott wants to send Farenthold a bill for the CD27 special election

Good luck with that.

Blake Farenthold

Gov. Greg Abbott is demanding that former U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold “cover all costs” of the special election to fill his seat using the $84,000 the Corpus Christi Republican used to settle a sexual harassment claim years ago.

Farenthold, who abruptly resigned earlier this month, had promised to pay back the $84,000 — which came out of a taxpayer-funded account — after that settlement was made public last year but hasn’t so far.

In a letter to Farenthold on Wednesday, Abbott said the former congressman should return the money to taxpayers by funding the June 30 special election to finish his term.

“While you have publicly offered to reimburse the $84,000 in taxpayer funds you wrongly used to settle a sexual harassment claim, there is no legal recourse requiring you to give that money back to Congress,” Abbott wrote. “I am urging you to give those funds back to the counties in your district to cover the costs of the June 30, 2018, special election.”

“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 added. He requested a response from Farenthold by May 2.

See here and here for the background. We all understand that this is just a stunt by Abbott, right? He has no more leverage over Farenthold than the Office of Congressional Ethics does at this point. Farenthold was never afflicted with a sense of shame before, and there’s no reason to think he will be afflicted by it going forward. It’s a feel-good maneuver by Abbott, and honestly I can’t blame him for it – if Wendy Davis were Governor today, she might well have sent a similar letter – but that’s all it is. That letter will have as much effect on Faranthold’s actions as any of my blog posts have had.

Special election set in CD27

Here we go.

Blake Farenthold

Gov. Greg Abbott has called a June 30 special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi.

The candidate filing deadline is Friday, and early voting will run from June 13-26, according to the governor’s proclamation.

[…]

Democratic and Republican runoffs are currently underway in the race to represent the district for a full term starting in January 2019. Raul “Roy” Barrera and Eric Holguin are running for the Democratic nomination, while Bech Bruun and Michael Cloud are competing for the Republican nod. The runoffs are May 22.

See here for the background, and here for the governor’s press release. Yes, that really is this Friday, as in two days from today, for the filing deadline. My guess is that the four candidates currently in the primary runoffs will file for this, with maybe a stray or two joining in. I would also guess that unless the loser of the Democratic primary runoff subsequently drops out, there won’t be much national attention paid to this race, not because it’s less winnable than the other special elections but because there won’t be a single candidate to focus on.

Anyway. Prior to this, Abbott had gotten an okey dokey from Ken Paxton to issue this proclamation in the first place.

Gov. Greg Abbott got the go-ahead Monday from Attorney General Ken Paxton to suspend state law so the governor can call a special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, as soon as possible.

Responding to a request from Abbott submitted Thursday, Paxton issued a nonbinding opinion saying a court would agree Abbott could set aside the election rules under a part of Texas law that lets the governor suspend certain statutes if they interfere with disaster recovery. Abbott said last week he wanted Farenthold’s former constituents to have new representation “as quickly as possible” because the Coastal Bend-area’s Congressional District 27 is still reeling from Hurricane Harvey.

“If the Governor determines the situation in Congressional District 27 constitutes an emergency warranting a special election before November 6, 2018, a court would likely conclude that section 41.0011 of the Election Code authorizes calling an expedited special election to fill the vacancy in that district,” Paxton wrote.

Paxton’s nonbinding opinion paves the way for Abbott to work around state and federal laws that he said are in conflict and make it “practically impossible to hold an emergency special election … before the end of September.” The governor’s office did not immediately say what he planned to do in light of Paxton’s opinion.

I was going to post that yesterday, but there were too many other things, and I figured I’d be okay waiting another day. Life comes at you fast, obviously. I suppose someone could file a lawsuit if they objected to this – maybe an overseas voter who might not have enough time to participate? I dunno – but speaking as a non-lawyer, this seems like the right call. The public interest is served by having the election sooner rather than later. The Chron has more.

Abbott does want a special election in CD27

Well all righty then.

Blake Farenthold

Gov. Greg Abbott wants to hold a special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, as soon as possible.That’s according to a letter he sent Thursday to Attorney General Ken Paxton, seeking guidance on whether the governor can suspend certain laws he believes are standing in the way of a timely special election.

The letter amounts to Abbott’s first public comments on the subject since Farenthold suddenly resigned earlier this month, leaving the governor to ponder how long the Coastal Bend-area district could go without representation given that it is still reeling from Hurricane Harvey. Abbott made clear Thursday he believes there is no time to waste.

“It is imperative to restore representation for the people of that district as quickly as possible,” Abbott told Paxton in the letter. “I am acutely concerned about this issue because many of the district’s residents are still recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Harvey.”

The problem, according to the governor, is that state and federal law are in conflict, making it “practically impossible to hold an emergency special election and to replace Representative Farenthold before the end of September.” Therefore, Abbott asked Paxton if he could use his executive authority to “suspend relevant state election laws and order an emergency special election.”

In posing the question, Abbott cited a part of the Texas Government Code that allows the governor to temporarily set aside certain statutes if they hinder “necessary action in coping with a disaster.”

See here for the background. I’d been wondering about this, because it sure seemed like an obvious thing to call an election. The crux of Abbott’s legal question is as follows:

“It is impossible to order an election, allow candidates to file, print ballots, mail them in accordance with federal law, and hold an emergency election within the statutorily prescribed 50-day window. Complicating the issue is that if an emergency election for District 27 results in a runoff election, the date for the runoff election cannot be sooner than the 70th day after the final canvas of the emergency election.”

I’ll leave it to the lawyers to hash out the details. I’m wondering how long it will take Paxton to get back with an answer – the question may wind up being moot if he isn’t sufficiently snappy about it. In the meantime, the answer to my original question is yes, there will be a special election in CD27. It’s just a matter of when.

Someone needs to sue Blake Farenthold

That’s my response to this.

Blake Farenthold

Four months after U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold promised to repay an $84,000 sexual harassment settlement funded by taxpayers — and 11 days after the Republican resigned his Corpus Christi seat — he has yet to write a check. And with Farenthold out of public office and increasingly out of the public eye, there’s little anyone can do to force him.

Farenthold pledged last winter to personally repay the cash paid out by the federal government to a former staffer, Lauren Greene, who sued him for sexual harassment in 2014. When news of the settlement surfaced in December, Farenthold told a local TV station he’d reimburse the money that same week, saying “I didn’t do anything wrong, but I also don’t want taxpayers to be on the hook for this.” In January, he said he would wait to repay the money after seeing what changes Congress would make to policies around the issue, saying he wanted to seek legal counsel.

Then, he resigned abruptly on April 6 — days before the House Ethics Committee, which was investigating his misconduct, would have released its findings in his case, according to the office of U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat who has led efforts to reform Congress’s sexual harassment complaint process. After leaving public office, he immediately shut down his social media accounts and went silent. Requests for comment to his former staff were not returned.

The House committee no longer has jurisdiction to investigate Farenthold, though its members called on him “in the strongest possible terms” to return the money. But there’s no legal avenue to force Farenthold to repay the money — meaning the only option is “public shame,” said Jordan Libowitz, communications director for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

“He does not seem like someone who is easily shamed,” Libowitz said. “When this came to light, he said that he would pay it back, then started looking for more and more reasons to delay the payment. It became pretty clear that if he wasn’t forced to pay it back — which legally he’s not required to — he didn’t seem all that interested in it.”

See here and here for the background. The story doesn’t even mention the possibility of a lawsuit, so I could be completely out to lunch here – as we well know, I Am Not A Lawyer. All I can say is that some crazier lawsuits than what I am suggesting have gotten traction in the courts lately, so why not take a shot at it? Surely there’s a taxpayer out there with some time on their hands and the desire to throw a little sand in Blake Farenthold’s gears.

Farenthold resigns

So long, Ducky.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, resigned on Friday.

The decision marks the capstone of a tumultuous few months for the four-term congressman, who has been dogged by sexual harassment allegations and an ongoing ethics investigation.

“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,” he said in a statement that offered no further explanation for why he was not completing the final eight months of his term.

The congressman spent the day packing up his office.

[…]

Gov. Greg Abbott now needs to call a special election to fill the seat, the winner of which will serve until early January 2019.

Abbott has two options for filling Farenthold’s seat for the rest of his term, according to the secretary of state’s office. Abbott can schedule a special election on the next uniform election date, which is Nov. 6. (It’s too late for him to call it for the May 5 date.)

Abbott’s other option is to order an emergency election for any other Tuesday or Saturday. He would have to call the election 36-50 days in advance of the date he chooses.

House Republicans likely have no appetite for a special election at this point in the cycle. But one thing the governor’s office will have to weigh is whether Texas’ 27th Congressional District — which bore the brunt of Hurricane Harvey — can go without congressional representation for seven months.

Farenthold announced his retirement in December, and despite some controversy around the timing of his announcement he was allowed to drop off the ballot for the primary. As for what Greg Abbott does, in a normal year he’d call an emergency special at his first opportunity, as the odds would be extremely favorable for a Republican candidate to win and thus maintain numbers in Congress. This year, who knows? I still think we’ll get an election sooner than November, but if we don’t it’s quite the admission of weakness. In the meantime, I hope someone will remind Farenthold to pay back the $84,000 he owes the taxpayers before he slinks off into the darkness. Daily Kos has more.

So what’s up with the Farenthold ballot situation?

The Trib provides an update.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

So how did the Texas Republican Party manage to remove Farenthold from the primary ballot?

The short answer is that they violated the election code, according to state officials. But the Texas Secretary of State’s office has no authority to force someone to include a name on a primary ballot.

The day after Farenthold announced his intention to retire, the Texas GOP sued the secretary of state to keep him off the ballot, citing its constitutional right to freedom of association. Dickey said the party has contended it has a right to not be forced to associate with a candidate who no longer wants to run.

Days later, a lawyer for the state, Esteban Soto, emphasized that the secretary of state has no authority to force the party to turn over Farenthold’s name as part of its list of all primary candidates. That argument led Texas GOP attorney Chris Gober to move to drop the lawsuit which opened an avenue for the party — in Gober’s telling — “not to submit Blake Farenthold’s name and the secretary of state not to do anything about it.”

[…]

“At this point, [Farenthold’s] name is off the ballot, but after all the litigation went through, it’s important to understand there are situations in which another voter or a potential candidate could file suit to put his name back on the ballot, or force his name back on the ballot,” Sam Taylor, a spokesman for the Texas Secretary of State’s office, said.

Taylor said the state GOP party’s decision doesn’t set a legal precedent, however, because a judge hasn’t ruled to change the state’s election law.

“They can choose to violate the election code, but that doesn’t mean they’re absolved of any type of potential legal challenges,” Taylor said.

Gober also acknowledged the party’s decision could draw additional legal scrutiny.

“It’s certainly a possibility, but those are legal proceedings that would play out in time with presumably a plaintiff, a defendant and people with the ability to enforce that, whereas the secretary of state’s office has made the assertion they do not,” Gober said.

Taylor said that if no one with legal standing challenges it before Jan. 19, then Farenthold’s name will remain off the ballot.

