January 12, 2006
More primary challenges

The Chron notes an impeding court case resulting from a primary ballot disqualification.

An Amarillo school board member who was disqualified in a bid to challenge a powerful House member took her fight to get on the Republican ballot to the Texas Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Anette Carlisle was disqualified from the March primary ballot last week by state GOP Chairwoman Tina Benkiser, who cited a provision in the Texas Constitution that prevents any person holding a "lucrative office" from running for the Legislature.

Though school board members by state law cannot be paid, some are allowed to collect per diem for their travel. Benkiser referenced the Amarillo district's policy allowing trustees to be reimbursed for lodging and meals at the rate established by the state for key officials.

In her petition to the high court, Carlisle argues that reimbursement for expenses alone does not render an office lucrative.

"Even if there is evidence that (Carlisle) received some sort of flat rate or per diem to cover travel expenses, the actual expenses greatly exceeded any reimbursement she received," the petition states.

One could also argue that any setup which requires you to pay the expense and then file a claim for reimbursement is one in which you don't break even, since you're effectively giving your employer a float on the outlay for however long it takes the claim to get processed. Frankly, unless she was getting a pro athlete level per diem, I can't see any reasonable interpretation of this as "lucrative".

There's also a question of consistency.

Several members serving in the Legislature ran from positions as school board members. Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, said he was a member of the Conroe school board when he ran for the House in 2002.

He said lawyers advised him he would not be disqualified because the only money he had received from the district was reimbursement for actual expenses.

"It's a gray area," said Eissler, who resigned from the school board in November 2002 after winning election.

Adding to the confusion, the state and Montgomery County Republican parties reached opposite conclusions concerning two legislative candidates who serve on a groundwater conservation district board.

The Texas GOP disqualified Conroe-area businessman David Kleimann from the race for Senate District 3, but county Chairman Wally Wilkerson Jr. said he decided that Brandon Creighton could remain on the ballot for House District 16.

"After speaking to lawyers over the weekend, no one lawyer agreed with the other. For that reason, I gave the benefit of the doubt to the candidate and ruled he was eligible," Wilkerson said.

It'll be interesting to see how the Supremes rule on this one. If they decide that they ought to get involved, I think there's a good chance they may rule for Carlisle. I'm not sure they'll conclude that they should step in, though. We'll see.

Amusing side note:

In another strange candidate filing story, an attorney for Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn misspelled her last name twice when submitting a declaration of her intent to run as an independent candidate for governor. Prominent Austin lawyer Roy Minton said he was responsible for dropping the "y" in Strayhorn on the paperwork.

Insert joke about the difficulty of keeping track of our comptroller's surname here. PerryVsWorld has a pointer to the mis-typed form, in case you're curious. Hey, Roy, you do know that you can add new words to the Spellchecker dictionary, right? Just FYI.

And finally, another court case:

Ballot challenges also have been used in judicial races this year. Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Charles Holcomb was disqualified in his bid to seek re-election because he failed to get sufficient signatures on a petition to place his name on the ballot for another term.

Holcomb said Wednesday that he will go to court to try to keep his candidacy alive.

His GOP opponent, state Rep. Terry Keel, challenged Holcomb's petitions as well as defects in petitions submitted by another candidate for the same seat, state District Judge Robert Francis of Dallas. A state district judge in Travis County ruled Tuesday that Francis should not be on the ballot.

I have some sympathy for these guys, based on this.

Some candidates complained that ballot applications for Texas' judicial races have become so long and unwieldy that the possibilities for error are endless. On each page is a litany of blank spaces and boxes that require signatures, office names and numbers, dates and notarized stamps. Candidates must gather signatures from at least 50 voters in each of the state's 14 appellate court districts.

The ballot application submitted by Texas Supreme Court Justice Don R. Willett was 373 pages. Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson's ran 204 pages.

Seems to me there ought to be an easier way to do this. I can't really imagine any good reason for a 200+ page filing application.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 12, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

Candidates must gather signatures from at least 50 voters in each of the state's 14 appellate court districts.

If the court districts aren't redistricted for equal population after a census, that requirement could be unconstitutional. Nevada had a similar requirement for initiative petitions struck down on this basis, as it gave voters in low-population districts (actually counties, in Nevada's case) disproportionate influence over an initiative's approval.

Posted by: Mathwiz on January 12, 2006 1:41 PM

Sure there is an easier way. We could appoint our appellate judges so that they were more insulated from political influence and concerns.

Posted by: Jeb on January 13, 2006 9:48 AM