See here and here for the background. Someone with standing would be one of the other candidates or a voter in CD27. The strategic reason for a Democrat to force the issue is that if Farenthold winds up winning the primary, he either has to commit to running in November or withdraw from the ballot and cede the seat to the Democratic nominee (modulo a write-in campaign effort for a different Republican). The practical reason is simply that the Republican Party violated the law when it removed Farenthold from the primary ballot, and the only mechanism to enforce it is via lawsuit. That as I said should be something for the Lege to address in 2019, but it’s moot for these purposes. It sends a bad message to let the Republican Party get away with this – and let’s be clear, it could be the Democratic Party next time; if it’s this easy to deal with a problem candidate, why not make it standard practice? – so I hope someone with standing comes forward to be the plaintiff. There’s less than two weeks to get this resolved, so let’s get a move on.

Farenthold gets off the ballot

It started with this.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

The Republican Party of Texas managed to clear a path Tuesday in federal court for its chairman, James Dickey, to remove U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold’s name from primary ballots.
But as of press time, a party spokesman said Dickey still had not reached a decision on the fate of the congressman’s name on the ballot.

The drama late Tuesday came after a remarkable half-hour hearing hours earlier in Austin’s federal courthouse, where lawyers for the state said that, while state law requires the inclusion of Farenthold’s name because he withdrew from the race after the filing deadline, the secretary of state had no power to enforce that law.

In response, attorneys for the state party told U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin they would drop a lawsuit that sought to leave Farenthold off the ballot.

“It was not Blake Farenthold’s intent to game the system, to choose the successor or to even get out of the race at the time when the ballot period closed,” said Chris Gober, one of the attorneys representing the state GOP.

Instead, he said, Farenthold was driven out of the race by the media coverage of sexual harassment allegations and how he treated his employees.

[…]

Under state law, political parties are required to submit a list of candidates who have filed to run in the primary elections to the secretary of state’s office, which transmits them to county officials in charge of printing ballots and running elections.

While the law requires the parties to include the names of all the candidates who have filed, no enforcement mechanism gives the secretary of state’s office the authority to ensure the lists provided by the political parties are complete, or to penalize party leaders if they leave a name off, a lawyer for the state argued.

According to the state’s brief, officially allowing Farenthold to withdraw his name from the ballot would trigger a new extension of the filing period, complicating efforts to get ballots prepared in time for the March 6 primary.

“Such an extended filing period, if triggered now, would exceed the Dec. 19, 2017, deadline to submit a list of candidates to the secretary of state and the Dec. 21 deadline to draw names on the ballot,” state lawyers argued. “It would also impede the already short period local election officials have to complete ballots before the Jan. 20, 2018, deadline to mail primary ballots to overseas military members.”

See here for the background. By ten AM, a press release from the Republican Party of Texas had hit my mailbox announcing Dickey’s decision to pull Farenthold out of there. (Yes, I get press releases from the RPT, and also from the Harris County GOP. I’m pretty sure I can trace it to having corresponded with Alan Blakemore’s office to arrange some candidate interviews. The things I do for you people.) Following that, the Texas Democratic Party filed a lawsuit to prevent Dickey from issuing this decree, but they then dropped it after failing to get an injunction.

The Democratic Party’s short-lived lawsuit sought to test the Texas GOP’s claim that it does not have to associate with Farenthold at this point. If that is valid, the Democratic Party says, it should have the same opportunity to exclude primary candidates. If it is not valid, Farenthold’s name should remain on the ballot, the Democrats argue.

“Texas Democrats will not stand idle while Republicans rig the ballot,” Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said in a statement. “Only voters have the power to choose who leads our state and nation, not politicians and party officers in backroom decisions. Last we checked, this was Texas not Russia.”

[…]

Yet there could still be legal trouble ahead for the party due to its decision to omit a candidate who filed and did not withdraw by the deadline. That’s against the law, Soto said in court, even as he made clear the secretary of state is powerless to stop it. Both sides acknowledged the party’s decision could still draw legal scrutiny, perhaps from a candidate or voter in Texas’ 27th Congressional District.

“It’s certainly a possibility,” Gober told reporters, “but those are legal proceedings that would play out in time with presumably a plaintiff, a defendant and people with the ability to enforce that, whereas the secretary of state’s office has made the assertion they do not.”

For sure, this smacks of the bad old days, when all the action in elections was in the Democratic primary and all kinds of shenanigans were pulled to ensure that the “right” candidate won. I’d like to know what a response would be to the TDP’s assertion that if this stands then nothing would stop them from throwing out candidates they didn’t like (and Lord knows, as we continue to be beseiged by phonies and LaRouchies, this has more than a small amount of appeal to me). I think it is likely that someone else will file a lawsuit, and it will be interesting to see how the SOS testimony that this withdrawal is against the law will be addressed. In the meantime, I’ll make a donation to the first legislator who files a bill to close this dumb loophole for the 2019 session. Stay tuned.

Republican Party sues to get Farenthold off the ballot

Now here‘s something you don’t see every day.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

The Texas GOP is suing the Texas secretary of state to keep embattled U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold off the 2018 primary ballot — one day after the Corpus Christi Republican announced he will not seek re-election in 2018.

Farenthold, who’s facing a raft of allegations that he sexually harassed staffers and created a hostile work environment, had filed for re-election by the Monday deadline and missed the deadline the next day to withdraw. Still, he asked Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey on Friday not to include him on the ballot, according to the lawsuit, which notes Dickey has until Tuesday to submit the names of all primary candidates to the secretary of state.

Filed late Friday in federal court, the lawsuit calls into question the “incongruity” between the separate deadlines to withdraw and to hand over the names, while arguing Farenthold’s appearance on the ballot at this point would violate the “First Amendment associational rights” of the party.

“In short, the State cannot constitutionally force any political party to be represented on the primary election ballot by a candidate with whom it does not wish to associate,” the lawsuit said.

See here for the background. As you know, I Am Not A Lawyer. I am, however, a sentient carbon-based life form, and I am highly dubious of this claim. Candidates who are not representative of a given political party run for office in the primary of that party all the time. Dave Wilson has filed as a Democrat numerous times, for instance, most recently in 2016 when he challenged Rep. Jessica Farrar in HD148. Keisha Rogers and Lloyd Oliver, both of whom have had success in primaries, have done this as well. The reason Farenthold is still on the ballot is because he resisted the pressure from national Republicans to step aside until it was too late to legally withdraw his filing. The fact that he’s had a change of heart now is nobody’s problem but his own. There are other Republican candidates running for CD27, and working to ensure that one of those candidates defeats him in March is a perfectly viable option. Farenthold can abet this by not campaigning, or even endorsing one of his opponents. If the people choose to support him anyway, that’s just too damn bad. He can stay on the ballot and hope all is forgiven, or he can withdraw at that time and leave it up to the RPT to find a suitable write-in candidate, a la Tom DeLay and Shelley Sekula Gibbs in 2006. The RPT can also remember that it has total control of state government, and lobby for a change to that portion of the electoral code in 2019. Until then, I say tough luck. We’ll see what the courts say.

Farenthold changes course

Sort of.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, will retire from Congress after finishing his current term, a source close to the congressman told The Tribune Thursday morning. Farenthold soon confirmed the decision in an emotional video posted on Facebook.The decision came after a difficult December for the four-term congressman. Farenthold, one of the quieter members of the Texas delegation, found himself embroiled in a charged atmosphere of sexual harassment allegations in Washington, D.C.

The final blow came in the form of a CNN report on Wednesday night highlighting new sexual harassment allegations that included former employees describing the congressman as verbally abusive and sexually demeaning.

“I’d never served in public office before,” Farenthold said of the allegations in his video Thursday. “I had no idea how to run a Congressional office and, as a result, I allowed a workplace culture to take root in my office that was too permissive and decidedly unprofessional. It accommodated destructive gossip, off-hand comments, off-color jokes and behavior that in general was less than professional.

“And I allowed the personal stress of the job to manifest itself in angry outbursts and too often a failure to treat people with the respect that they deserved,” he added. “That was wrong. Clearly, it’s not how I was raised, it’s not who I am and for that situation, I am profoundly sorry.”

While he “expected a tough primary campaign” and “was looking forward to it,” Farenthold said he would retire instead.

“I would be forced to engage in a month-long campaign for personal vindication,” he said. “That’s not why I came to Congress. Quite simply, my constituents deserve better.”

See here and here for some background. There’s a big complicating factor in all this that I will get to in a moment, but first let’s take a closer look at those latest allegations.

A former senior aide to Rep. Blake Farenthold has approached the House Ethics Committee to share a damning account of working for the Texas Republican, with the intent of describing the congressman as verbally abusive and sexually demeaning — and his congressional office as an intensely hostile environment that drove the aide to physical and emotional distress.

Michael Rekola, who was Farenthold’s communications director in 2015, described in an interview with CNN new details of the congressman’s abusive behavior. It ranged from making sexually graphic jokes to berating aides — bullying that Rekola says led him to seek medical treatment and psychological counseling, and at one point, caused him to vomit daily.

One comment from the congressman was especially personal. Rekola was about to leave town to get married in July 2015, when, he said, Farenthold, standing within earshot of other staffers in his Capitol Hill office, said to the groom-to-be: “Better have your fiancée blow you before she walks down the aisle — it will be the last time.” He then proceeded to joke about whether Rekola’s now-wife could wear white on her wedding day — a clear reference, Rekola said, to whether she had had premarital sex.

“I was disgusted and I left. I walked out,” Rekola said. Almost immediately after returning from his wedding, he gave his two-weeks notice.

Boy, he must have been a hell of a boss to work for, don’t you think? And good Lord that “I’d never run a Congressional office before” baloney. Simple human decency is more than enough to prevent most people from saying and doing these things to coworkers and colleagues, and that’s before you factor in the power you had to fire them. What a total jackass.

So what about that complicating factor? Well, you may recall that the filing deadline was Monday. State law allows a 24-hour period after that to reconsider and withdraw. Guess what? It’s too late for Farenthold to do that.

Farenthold’s decision comes two days too late to remove his name from next year’s Republican primary ballot, according to state officials.

Monday was the deadline for candidates to file for a spot on the ballots for the Republican and Democratic primaries. Candidates have until the day after the regular filing deadline – which was Tuesday – to withdraw from their race, according to the Texas Election Code.

The party can also reject a candidate’s application for a place on the primary ballot. But when a party chooses to do this, it happens at the outset rather than after the candidate was already accepted on the ballot.

Since Farenthold missed the Tuesday deadline to withdraw, his name will still remain on the Republican primary ballot on March 6, according to Sam Taylor, a spokesman for the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

“Barring any challenge to the candidate’s application before the mail-in ballots go out in late January, his name will still be on the ballot,” Taylor said.

According to the Texas Election Code, a challenge to a candidate’s application “must state with specificity how the application does not comply with the applicable requirements as to form, content, and procedure.” A challenge to Farenthold’s application would need to be brought into the Secretary of State’s office prior to Jan. 19 — before any mail-in ballots are mailed out to Texas voters.

A successful challenge would need to prove Farenthold’s application did not comply with state law – like providing an incorrect permanent residence or mailing address.

Farenthold’s plans to resign isn’t enough to challenge his application, Taylor said.

As RG Ratcliffe puts it, this is Farenthold’s “final screwup” as an accidental Congressman. He’s still on the March ballot, and that means there’s at least a chance that he could win that election and be the Republican nominee in CD27 next November. Which would leave him and the Republican leadership that put pressure on him to quit the choice of leaving him there and letting him be a campaign issue for the rest of the year, or having him withdraw and concede the seat to the Democratic nominee. Well, as we saw in CD22 in 2006, you could try to run a write-in candidate, and who knows, maybe the district is Republican enough to still win in that fashion. Let’s just say the Republicans would rather not have to find out. Way to go, Blake. Mother Jones has more.

Filing news: A few tidbits while we wait for the dust to clear

As you know, yesterday was the filing deadline for the primaries. Lots of things happen at the last minute, and the SOS filings page isn’t always a hundred percent up to date, so I’m hesitant to make final pronouncements about things right now. Here are a few things I do know about or have heard about, some of which I will double back to tomorrow, to suss out how they ended up.

– The one candidate who ultimately declined to run for Governor was Dwight Boykins, who announced over the weekend that he would stay put on City Council.

– Mark Phariss was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to the overthrow of Texas’ anti-same sex marriage law. I noticed on the SOS page, and then saw it confirmed on Facebook, he is also now a candidate for office:

My Texas Senate District is District 8, formerly represented by Van Taylor. He has chosen not to run for re-election, but instead to run for the U.S. Congress to replace the retiring Rep. Sam Johnson. Republicans running to replace Van Taylor are Angela Paxton, Texas’ AG Ken Paxton’s wife, and Phillip Huffines, the twin brother of Don Huffines, who is already in the Texas Senate. Both of these candidates will, as you might suspect, work to enact Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s agenda, which, sadly and wrongly, will include legislative measures, like bathroom bills, that will hurt the State of Texas and its most innocent citizens.

No longer willing just to stand by, this past Thursday with the encouragement and support of my wonderful husband, Vic, I filed to run as a Democrat for the Texas Senate, District 8. While District 8 is a conservative district, a win is doable. Trump only carried it by 8 percentage points in 2016. With a big enough Blue Wave and your support, we can win, and I intend to do what is necessary to win.

There is another democratic opponent, a very nice fellow. The primary is March 6, so I have to get very busy and need all of your support in order to be able to challenge Paxton or Huffines.

On Friday, I obtained a tax i.d. number and set up a checking account. And I am in the process of setting up an account with ActBlue to accept online contributions, but it it will be a couple of days before it is operational. If anyone doesn’t want to wait (or if someone prefers not to make online contributions), checks can be mailed to Mark Phariss Campaign, 6009 West Parker Road, Suite 149-126, Plano, TX 75093. My campaign e-mail address is markphariss4district8@gmail.com.

SD08 will be a very challenging fight, but the value proposition in supporting a genuine leader like Mark Phariss over atrocities like Angela Paxton or Phillip Huffines more than outweighs it. If you’re making your 2018 campaign contributions budget, put in a line item for Mark Phariss’ campaign.

Ivan Sanchez stepped down from the Houston Millennials group he founded to announce his entry into the field for CD07. That’s a daunting race to enter, as all the candidates that are already there have been there for months, long enough to have filed Q2 and Q3 finance reports. He starts out well behind in fundraising, but if even half the people who liked and shared his post and congratulated him on Facebook live in CD07, he already has a decent base of support.

Progress Texas was keeping track of the races where a candidate was still needed:

Unchallenged Republicans

State House (click here to check out a Texas House district map to see who’s running – and not running – where)

  • HD 1: Gary VanDeaver (R)

  • HD 2: Dan Flynn (R)

  • HD 7: Jay Dean (R)

  • HD 9: Chris Paddie (R)

  • HD 21: Dade Phelan (R)

  • HD 25: Dennis Bonnen (R)

  • HD 30: Geanie Morrison (R)

  • HD 32: Todd Hunter (R)

  • HD 54: Scott Cosper (R)

  • HD 55: Hugh Shine (R)

  • HD 58: Dewayne Burns (R)

  • HD 59: Tan Parker (R)

  • HD 60: Mike Lang (R)

  • HD 68: Drew Springer (R)

  • HD 69: James Frank (R)

  • HD 72: Drew Darby (R)

  • HD 82: Tom Craddick (R)

  • HD 86: John Smithee (R)

  • HD 87: Four Price (R)

  • HD 128: Briscoe Cain (R)

  • HD 135: Gary Elkins (R)

  • HD 150: Valorie Swanson (R)

State Senate:

  • SD 31: Kel Seliger (R)

Judicial:

  • Judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals Place 8: Elsa Alcala (R)

  • Chief Justice, 2nd Court of Appeals: Terrie Livingston (R)

  • Chief Justice, 10th Court of Appeals: Steve Smith (R)

  • Chief Justice, 11th Court of Appeals: Jim R. Wright (R)

  • Justice, 2nd Court of Appeals, Pl. 4: Bob McCoy (R)

  • Justice, 2nd Court of Appeals, Pl. 5: Sue Walker (R)

  • Justice, 2nd Court of Appeals, Pl. 6: Lee Ann Campbell Dauphinot (R)

  • Justice, 4th Court of Appeals, Pl. 2: Marialyn Barnard (R)

  • Justice, 4th Court of Appeals, Pl. 5: Karen Angelini (R)

I’ve crossed out the ones for which candidates have since appeared. I’m so glad someone finally filed in HD135.

– You know who else filed? This guy, that’s who.

In the face of a storm of controversy and a slew of challengers, U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold indicated Monday he’s still running for re-election.

This time around, it will likely be a lonely battle for the Corpus Christi Republican.

“It’s lonelier than it’s been in past times, but he’s not alone,” said Farenthold’s chief of staff, Bob Haueter, on Monday evening.

I hope that means he’s under constant adult supervision. Have fun defending your record, bubba. I’ll have more tomorrow. In the meantime, here are the early recaps from the Chron and the Trib.

Farenthold draws a crowd of opponents

Bring ’em on.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

Bech Bruun, chairman of the Texas Water Development Board, resigned Thursday from that position ahead of an anticipated bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi.

“Serving as the Chairman of the Texas Water Development Board has been the privilege of a lifetime,” Bruun wrote in a letter dated Dec. 7 to Gov. Greg Abbott obtained by The Texas Tribune. “Recent events, namely the impacts of Hurricane Harvey, have led my family and me to the belief that the time has come for me to focus my passion for public service closer to home.”

Bruun is expected to file to run as a Republican for Texas’ 27th Congressional District as early as Friday.

[…]

For months, Bruun has received encouragement from within the congressional district to challenge Farenthold, and his expected entrance into the race comes days before the 2018 filing deadline. Michael Cloud, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee and former chairman of the Victoria County GOP, launched a bid in October for the seat. Three lesser-known Republicans, Christopher Mapp, Jerry Hall and Eddie Gassman, have also lined up for potential campaigns.

On the Democratic side, at least two Democrats have so far filed to run for the seat.

These recent events also probably had an effect on his decision. And there’s more where that came from.

Members of the U.S. House Ethics Committee unanimously voted Thursday to establish a subcommittee to investigate allegations that U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Corpus Christi Republican, sexually harassed a subordinate several years ago.

[…]

“Over the last two weeks, more information has been disclosed about the nature of the settlement between the parties. In addition, both Representative Farenthold and the Complainant have publicly expressed an interest in increased transparency in this matter,” a committee news release stated. “In light of these developments, the Committee has determined that it is appropriate to establish an Investigative Subcommittee to continue its investigation.”

“The Committee notes that the mere fact of establishing an Investigative Subcommittee does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred.”

But wait, as the commercials used to say, that’s not all. There’s still more:

Embattled Texas Republican Blake Farenthold, under fire in an ongoing sexual harassment probe, said Friday that he and his entire congressional staff underwent sensitivity and sexual harassment training last year after two female staffers complained of gender discrimination and “sexualized commentary” in his Capitol Hill office.

The women’s complaints in 2016 followed that of former spokeswoman Lauren Greene, who had recently settled a federal lawsuit that accused Farenthold of sexual harassment and of firing her in retaliation for her complaint.

The new revelations, which Farenthold acknowledged to the Chronicle on Friday, bring to at least three the number of women who have complained of either sexual harassment, gender discrimination, or a hostile work environment in his office.

It’s never just one woman these guys harass. There’s always more. That aforementioned former subordinate will be giving testimony to the committee. We’ll see how that goes. Since that story was published on Thursday a third Democratic candidates has filed. The three Dem candidates in CD27 are Roy Barrera, who was Farenthold’s opponent in 2016, former Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald, who ran for CD27 in 2012 but didn’t make it out of the primary, and first-time candidate Eric Holguin. Anyone want to lay odds on whether Farenthold makes it to November?

That sexual harassment day of reckoning in Texas politics has begun

The Daily Beast follows up its initial reporting about the secret sexual predators of Texas politics with a story that names names. Two names, in particular. Rather than excerpt at length, allow me to quote the Texas Monthly Daily Post summary of the article:

Two Texas state lawmakers face new sexual harassment allegations. Democratic state Representatives Borris Miles and Carlos Uresti were both named in detailed claims of sexual harassment by several people, including former staffers and interns, in a story published by the Daily Beast late Wednesday night. One woman said that when she was a Texas legislative intern, Miles approached her and offered her cash, saying, “Bitch, you want to fuck with me tonight?” In a separate alleged incident, a Democratic state representative said that he witnessed Miles leaning out of a bus and loudly cat-calling women on the streets of downtown Austin. A former legislative staffer said he saw Miles forcibly kiss a woman at the W Hotel in Austin. “He offered to buy her a drink, kept trying to kiss her, and she kept trying to push him away,” the staffer told the Daily Beast. “He kept laughing about it. It was so creepy, and he had this big smile . . . He also has a tendency to call women out of their name when they turn him down. ‘Bitch,’ ‘ho,’ ‘whore.’ He doesn’t like being told ‘no.’” Uresti, meanwhile, apparently had gained a reputation for harassing women. “[Uresti] was one of the worst,” former Texas political reporter Karen Brooks told the Daily Beast. “He would check me out all the time . . . He gave me inappropriate hugs. He put his hands on me, he ogled me. I would not get in an elevator with him. If members were having dinner and he was going to be there, I stopped going.” Another former reporter said Uresti “put his tongue down my throat” without her consent after they went out for happy hour drinks. Uresti denied the allegations to the Daily Beast; Miles’s office did not return requests for comment.

Go read the whole thing. It’s clear these two are not the only offenders – Wendy Davis mentions but does not name a Republican legislator who groped her at the Capitol, and there are strong implications that there are many horror stories about lobbyists to be told, all just for starters – but for now we must reckon with Sens. Miles and Uresti. The fact that this story came out on the same day that US Senator Al Franken announced his resignation in response to allegations that were not as harrowing as the ones made here should not be lost on us. I’ve known Sen. Miles since he first ran for the Lege in 2006 against Al Edwards. I’ve never met Sen. Uresti, but I was glad to see him defeat the late Frank Madla in 2006. Both of them were improvements over the incumbents they ousted, and both have done good work in Austin. But both of them need to be held accountable for their actions. Both of them need to resign, and the sooner the better.

It brings me no joy to say any of this, but here we are. There are no excuses or justifications for their actions. It’s an eternal stain on all of us that the system in place at the Capitol allowed this sort of behavior – which, again, is very much not limited to Borris Miles and Carlos Uresti – with no consequences for anyone but the victims. Resigning won’t undo what has been done and it won’t give justice to those that Miles and Uresti are alleged to have harassed and assaulted, but it will at least be a small step in the direction of bringing those days and those ways to an end. We as Democrats and as decent human beings have a responsibility to the people our officials represent and to ourselves to lead the way on changing behavior. If it grates on Sens. Miles and Uresti, as it did on Sen. Franklin, that they are being pushed out when the likes of Donald Trump and Roy Moore and Blake Farenthold seem to be getting a pass, I understand. That is indeed an injustice. But this is what I have the power to affect right now.

Of course, nobody really cares what some guy on the Internet thinks. For the right thing to happen, Democratic elected officials and other high profile individuals must act as well. Annie’s List got the ball rolling by urging the two Senators to resign. Others need to follow their lead. The people who are peers and colleagues and donors and other influencers of Sens. Miles and Uresti need to use that influence and give the same message to them. Their behavior was completely unacceptable. They need to step down. And note that on a practical level, neither is on the ballot this year, so simply not filing for re-election in 2020 isn’t enough. The right answer is to step down now, so successors can be elected in time for the beginning of the 2019 session. Both Miles and Uresti have since put out statements denying the allegations, so this isn’t going to happen without a fight. It’s ugly and it’s discouraging, but there’s no other choice.

Hey, remember that harassment lawsuit against Rep. Blake Farenthold?

I’m just gonna leave this right here.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

Rep. Blake Farenthold used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim brought by his former spokesman — the only known sitting member of Congress to have used a little-known congressional account to pay an accuser, people familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

Lauren Greene, the Texas Republican’s former communications director, sued her boss in December 2014 over allegations of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment.

Greene said another Farenthold aide told her the lawmaker said he had “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” about Greene. She also claimed that Farenthold “regularly drank to excess” and told her in February 2014 that he was “estranged from his wife and had not had sex with her in years.”

When she complained about comments Farenthold and a male staffer made to her, Greene said the congressman improperly fired her. She filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, but the case was later dropped after both parties reached a private settlement.

No information was ever released on that agreement.

House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) told GOP lawmakers in a closed-door Friday morning meeting that only one House office in the past five years had used an Office of Compliance account to settle a sexual harassment complaint. Harper said in that one instance, the settlement totaled $84,000.

[…]

Farenthold is likely to face repercussions from fellow House Republicans for using taxpayer money to settle a harassment claim. Recent reports, including in POLITICO, revealed that $17 million has been paid out quietly to settle workplace disputes.

Harper said Friday that only $360,000 of that total involved a House office.

That, however, won’t stem demands from conservatives that members who have been part of such settlements use their own personal money to reimburse the treasury.

See here, here, and here for some background. Farenthold was cleared by the Office of Congressional Ethics in October of 2015, and the lawsuit was settled the next month. If it weren’t for the current national conversation about harassment and abuse, I’m willing to bet we’d have never heard about the amount of the settlement or the source of the payment. Farenthold has filed for re-election, but after what happened to Smokey Joe Barton, you have to wonder if that could change. ThinkProgress, the Trib, and the Chron have more.

Court invalidates CDs 27 and 35

We are one step closer to having a new Congressional map.

Federal judges have invalidated two Texas congressional districts, ruling that they must be fixed by either the Legislature or a federal court.

In a unanimous decision Tuesday, a three-judge panel in San Antonio ruled that Congressional Districts 27 and 35 violate the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act. The judges found that Hispanic voters in Congressional District 27, represented by U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, were “intentionally deprived of their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.” Congressional District 35 — a Central Texas district represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett of Austin — was deemed “an impermissible racial gerrymander” because mapdrawers illegally used race as the predominant factor in drawing it without a compelling state interest, the judges wrote.

The 107-page ruling — the latest chapter of a six-year court battle over how Texas lawmakers drew political maps — sets up a scramble to redraw the districts in time for the 2018 elections.

The court ordered the Texas Attorney General’s Office to indicate within three business days whether the Texas Legislature would take up redistricting to fix those violations. Otherwise, the state and its legal foes will head back to court on Sept. 5 to begin re-drawing the congressional map — which could shake up other congressional races when the boundaries are changed.

Here is a copy of the ruling, which was unanimous. Michael Li breaks down what this means.

* TX-27 (Farenthold) and TX-35 (Doggett) need to be redrawn – but we knew that already because the court found earlier this year that the configuration of the districts in the 2011 plan was unconstitutional and the 2013 plan made no changes to those districts.

* No further changes need to be made to TX-23 (Hurd) in light of the changes made by the court in the interim plan that then became the 2013 plan. (It is possible there still could be some changes in the Bear County portions of TX-23 as a result of the dismantling of TX-35 but nothing is required).

* No new opportunity district needs to be created in either the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The court’s ruling finds that claims under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act fail because African-Americans and Latinos are not politically cohesive and that any intentional discrimination was adequately remedied by the interim plan/2013 plan as a result of the creation of TX-33 (Veasey).

* No new section 2 district needs to be created in Harris County because African-Americans and Latinos are not politically cohesive.

* BIG FINDING: The court held that the 2013 plan, like the 2011 plan, was intentionally discriminatory. This ruling will play an important role when it comes time for the court to consider whether to put Texas back under preclearance coverage under section 3 of the Voting Rights Act.

From my layman’s perspective, this is a pretty good ruling for the state. CD23 remains intact (though it could be affected by the redrawing of the other two districts), and no new minority opportunity districts need be drawn. The ruling of intent to discriminate is the killer for them, though, as it could mean being put back under preclearance. All things considered, I figure this moves two seats to the Dems, with CD23 remaining a tossup. I suppose Greg Abbott could call another special session to draw a compliant map – they may need another one for the State House soon, too – but I don’t expect that. My guess is the state appeals in the hope of pushing the day of reckoning off into the future, if not winning outright. Stay tuned. The DMN, the Chron, and the Lone Star Project have more.

Collins responds to Farenthold

Please keep this up forever.

On Monday, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) offered a novel — and sexist — explanation and solution for the Republican health care bill’s struggles: He blamed “some female senators from the Northeast” for holding up the legislation. Then he went on to argue that “if it was a guy from south Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style” — a reference to Burr’s fatal duel with Alexander Hamilton in 1804.

In a hot mic moment, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), one of the senators who opposes the Senate health care bill because it would lead to big losses in insurance coverage, was very blunt in her thoughts about Farenthold.

First, she asked Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), “Did you see the one who challenged me to a duel?”

Reed said, “You could beat the shit out of him.”

Collins responded: “He’s so unattractive. It’s unbelievable. … Did you see the picture of him in his pajamas next to this bunny?”

The recording is then cut off.

See here for the background. You can hear the recording at the link above. I don’t think there’s anything I could possibly add to this. Gray Matters has more.

You’re never so weak as when you try to act tough

Blake Farenthold, ladies and gentlemen:

A Texas GOP congressman says if the three female Republican senators who oppose a bill repealing Obamacare were men from South Texas, he might challenge them to a duel.

“The fact that the Senate does not have the courage to do some of the things that every Republican in the Senate promised to do is just absolutely repugnant to me,” U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, told his local radio host Bob Jones on Friday.

“Some of the people that are opposed to this, there are female senators from the Northeast… If it was a guy from South Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.”

[…]

Duel language is not new in politics. In 2004, then-U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, a Democrat who crossed party lines to campaign for President George W. Bush, invoked it against MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews. The comments were met with widespread mockery at the time.

But there’s little funny about such language in the U.S. Capitol these days, after a deranged man shot and injured a Republican member of Congress during a baseball practice in June. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, was gravely injured in the incident and remains hospitalized.

Yes, thank goodness we’ve all heeded that call for civility after the shooting on the baseball field. Also, someone might gently tell Farenthold that Alaska is not in the northeast. Tell him thanks for the laugh, too, we all needed it. Juanita and ThinkProgress have more.

Will we have enough candidates for the opportunities?

There’s always something to worry about.

With the Texas case moving forward, the boundaries of the congressional districts remain in question with the 2018 elections less than 18 months away. The Lone Star State’s primary filing deadline is in six months.

So, incumbent lawmakers and potential challengers are watching to see where the districts’ boundaries will fall, and weighing how that could affect the outcomes in next year’s midterms.

[…]

National Democrats have heard from candidates interested in [CD23]. And while they expect strong challengers to emerge, none have so far.

“Everyone’s kind of keeping their powder dry until it makes a little more sense to announce,” said [Colin] Strother, the Democratic consultant.

The court also ruled two other districts were unlawful: the 35th District, which stretches from San Antonio to Austin, and is represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett; and the 27th District along Texas’ central Gulf Coast, represented by Republican Blake Farenthold.

[Michael Li, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice] speculated that, if the court rules the current map is also invalid, a new congressional map could lead to two or three more Democratic seats. Republicans currently outnumber Democrats, 25 to 11, in the Texas delegation.

But one GOP consultant focused on Texas did not believe a new map would result in a significant shift against the Republicans.

“There’s just not enough Democrats to roll around the state to really have massive amounts of change,” the consultant said. “You may lose one seat.”

The consultant also said the uncertainty would not have an effect on congressional campaigns for incumbents, since they are accustomed to the constant legal battles over the congressional lines.

But Strother said Democrats had to be prepared just in case.

“The nightmare scenario for Democrats is we don’t have people preparing for the emergency that this district or that district suddenly gets great for Democrats … and it’s too late,” he said.

Strother said he didn’t see many Democrats preparing for races just yet, but pointed to Joe Kopser in the 21st District as someone jumping in early in a race rated Solid Republican by Inside Elections.

Kopser, an Army veteran and technology businessman, recently announced that he would challenge GOP Rep. Lamar Smith in the central Texas district. It is possible a new congressional map could have a ripple effect and alter the lines of Smith’s district.

While the district is not on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s list of 2018 targets, the committee is waiting to see how the redistricting case pans out.

I’m not worried about this. Districts that aren’t likely to change or which won’t change that much ether already have candidates or candidates in waiting – Pete Gallego is circling around CD23, for one, and there are other candidates looking at it as well – and in the districts that may change a lot, like CD27, there’s really no choice but to wait and see what they actually look like. Sure, Republican incumbents who are already sitting on a decent pile of campaign cash will have an advantage, but that was always the case, and it may not matter that much in any event, depending on how the districts get drawn. As far as CD21 goes, a look at the FEC reports shows that there are at least three other candidates running against Lamar Smith, one of whom has been out there for a couple of months. We’re going to have plenty of candidates, and some of them will have a decent chance of winning. It’s all good.

Court rules several Congressional districts were illegally drawn

Bam!

Some of Texas’ 36 congressional districts violate either the U.S. Constitution or the federal Voting Rights Act, a panel of federal judges ruled Friday.

In a long-delayed ruling, the judges ruled 2-1 that the Texas Legislature must redraw the political maps it most recently used for the 2016 elections.

Specifically, they pointed to Congressional District 23, which stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, takes in most of the Texas-Mexico border and is represented by Republican Will Hurd of Helotes; Congressional District 27, represented by Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi; and Congressional District 35, a Central Texas district represented by Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin.

The 166-page ruling by the San Antonio-based district was the latest in a complicated case that dates back to 2011, and comes just two election cycles away from the next U.S. Census — when the state would draw a new map under normal circumstances.

In 2013, the district court found evidence that lawmakers intentionally discriminated when redrawing the boundaries. But the U.S. Supreme Court soon complicated the case when it struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act that had forced Texas to seek permission before making changes to election procedures.

But that didn’t end the legal battle. The U.S. Department of Justice and other plaintiffs pressed on in the case, and Texas held elections using interim maps drawn by judges.

In its decision Friday, the court still found that “mapdrawers acted with an impermissible intent to dilute minority voting strength or otherwise violated the Fourteenth Amendment” of the Constitution.

“The Court finds that this evidence persuasively demonstrates that mapdrawers intentionally packed [concentrated certain populations] and cracked [diluted certain populations] on the basis of race (using race as a proxy for voting behavior) with the intent to dilute minority voting strength,” U.S. District Judges Orlando Garcia and Xavier Rodriguez wrote in the majority opinion.

In his dissenting opinion, Judge Jerry Smith of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals called the case moot under previous rulings, and he  sharply criticized the Justice Department.

Tale about a Friday news dump – I literally saw this on Facebook just before going to bed Friday night. We have been waiting forever for a ruling in this case. Note that this is only half of what we have been waiting for – there is still a ruling to come on the State House map, too. But for now, the status of the 2018 elections has changed. The Lone Star Project adds on.

The court singled out violations in the Corpus Christi region involving District 27 (Farenthold – R), in the South Texas/Border region involving District 23 (Hurd – R) and in the Austin to San Antonio region involving District 35 (Doggett – D). The Court also ruled that minority voters in the Dallas/Fort Worth area were illegally cracked under the 2011 map.

While it is too early to know exactly what changes will be made, it is fair to read the opinion as requiring that Hispanic voters put into Anglo-controlled CD27 in the current map must be returned to an effective Hispanic district, that Hispanic voting strength weakened in District 23 must be restored, and that District 35 in the Austin to San Antonio corridor will have to be modified to reunite minority voters in a far less fragmented district centered in Austin.

In Dallas/Fort Worth, the creation of District 33 (Veasey – D) in the current map may have resolved some of the blatant violations under the 2011 map; however, arguments will be made to repair remaining cracked Hispanic and African American neighborhoods in Dallas and Tarrant counties.

The ruling is a major victory for minority citizens and their advocates before the court. Minority advocacy groups including LULAC, NAACP, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and citizen plaintiff groups led by Congressman Marc Veasey and State Representative Eddie Rodriguez had the courage to challenge the GOP map and the tenacity to stay with a long and difficult court battle. Their efforts have defended and protected the voting rights of thousands of otherwise disenfranchised Texas citizens. The Lone Star Project has been engaged in the Texas redistricting battle from the onset and will continue to provide support to key plaintiffs in this important effort.

We should expect the San Antonio Court to schedule a hearing soon to discuss the additional deliberations needed to fully resolve the case and to reach a final remedy. It is also likely that Governor Greg Abbott will refuse give up Texas GOP efforts to protect a discriminatory redistricting process and will direct state attorneys to explore appeal options.

I’d say it’s not “likely” that Abbott appeals, it’s a 100% gold-plated certainty. Rick Hasen quotes from the majority decision to explain what that “minority voters in the Dallas/Fort Worth area were illegally cracked under the 2011 map” means:

Plaintiffs have established a § 2 violation, both in terms of intent and effect, in South/West Texas. Plaintiffs have shown that seven compact majority-HCVAP districts could and should be drawn there that would substantially address the § 2 rights of Hispanic voters in South/West Texas, including Nueces County. Defendants’ decision to place Nueces County Hispanic voters in an Anglo district had the effect and was intended to dilute their opportunity to elect their candidate of choice.

Meanwhile, race predominated in the drawing of CD35, and Defendants’ decision to place majority- in Travis County was not to comply with the VRA but to minimize the number of Democrat districts in the plan overall. Plaintiffs have established a Shaw-type equal protection violation with regard to CD35. Plaintiffs also establish a Shaw-type equal protection violation with regard to CD23. In addition, Defendants’ manipulation of Latino voter turnout and cohesion in CD23 denied Latino voters equal opportunity and had the intent and effect of diluting Latino voter opportunity. Nueces County Hispanics and Hispanic voters in CD23 have proved their § 2 results and intentional vote dilution claims. The configurations of CD23, CD27, and CD35 in Plan C185 are therefore invalid.

Plaintiffs fail to proffer a demonstration plan accompanied by sufficient evidence to demonstrate that additional compact minority districts could be drawn in DFW or Houston, taking into account traditional redistricting principles and communities of interest. However, they are not precluded from raising § 2 results claims with regard to Plan C235 during the trial on that plan. Plaintiffs have proved intentional vote dilution through packing and cracking in DFW and also establish a Shaw-type racial gerrymandering claim with regard to CD26, but not CD6. However, they fail to prove intentional vote dilution in the Houston area, and fail to prove that mapdrawers acted with racially discriminatory purpose when drawing the districts represented by the African-American Congresspersons.

Well, okay, we’ll need to see a proposed remedy to understand what that means, but the bottom line is that four districts could be directly affected – CDs 23, 26, 27, and 35 – with ancillary changes to some number of adjoining districts. In a subsequent post, Hasen provides some extra guidance to this decision.

2. Bail in. It probably is not obvious to those not steeped in this area, but the big fight here is not about these particular districts (although that is important) but whether Texas gets put back under Section 5 preclearance for up to 10 years. That is possible under Section 3, the “bail-in” provision of the VRA which gives a court the ability to impose preclearance after a finding of intentional race discrimination. That finding is here, and the case is still going to go forward on that issue (as well as some other issues). Further, the finding of intentional race discrimination will almost certainly be relied on if, as I expect, the trial court in the Texas voter id case, finds intentional racial discrimination and orders bail in. So this is huge. (The caveat is how a Trump DOJ would enforce such rights if Trump is still in office. I’m not optimistic, and there’s no appeal of a DOJ decision to grant preclearance. Preclearance of post-2020 redistricting will depend on who wins the 2020 presidential elections.)

3. Race or party. I have been writing a lot about the race or party question: what to do about claims of racial discrimination when, as in the American South, race and party are so closely correlated. The majority approach, is subtle and sophisticated on this question, and seems to fall mostly on the party as a proxy for race (“party as race”) approach to the question. When you make it harder for minority voters to exercise political power for your own political reasons (such as protecting incumbents or your party), this counts as intentional race discrimination. Judge Smith takes the “race or party” approach, and he believes he knows what’s “really” going on: this is all about party, rather than race. It is either blind to the realities or ignoring the fact that these two criteria are really inseparable in Texas.

4. The remedy and what comes next. The trial court does not order anything to happen right now. The parties will fight about the remedy. Likely Texas will get a chance to redraw districts with some deference to Texas as to that which is not a violation. The parties will fight over the plans. And this will get dragged out. But presumably there will be new maps in place for the 2018 congressional elections, unless the Supreme Court intervenes. I fully expect Texas to try to get the Supreme Court to intervene in the interim. At most these lines would last 2 elections, and then we are back to a new round of redistricting. And this shows what is lost by preclearance. We’ve now had three elections that arguably should never have taken place under these lines.

There’s more, so read the rest. If this case proceeds from here as the post-2003 redistricting litigation did, we will get a bunch of November of 2018 special elections in these Congressional districts, with the possibility of special elections in some number of redrawn State House districts as well. If that doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, then you’re reading the wrong blog. Daily Kos and the Chron have more.

Some Republican women unhappy about Sid Miller

Noted for the record.

Sid Miller

Sid Miller

For many female Texans working in Republican politics, last month’s release of a video showing GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump boasting about groping women was bad enough. They have since watched in astonishment as male elected officials from their own state have engaged in coarse rhetoric of their own.

The simmer turned into a full rolling boil on Tuesday, when someone using state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s Twitter account used a four-letter word that is frequently described as “the worst word in the English language.”

“When I heard about the tweet, I was stunned,” said Jennifer Waisath Harris, an Austin-based public relations consultant with a long history with the GOP. “I have not been surprised with some of the words that came of the commissioner’s mouth … but it’s one of those words you just don’t utter.”

The consequences of what Miller’s camp describes as an accidental tweet, juxtaposed with both Trump’s tone and recent comments from two Texas congressmen, has the potential to run off an entire generation of the party’s female talent pool, according to several women with strong ties to the party in Texas. They’ve spent their careers fighting for hallmark conservative values including school choice, opposition to abortion, limited government and a strong national defense.

“I can’t believe he even employs anybody who would post such a thing if he didn’t do it himself,” wrote Elizabeth Ames Coleman, a former Texas Railroad Commission chairwoman who also served in the Texas House, in an email. “Is everybody just so desensitized by the barrage of gutter-level talk that they don’t recognize it anymore? How embarrassing to have any Texas elected official perpetuate this kind of discourse.”

See here for some background. The story goes on in that vein for awhile, and I’ll get back to it in a minute, but first let’s jump over to this Statesman story, which provides more context for Miller’s tweeting habits.

At 1:43 a.m. Tuesday, more than 12 hours before a tweet from Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s Twitter account referred to Hillary Clinton using a sexually explicit, derogatory term for women, Miller, or whoever was tweeting on his behalf at that hour in the morning, tweeted a question — “Can we bring Milo back?!?”

Milo is Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart senior editor who Twitter in July banned for life for directing his vast army of 300,000 Twitter followers to bombard “Saturday Night Live’s” Leslie Jones with racist tweets for her starring role in the “Ghostbusters” movie remake.

Miller’s middle-of-the night Twitter query was directed at four other cult figures, like Yiannopoulos with large social media followings at the alt-right edge of the Donald Trump political orbit.

There is Ricky Vaughn, who commonly uses the vulgarism for Clinton, and it appears might have been the source for Miller’s offensive tweet, which was quickly taken down.

There is RooshV, a renowned “pick-up artist” who on Oct. 17 wrote that women should confine themselves to reproductive sex, child rearing and homemaking, and who has warned that if Clinton is elected, a heterosexual male will never again serve as president.

There is Mike Cernovich, the man The New Yorker in its Oct. 31 issue profiles as the “meme mastermind of the alt-right,” who, on his “Danger and Play” blog, developed a theory of white male identity that posits that “men were oppressed by feminism, and political correctness prevented the discussion of obvious truths, such as the criminal proclivities of certain ethnic groups.”

And there is Jack Posobiec, special projects director of Citizens4Trump, who maintains that the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape of Trump talking about his predatory behavior with women was part of an attempted coup against Trump by House Speaker Paul Ryan and his GOP allies.

TM Daily Post riffs off of this and provides a few links to help illustrate who this particular basket of deplorables are. The point here is that the tweet that brought on this latest firestorm wasn’t just some accident of the kind that could happen to anyone. It’s that Miller and whoever else runs his social media accounts regularly swims in this cesspool of racist misogynistic douchebags. They’re buddies who laugh at the same jokes and share the same worldview. Put politics aside for a second and imagine that you’ve found yourself at a happy hour with these characters. Would you order a beer and hang out with them, or would you get the hell out of there and be glad to be rid of them?

Back to the Trib story, the theme of professional Republican women who have suddenly realized that they have been at this particular happy hour from hell all along but only began to notice it when the men they have worked for and supported have failed to say or do anything to derail these jerks is one that has started to appear. It’s not just Miller and Trump, either – the story notes recent comments by US Reps. Blake Farenthold and Brian Babin, among others, as part of the problem as well. Part of me feels sympathy for these women because how can one not feel sympathy, and part of me wonders what took them so long to figure out what was plainly obvious to the rest of us. Mostly I wonder what if anything they will do about it now that they have had this realization. The Trib story mentions some write-in votes for Evan McMullin, a lessened likelihood among Republican women to run for office (already a problem for the GOP), and some vague talk about reforming the party from within or splintering off into something else. The real question comes at the end:

[Randan Steinhauser, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee,] suggested that with Miller, at least, women would have the final word.

“We are political consultants by trade,” she said. “We’re conservatives, and as a strong conservative woman, I open the door to a strong conservative woman challenging Sid Miller.”

I’ll believe that when I see it. I might even take it seriously if it happens. As I’ve said many times about other matters of political controversy, nothing changes until someone loses an election over it. The filing deadline for 2018 is in a little more than a year. Put your money where your mouth is, and then we can talk. The Press has more.

Flipping Fort Bend

FiveThirtyEight projects a national insight down to the local level.

In August, Nate Cohn of The New York Times put it well when he wrote: “The simple way to think about Mr. Trump’s strength is in terms of education among white voters. He hopes to do much better than Mitt Romney did in 2012 among white voters without a degree so that he can make up the margin of Mr. Romney’s four-point defeat and overcome the additional losses he’s likely to absorb among well-educated voters and Hispanic voters.”

There’s evidence that Trump is underperforming Romney among Asiansand African-Americans, not just Latinos and college-educated whites. Clinton, on the other hand, has been underperforming President Obama among non-college-educated whites.

To get a handle on how these shifts could affect the electoral landscape, we modeled how many of Romney’s votes came from college-educated whites and minorities and how many of Obama’s votes came from non-college-educated whites in each state, county and congressional district. The difference between these two vote totals, shown in the map above, can tell us where Clinton and Trump have the most potential to build on 2012.

Then we went a step further: How would the 2016 map look if one out of every five whites without a college degree who voted for Obama in 2012 defected to Trump and if one out of every five non-whites and college-educated whites who voted for Romney in 2012 switched to Clinton? (Why one out of five? It’s a somewhat arbitrary number but represents a realistic shift of these groups, according to polls released over the past few months.)

Let’s call this scenario the “2016 Vote Swap.” In it, Clinton would win the election, and her share of the two-party vote would be 52.7 percent — 0.7 percentage points higher than Obama’s 2012 showing. However, we also estimate she would win 10 fewer electoral votes than Obama did in the Electoral College.

[…]

The model suggests that several traditionally Republican suburban locales with diversifying and highly educated electorates could be poised to flip and support the Democratic presidential candidate: Orange County, California; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Chester County, Pennsylvania; Fort Bend County, Texas; and Virginia Beach. The model also suggests that Clinton could make major gains — while still falling short — in Douglas County outside of Denver; Hamilton County outside of Indianapolis; and Delaware County outside Columbus, Ohio.

Here’s what the map of all this looks like for every county:

There are a total of six counties in Texas that would flip from red in 2012 to blue in 2016 under the assumption that college-educated Anglo voters will shift from Trump to Clinton. Here they are, along with their 2012 results:


County       Romney    Obama   Romney%  Obama%
==============================================
Fort Bend   116,126  101,144    52.91%  46.08%
Nueces       48,966   45,772    50.95%  47.63%
Uvalde        4,529    3,825    53.69%  45.35%
Brewster      1,976    1,765    51.10%  45.64%
Hudspeth        471      379    54.58%  43.92%
Kenedy           84       82    50.30%  49.10%

Needless to say, some of these counties are more consequential than others. Having Fort Bend go blue, which nearly happened in 2008, would if nothing else be a big psychological lift for Democrats, as it would represent the first beachhead outside the traditional big urban/border county box that the party has been in. If Fort Bend, then why not Williamson, or Collin, or whichever other suburban county?

The other county worth keeping an eye on is Nueces, which is the population center for CD27, home of Rep. Blake “I was thrown off by the anchor’s use of a hypothetical question” Farenthold. That district could conceivably come into play if things get really bad for Trump; Lord knows Farenthold is incapable of being an asset to himself, so if there’s trouble he’ll be right there in it. We don’t have the the fuller Census data that the 538 crew uses to make these projections, so it’s impossible to say how much of a shift there might be if their hypothesis holds. There would be plenty of other factors affecting things as well, so don’t get too wrapped up in this. But if you’re in one of those counties, especially Fort Bend or Nueces, take this as motivation to do some GOTV work. The promise of a good result is there waiting to be taken. Juanita has more.

The high-speed rail fight has officially shifted to Congress

Nothing like a little eminent domain action to spur some people on.

In the four years Texas Central Railway unveiled plans to link Dallas and Houston with the country’s first bullet train, officials with the private company have talked a lot about how quickly the line will whisk travelers between two of the country’s largest, fastest-growing urban areas, about how darn Texan the early investors are, about the stellar safety record of the Japanese rail technology they’ll be using.

By contrast, the company has talked very little about its planned use of eminent domain, which is the legal term for when a government, or frequently a private company that has the government’s endorsement, takes someone’s land. When the topic has come up, the company has typically responded by stressing its strong preference for negotiating with landowners to find a mutually agreeable price for their land.

The problem with that response is that it fails to acknowledge some fundamental truths about human beings in general and landowners in the rural areas along the bullet train’s proposed route in particular. People, as a rule, don’t like having their property sliced in two by large infrastructure projects. People in places like Ellis and Grimes counties really, really don’t like having their property sliced in two by a private, Japanese-backed venture whose only benefit for them will be the privilege of marveling at the wondrous bullet-train technology as it zooms by atop a 14-foot berm. If the line is ever going to get built, Texas Central will have to use eminent domain against hundreds, maybe thousands, of landowners.

Texas Central now admits as much. In filings last month with the federal Surface Transportation Board, which regulates the operations of the freight and passenger rail market, the company indicated that it’s ready to start acquiring right-of-way for its track.

“In many cases, that involves negotiating agreements with landowners who are willing sellers,” the company wrote. “Texas Central is already beginning those negotiations. Inevitably, however, some landowners along the route will not be willing to sell, or even negotiate. If some of those negotiations reach an impasse, Texas Central plans to use its statutory eminent domain powers to establish the properties’ condemnation value.”

In the weeks since the filling, the Surface Transportation Board has become the site of a pitched battle between Texas Central and its opponents, with powerful surrogates on both sides. Several members of Texas’ congressional delegation, and about a dozen state legislators, have waded into the debate. Congressmen Joe Barton of Ennis and Kevin Bradyof suburban Houston have filed letters opposing Texas Central while Dallas’Eddie Bernice Johnson and Corpus Christi’s Blake Farenthold offering statements of support.

The stakes are high. Texas Central says it needs Surface Transportation Board approval in order to begin using eminent domain under Texas law, an obvious prerequisite for actually building and operating a railroad.That means the Surface Transportation Board represents a regulatory choke point, a rare point where opponents can conceivably derail the project in one fell swoop.

See here for some background. If you look at Rep. Johnson’s letter, you will see that it was also signed by Rep. Gene Green of Houston. No surprise, since urban Democrats have been big supporters of the rail line so far. The surprise was Rep. Farenthold, as his district isn’t in the path of the train and is more rural than urban. Gotta give him credit for that – he didn’t have to get involved, and having at least one Republican in their corner will help TCR make its case. I don’t know what the timeine is for the Surface Transportation Board, but I agree that this is a potential choke point, and it could have a disproportionate effect on the ultimate outcome. I’ll keep an eye on that.

2016 primaries: Congress

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Gene Green

The big story here is that Rep. Gene Green not only survived, but won big. He was up 65% to 32% in early voting, a margin of about 4,000 votes; in the end he won by about 58-38, for a margin of about 5,000 votes. I had a hard time getting a feel for this race. Green was on TV a lot, but I saw more people than I might have expected expressing support for Garcia on Facebook. Garcia homed in on some issues for which Green might have been vulnerable, and as I said before, he ran the campaign I’d have had him run if I’d have been running his campaign. In the end, people weren’t ready to fire Gene Green. I doubt he faces any more serious challengers between now and whenever he decides to hang ’em up. The Press has more.

The only other Democratic Congressional primary of interest was in CD15, where Rep. Ruben Hinojosa declined to run for re-election. Vicente Gonzalez and Dolly Elizondo were leading the pack, with Gonzalez over 40% and Elizondo at 25%. As noted before, Elizondo would be the first Latina elected to Congress from Texas if she won, but she has a lot of ground to make up in the runoff if she wants to get there.

On the Republican side, multiple incumbents faced challengers of varying levels of crazy. The only one who appeared to be threatened as of when I turned it was Rep. Kevin Brady in CD08, who eventually made it above the 50% mark against three challengers, the leader of whom was former State Rep. (and loony bird) Steve Toth. That would have been one butt-ugly runoff if it had come to that, but it won’t. Reps. John Culberson and Blake Farenthold were winning but with less than 60%. No one else was in a close race.

The one Republican open seat was in CD19, where the three top contenders were Jody Arrington, Glen Robertson, and Michael Bob Starr. Of the latter, John Wright noted the following for the Observer before the results began to come in (scroll down a ways to see):

Finally, in West Texas’ Congressional District 19, retired Col. Michael Bob Starr has come under fire from other GOP candidates for participating in LGBT Pride runs when he served as a commander at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene. If Starr wins, one of the nation’s most conservative districts would be represented by someone who is arguably moderate on LGBT issues, and the outcome could serve as a barometer of where the movement stands.

Starr was running third when last I checked, but he was behind the leader by fewer than 2,000 votes, so the situation was fluid. That said, as interesting as a Starr victory would be, he’d have to survive a runoff first, and I’d be mighty pessimistic about that. But we’ll see.

Democratic statewide resultsRepublican statewide results

Ethics investigator clears Farenthold

Some good news for a controversial Congressman.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

Ethics investigators struck a blow Monday to an ex-House staffer’s sexual harassment claims against Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, nine months after the fired communications director filed suit in District of Columbia court.

The Office of Congressional Ethics did not find substantial reason to believe Farenthold, 53, sexually harassed Lauren Greene, discriminated against her on the basis of her gender, or retaliated against her for complaining about the alleged unlawful treatment. In accordance with public disclosure rules, the House Ethics Committee shared OCE’s findings and announced it had not yet completed its own review of the matter.

Attorneys from another House entity, the Office of House Employment, are defending Farenthold against Greene’s accusations that the congressman discussed “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” about her with another one of his employees. Farenthold’s office has admitted the former talk radio host occasionally complimented Greene on her appearance, but denied making improper advances.

“Due to the ongoing nature of the lawsuit, the Committee has not yet been able to complete its review of the matter and therefore is not in a position to dismiss the matter at this time,” Chairman Charlie Dent, R-Pa., and ranking member Linda T. Sánchez, D-Calif., said in a joint statement. “The Committee will continue its review and ultimately will take any additional action it deems necessary, consistent with the House and Committee rules.”

See here, here, and here for the background, and here for a copy of the OCE’s report. This is as good a result as Farenthold could have wanted, though there’s still the lawsuit and the House Ethics Committee investigation to get through; as the Trib notes, the Committee didn’t concur with the OCE report, so he’s not out of the woods just yet. Whether it dampens any Democratic interest in his seat, assuming that was a thing in the first place, remains to be seen. The Hill, Politico, the WaPo, and the Chron have more.

More on the potential Hillary effect in Texas

From the Trib, from shortly before Hillary Clinton made her official announcement.

2. She could resuscitate Texas’ Democratic farm teams.

Beyond the presidency, Democrats are betting on gains in the U.S. House in 2016. They’ve got nowhere to go, they say, but up.

And the notion of a Clinton atop the ticket is a recruitment pitch Democrats are making to would-be congressional challengers across the country.

Democrats hope that in the long term, having Clintons back in the White House could nurse the party infrastructure in red states like Texas. The Clintons are known for their willingness to help loyalists, even at the lowest levels of public office. The hope? Their engagement will build Democratic state parties in hostile territory in order to better position the party for future rounds of redistricting.

“The possibility that we won’t regress is certainly attractive,” said Democratic consultant Jason Stanford.

3. Clinton’s a safe bet to boost Hispanic turnout.

Much of Clinton’s Texas appeal is among a particular demographic: Hispanics. In her 2008 Texas presidential primary against Obama, she outpaced him by a 2-to-1 margin among Hispanics, according to the Pew Research Center. Her narrow primary victory here was a highlight of a mostly disappointing presidential bid.

The Texan who might benefit most from a Clinton run is former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, a Democrat who was ousted last November by Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd and recently announced a rematch.

That seat, Texas’s 23rd District, is 61 percent Hispanic – and is considered a swing district. Beyond pure demographics, a Clinton win alone could benefit Gallego. In presidential election years, the winner of the 23rd District was a candidate from the same party as the presidential victor.

Another race with a small semblance of promise for Democrats is in the 27th Congressional District. Former Democratic state Rep. Solomon Ortiz Jr. is mulling a campaign against Republican U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, who’s facing legal troubles. That district is 44 percent Hispanic, but is a far more difficult climb for Democrats.

Clinton definitely performed strongly in Latino districts in the 2008 primary. Some of that effect carried over into November, though by 2012 President Obama was doing as well in Latino areas compared to other Democrats as he was overall. Obviously, any boost to Latino turnout in Texas would be beneficial and appreciated, but let’s see how she runs her campaign first. There’s also the possibility, not mentioned in this story, that she will do better among white voters than Obama has done. Hard to see how she can do any worse, but even shaving a few points off could make a big difference. I’d like to think there’s room for improvement there, but I plan to keep my expectations low until there’s polling data to suggest it might be happening.

National Dems say they’re looking at Farenthold’s seat

I’ll believe it when I see it.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

The hunt is on in Southeast Texas for a Democrat to challenge U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi.

At first glance, it might seem like an absurd notion; Farenthold won re-election by a 2-to-1 margin in 2014. But some Democrats say they have designs on the seat because of the seediness of accusations against the third-term congressman in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him in 2014.

For now, the Democrats’ political point man for House races only speaks about Texas in broad tones.

“We’re looking for opportunities all over the country, wherever they may be,” U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico told The Texas Tribune last week.

“Texas is an important state to us,” he added. “There’s important opportunities all over the country. I would say we’re keeping an eye on all districts all over the states.”

Privately, at least four Washington Democratic insiders who are knowledgeable about party recruitment efforts say there is a serious effort to unseat Farenthold.

Maybe there is and maybe there isn’t. I’d love to see this happen, though even if it does this would be at best the second-tier target in Texas, with CD23’s freshman Rep. Will Hurd being #1 on the list whether or not Pete Gallego runs again as the DCCC wants him to. Farenthold’s ethical and behavioral issues are certainly a good club that can be used to attack him with, and as noted later in the story he’s neither a big fundraiser nor an accomplished campaigner. His large margin of victory in 2012 is somewhat misleading as he underperformed relative to his ballotmates. I should note that was not the case last year – I don’t feel like copying and pasting in the data, but Farenthold received 83,342 votes for 63.60% in 2014, and only Greg Abbott and Baby Bush did better than that.

But 2014 was a bad year, and 2016 is a Presidential year, with hope to do better. Finding a good candidate and investing the resources to boost turnout are good and worthwhile things. And in what is either an odd coincidence or an example of carefully planned timing, this story appeared later in the same day.

Former state Rep. Solomon Ortiz Jr. — the son of former U.S. Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz Sr., whom Farenthold defeated in 2010 — said he’s weighing a 2016 challenge against the Republican incumbent.

“I think a race for office is something that takes a lot of prayer and meditation and thought,” Ortiz Jr. said in a phone interview with The Texas Tribune. “And yes, obviously, I’m considering it.”

[…]

Besides Luján, Ortiz has discussed a possible run with his father.

“He was the guy here in South Texas who broke down barriers,” the younger Ortiz said of his father. “He knows what it takes to be an effective member of Congress,”

And the topic has come up in conversations with some Texas House colleagues: U.S. Reps. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth and Joaquin Castro of San Antonio.

The elder Ortiz’s loss to Farenthold in the 2010 Republican wave election was particularly bitter for Democrats. National Democratic operatives assumed Ortiz was in a safe Democratic seat, but Farenthold defeated him by 775 votes.

Ortiz Jr. lost his Texas House re-election bid that same year.

Should he run, Ortiz would benefit from his father’s name recognition. But this will not be the same district his father represented for nearly 30 years. State mapmakers made the district more strongly Republican during the 2011 redistricting.

As this story notes, Ortiz, Jr flirted with running in 2014, but (wisely, as it turned out) stayed on the sidelines. He says he’s more serious this time, but we’ll see. Going back to the first story, we have to be prepared for the possibility that this may be little more than a feint.

And winning the 27th District may not even be the objective for Democrats. It’s to cause trouble for Republicans.

One Democratic operative pointed out that the party lost so many seats in 2014 that Democrats are widely expected to be on offense in the fall of 2016. The theoretical aim would be to force Republicans to “squander resources” that would otherwise be used against Democratic challengers and incumbents. For them, a competitive race materializing at all in the 27th District would be a moral victory.

And then there is the fact that the DCCC’s online fundraising operation is the envy of American politics, a dynamic Farenthold’s troubles could play into.

“They can make an example of Blake Farenthold that can raise the Democrats oodles of money,” the Democratic operative added.

Yeah, count me out for that. I totally understand this from a strategic perspective, but we’ve been used for such purposes enough. Play to win here or don’t play. If Ortiz, Jr is in, that’s great. I’ll be sure to direct any donations I may make to his campaign. At least that way I know it would stay in Texas.

Farenthold replies to the lawsuit against his office

Here we go.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, has formally denied a former employee’s claims that he sexually harassed and discriminated against her. Instead, he fired the staffer for “poor performance and failure to report to work,” his legal team said in federal court filings Thursday.

Lauren Greene, Farenthold’s former communications director, alleges “gender discrimination and creating a hostile work environment” in a wrongful termination suit filed in December against the second-term congressman. Greene worked for Farenthold from February 2013 until she was fired in July 2014.

In his response to Greene’s suit, Farenthold denied that he directed a bevy of sexually charged comments at Greene.

“Defendant denies that Rep. Farenthold was ‘attracted to’ Plaintiff, that he had ‘sexual fantasies’ about Plaintiff, or that he had ‘wet dreams’ about Plaintiff,” the filing said

I’ll bet that’ll make his mama proud. See here and here for the background, and here for a copy of Farenthold’s response. My interest in this lawsuit is entirely prurient. Farenthold is basically furniture, so this lawsuit will easily be the most notable thing about his tenure in Congress, regardless of the outcome. TPM, Juanita, and Texas Politics have more.

The Farenthold files

The Farenthold lawsuit continues to have promise as the underrated scandal of the year.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

In his first interview since the suit was filed in December, [Rep. Blake] Farenthold said he was shocked by the allegations made by Lauren Greene, the former staffer.

“I was surprised,” he said. “I didn’t imagine us having any problems in the office. And the things she alleges are just so far out in left field. I’m just stunned.”

Farenthold suggested that the suit could be reprisal for Greene’s termination.

“Somebody gets fired, you never can tell how they’re going to take it,” he said.

Congressional lawyers, who are handling the case, have asked him not to discuss the grounds for Greene’s dismissal. Farenthold will say only that he “had good reason.”

[…]

Greene’s suit focuses mainly on her alleged mistreatment at the hands of Farenthold’s top staffer, Bob Haueter, with whom she apparently had a difficult relationship. There are no allegations that Farenthold touched or tried to hit on Greene – on the contrary, she said he tried to avoid her, a situation that she found “awkward.”

Instead, in her lawsuit she recounts feeling “awkward” after another staffer, executive assistant Emily Wilkes, allegedly told her that Farenthold had confided in Wilkes and Haueter about his attraction to Greene.

Greene also alleges that the congressman regularly made comments about her appearance or made other remarks that she thought were designed to gauge whether she was interested in a sexual relationship. She also claims that staffers who accompanied Farenthold to Capitol Hill functions joked that they had to be on “redhead patrol” to keep him out of trouble.

Friends and associates say a certain off-the-cuff personality can easily be misinterpreted.

“Sometimes you can make a comment that you think is totally innocent, and it gets misconstrued,” said Mike Pusley, a Republican leader and Nueces County Commissioner. “From the times I’ve been around Blake in mixed company, I’ve never seen anything to indicate that he has any issues in that regard. When I read about those allegations, I just went, ‘Eh, man, I have a very hard time believing that.’ ”

See here for the background. All due respect, but if you want to check on the credibility of Ms. Greene’s allegations, you might do better to talk to someone who isn’t a) a dude; and b) a political ally of Farenthold’s. I mean, as a general matter we dudes aren’t always the most reliable sources for how women may interpret some of the things we say. Hell, entire industries are built on that fact. Might have been a better idea to ask a few women who regularly deal with Rep. Farenthold, off the record as needed, what they think of his demeanor. It wouldn’t anything definitive, but it might at least provide a little perspective. I’m just saying. And may I just add that I encourage Rep. Farenthold to speak as freely as he likes about this ongoing litigation. Forget what the lawyers say, Blake! They’re all just a bunch of killjoys. Speak your mind and let the chips fall where they may!

Lawsuit filed against the office of Rep. Blake Farenthold

Um, wow.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

A woman who worked for U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold filed a federal lawsuit against his congressional office, alleging she experienced gender-based discrimination and that a hostile work environment prompted her termination in July.

Former Communications Director Lauren Greene alleges that Farenthold, the two-term Republican from Corpus Christi, made lewd and inappropriate comments, according to the lawsuit filed Friday, and “regularly drank to excess, and because of his tendency to flirt, the staffers who accompanied him to Capitol Hill functions would joke that they had to be on ‘red head patrol’ to keep him out of trouble.’”

[…]

Greene worked for U.S. Rep. John Sullivan, R-Oklahoma, from September 2009 to January 2013, according to her Linkedin profile, and worked her way up from an intern to deputy press secretary. She took a job with Farenthold’s office two months later.

In January, another staffer told Greene that Farenthold had privately admitted to having sexual fantasies about her, according to the lawsuit, which adds that Farenthold later told Greene that he was estranged from his wife.

“On one occasion, prior to February 2014, during a staff meeting at which plaintiff was in attendance, Farenthold disclosed that a female lobbyist had propositioned him for a ‘threesome,’” according to the lawsuit.

The comments made Greene uncomfortable, according to the lawsuit, and she seldom had one-on-one meetings with Farenthold.

“Farenthold regularly made comments designed to gauge whether plaintiff was interested in a sexual relationship,” according to the lawsuit, and made inappropriate comments about her clothing.

Greene also had problems with Chief of Staff Bob Haueter.

Haueter excluded her from staff meetings and publicly humiliated her when she did attend, according to the lawsuit.

During a June 2010 meeting, Haueter announced he was sending Greene home to change because her shirt was too revealing, according to the lawsuit, but Farenthold and another staffer disagreed.

In the lawsuit, Greene alleged that she was fired less than a month after complaining about the hostile work environment.

Ew. This is only one side of the story, and I’m sure that the defense will have plenty to say about what happened. But still: Ew. More worrisome for Farenthold is that the filing of this lawsuit has spawned other problems for him.

The unseemly nature of the accusations already has operatives on Capitol Hill mulling the immediate consequences of Farenthold’s place on the Republican food chain.

“I don’t know about locally, but it’s going to continue to push him on the outside of leadership and the folks that influence the Republican Conference,” a GOP Capitol Hill staffer said on condition of anonymity because of close ties to leadership.

Two GOP Capitol Hill staffers predicted the matter would probably go before the House Ethics Committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics. Just last week, the House Ethics Committee cleared a Florida Democratic lawmaker of sexual harassment allegations. But in the process, the committee warned lawmakers “to scrupulously avoid even the impression of a workplace tainted by sexism.”

[…]

As Texas Republican operatives digest the reports, some are already speculating on a potential 2016 primary challenger. One potential rival would be Debra Medina, a former Wharton County Republican Party chair who lost a primary bid for comptroller this year.

Getting a little ahead of ourselves there, but still. The next two years are likely to be a bit tumultuous for Farenthold, poor baby. The Chron covered this here, and Politico, Jezebel, BOR, Trail Blazers, TPM, and Juanita have more.

Son Of Ortiz/Farenthold?

Maybe.

Solomon Ortiz, Jr

A grudge match could be brewing in South Texas.

On Tuesday, the Democrats’ top congressional strategist hinted that he’s been trying to recruit someone to challenge two-term Rep. Blake Farenthold, a tea party Republican from Corpus Christi.

Turns out, that person is Solomon Ortiz Jr., a former state representative and son of the longtime congressman, Solomon Ortiz Sr. — ousted by Farenthold in one of the closest and most surprising contests of 2010.

“I don’t know. I haven’t made a decision one way or another,” Ortiz Jr., said Wednesday evening, reached by cell phone.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, went out of his way Tuesday to fuel speculation that his party will make a run at Farenthold. But he was coy about who he’s been encouraging, and aides declined to name names.

Turns out, Ortiz Jr. put the secret in plain sight:

I’ve been clamoring for a challenger to Farenthold, so this is music to my ears. There’s certainly an argument to be made for a fresh face against Farenthold, but there’s a lot to be said for having a familiar name go against him, too. It is a tough challenge, tougher than what the DCCC normally takes on – there just ain’t that many swing seats these days – but the good news is that Farenthold was an underperformer in 2012. A sufficiently financed challenger, with some name ID and a boost from Battleground Texas, could make a race of it. First, we need someone to file. We’ll see if the DCCC was able to sway Ortiz, Jr into the race.

Targeting Farenthold

Yes, please.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

Democrats are trying to exact a political price for Texas Republicans’ votes to restart deportations of so-called “DREAMers” — the children illegally brought into the U.S. by their parents.

The target of the latest ad buy is Corpus Christi Rep. Blake Farenthold, who was one of 23 Texas Republicans to favor the measure by Iowa Rep. Steve King enacted by the House last week. (Republican Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas did not vote on the proposal. All 12 Texas Democrats voted no.)

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said today it had bought air time on Spanish language radio stations “across” the district, which stretches from Corpus Christi to the Austin and San Antonio media markets, to demand that Farenthold “stand with our young people and not with most extreme members of his party.”

The district’s population is majority Latino, but voters who go to the polls tend to favor Republicans.

“Instead of giving these young people a chance at the American Dream, Congressman Farenthold showed his true colors: an extreme ideology that would deport young people who have been contributing to this country since they were brought here as children,” said Emily Bittner, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “The people of Texas want a comprehensive solution to our broken immigration system, but Congressman Farenthold just did the opposite — and voted to restart deportations for 800,00 DREAMers.”

The ad includes the words of a young Latino person eligible for the DREAM Act who could be among 800,000 youths facing deportation under the King Amendment because of their parents’ decisions.

“I have lived in the United States since I was a child, and it’s my only home,” the unnamed immigrant says in the ad. “I’m a student, I work, and I’m proud to give back to my community. I’ve always done what was asked of me. The only thing I ask is for the opportunity to do it.”

Farenthold easily won re-election in the redrawn 27th District last year after upsetting veteran Democrat Solomon Ortiz two years earlier in the old 27th, which was much more heavily Latino. But Democrats are hoping to soften him up with negative ads, particularly if the federal courts redraw Texas congressional maps to increase the district’s Mexican-American population.

I’m very glad to see this. Besides just being morally correct and good politics, Farenthold does have a soft underbelly despite being in a nominally safe district. As I noted before, he lost a significant amount of support from the top of the ticket despite running against an opponent with few resources. A district like his, with its heavy concentration of low-turnout Latinos could be prime proving ground for Battleground Texas. I don’t know how much the DCCC is spending here, or how focused that money is, but it’s a good start. This is the kind of issue that can motivate voters. If we can get a good candidate in place, we have a chance to make something interesting happen.

From the “Turning out more Democratic voters will mean more Democratic votes” department

I think that’s a fair way of characterizing this Texas on the Potomac post.

Last November, the Houston Chronicle completed a database analysis of the changing population patterns of the state and the changing voting proclivities of key demographic blocs. Our conclusion: Texas would become competitive by 2020 and a true toss-up state by 2024 if current turnout and partisan voting patterns continued.

But what if Latinos — historically a group that votes with far less frequency than the rest of the population — started voting at the same rate as everyone else, as Battleground Texas is seeking to accomplish? How much would that narrow the Republicans’ advantage in Texas?

To find answers, Texas on the Potomac analyzed 2012’s election results and it found that if Democrats could raise Latino turnout to the same level as non-Hispanic whites, Texas would instantly become a battleground state.

Well, yes. I mean, this is one of the stated goals of Battleground Texas, to increase the participation of Democratic-leaning citizens. Latinos vote predominantly Democratic – we can argue over how predominantly, but no one disputes that they do – so more Latinos voting means more net Democratic votes overall.

Obviously, a lot of assumptions go into an analysis like this. At the end, the article says “unfortunately, no exit polling occurred in Texas in 2012”, so they used national exit poll data as their baseline. As it happens, there was one exit poll done in Texas, specifically for the purpose of divining how Latinos voted. Those numbers are pretty close to the national exit poll numbers, suggesting that Texas Latinos are similar in voting behavior to Latinos elsewhere, so it’s a reasonably good estimate. A better question is whether Latinos in one part of the state – say, the Valley or El Paso – vote the same as Latinos in other parts of the state – say, Houston or Dallas. We can take guesses based on election returns from different legislative districts, but that’s about the best we can do.

The much bigger question is how true any of these results might be going forward. The post flatly states that it “does not intend to predict the future”, for the obvious reason that electorates change over time. It may well be that as immigration reform gets done and divisive social issues like marriage equality fade to the background, Latinos will be more open to hearing from Republican candidates. It may also be that Texas Republicans will fiercely resist the pull of social change despite the changing attitudes of the Texas people and thus become even less attractive to a dynamic and youthful pool of new voters. (Have I mentioned lately that Latinos increasingly support marriage equality? Maybe someone should bring that up the next time there’s a chin-stroking story about GOP Latino outreach efforts.) It shouldn’t be a surprise that one of the last obstacles in the Senate to getting meaningful immigration reform done is our own Ted Cruz. (Do you even need to ask how he feels about marriage equality?) All that is even before you take into account the fact that Latinos are among the biggest supporters of the Affordable Care Act and public education, and tend to believe more strongly than other demographic subgroups in the power of government intervention for doing good. Latinos make up a significant portion of Texas’ vast uninsured population; Rick Perry et al don’t want to expand Medicaid. You do the math.

Anyway. The future, or at least the short-term future, is what really interests me. What level of turnout is likely to be needed in 2014 to have an effect on the partisan makeup of the Legislature? That’s a hard question to answer because unlike Presidential years the turnout level of the other side can vary greatly, as even a cursory glance at the 2006 and 2010 results will show. The best we can do as Democrats is work on improving our numbers and let the rest take care of itself. One tidbit to note from this analysis is that as I have noted before, Rep. Blake Farenthold in CD27 is more vulnerable than his topline numbers might suggest. If there’s a reach goal to set for 2014, that should be it. If we can move the needle in a district race, there’s a pretty good chance we can do it statewide as well.