January 29, 2006
Ballot battles resolved

A number of lawsuits by various candidates who were knocked off of primary ballots were resolved in recent days. In Austin, former State Rep. Terry Keel will not enter the Court of Criminal Appeals on a TKO, as the Texas Supreme Court has ruled in favor of his previously-disqualified primary opponents.

[T]he court, declaring that the ballot is not reserved for candidates with perfect clerical skills, gave incumbent Judge Charles Holcomb and Dallas District Judge Robert Francis extra time to correct the petition mistakes.

"The public interest is best served when public offices are decided by fair and vigorous elections, not technicalities leading to (victory by) default," Justice Scott Brister wrote for the majority in twin 5-3 rulings. Justice Don Willett recused himself.

Holcomb resubmitted his corrected petitions to the Republican Party on Friday, and Francis said he will do so Monday. Both previously had collected extra signatures from voters in hopes of a court victory.

Keel said he did not expect the ruling to damage his campaign because the pertinent issues extend beyond petition problems.

"But I still think the first rule for a judicial candidate should be that they should follow the law," said Keel, a retiring state representative from Austin. "They are seeking positions in which they intend to hold others to the letter of the law."

But Buck Wood, Francis' Austin lawyer, predicted that Keel would feel repercussions from Friday's ruling.

"When potential clients come in and say, 'I want my guy knocked off the ballot,' I say, 'You better win then,' because the voters do not like being gamed out of a choice," said Wood, an election-law specialist.

The winner of the March 7 primary will face Libertarian Dave Howard of Round Rock and no Democrat in November.

On a dozen petition forms, Francis had failed to list that he was seeking Place 8 on the court. Holcomb's petitions contained duplicate signatures. The problems left both short of the required 50 signatures from each of the state's 14 judicial districts.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Republican Party of Texas erred when it examined and approved the Francis and Holcomb petitions. Had the mistakes been pointed out, both candidates easily could have corrected the problems before the filing deadline, Brister wrote. Justice Dale Wainwright's dissent, joined by Justices Harriet O'Neill and Phil Johnson, faulted the majority for infringing on the Legislature's duties by extending election deadlines. In addition, the election code insists that candidates bear primary responsible for filing legal petitions, Wainwright wrote.

My gut says that Wood is right. Keel is certainly within his rights to make the challenge that he did, and he's right about following the law, though as previously noted, the sheer length of the ballot applications would seem to make this kind of ticky-tack error more likely than it should be. And I do think that a nontrivial number of voters will find that kind of challenge to be distasteful, because they just don't sound like any kind of a big deal. I'd count it as a mark against someone, all things being equal. We'll see if the GOP primary voters think so, too.

Another candidate getting good news was Democrat Jim Sharp.

The court decided Friday that even though Sharp's application to be on the primary ballot had a "technical defect," it could be corrected by party officials. Sharp's attorneys, Geoffery Berg and J. Beverly said a notary at the state party headquarters had forgotten to put her official seal on Sharp's ballot application.

Sharp plans to go to Austin and have his application notarized, his attorneys said.

Sharp is running for the 1st Court of Appeals, which he ran for and lost by a 54-46 margin in 2004. As I recall from a brief conversation with him a couple of weeks ago, the missing seal was noticed when he turned in his ballot application at Democratic Party headquarters in Austin, but the notary in question was no longer in the building, and so the problem was not resolved before the deadline. This is another kind of error that I think should be fixable rather than fatal.

Two candidates got bad news. One was Edward Smith, who had sought to run in the March GOP primary election in HD106 to replace the outgoing Rep. Ray Allen.

A district court judge Friday ordered Edward Smith Jr. removed from the March ballot for the state House District 106 Republican primary because he doesn't meet residency requirements.

Republican candidate Kirk England filed a petition in the court this week questioning whether Mr. Smith satisfied residency requirements for the office held by Ray Allen, who resigned last week.


State representative candidates must reside in the district they wish to represent for at least 12 months before the election, and in Texas for at least two years.

On his filing application, Mr. Smith indicated that he had lived in Texas and the district for six months. He also listed his permanent residence as being on Normandy Way, which is in the Tarrant County portion of Grand Prairie and not part of District 106. The district includes most of the Dallas County portion of Grand Prairie and parts of south Irving.

Voter registration paperwork at the Dallas County Elections Department shows Mr. Smith lived in Dallas at the time of his filing for the District 106 office. He filed updated paperwork with the Elections Department on Thursday listing a Grand Prairie address that is in District 106

But the temporary injunction granted by visiting Judge John Ovard eliminated Mr. Smith's name from the March 7 primary ballot.

Residency matters are another issue entirely. I've no problem with this ruling. It'll be England vs Hubener for both the special and the November general.

Finally,the saga of Fort Bend County District Clerk Glory Hopkins has come to an ignominious end for the longtime incumbent.

On Friday, Hopkins lost her bid to be on the ballot when the Texas Supreme Court denied her motion to be on the March 7 primary ballot. Hopkins, 62, failed to meet the filing deadline because she used an incorrect ZIP code obtained from an e-mail sent by Fort Bend County Republican Party Chair Eric Thode. The certified mail with her filing papers never arrived.


Earlier this month, Hopkins had asked the 14th Court of Appeals to allow her name to appear on the ballot for a sixth term, claiming she made a good-faith effort to file before the deadline.

The appellate court denied her request twice. The Supreme Court issued its ruling without an explanation.

The appeals court said the law allows a deadline extension in order to correct a violation of law made by the party chairman. However, the court ruled Hopkins' failure to file her application in a timely manner was not caused by such a violation. [Hopkins' attorney Richard] Tate also argued that Thode has a statutory duty to provide candidates with the correct address.

Thode did not oppose Hopkins' request to be placed on the ballot and wrote in an affidavit saying Hopkins' name to the ballot would not impair the election.

"It's disappointing that everyone who wanted to be a candidate won't be on the ballot," Thode said.

However, Thode has said Hopkins could have given him the filing application when they had lunch several days before the filing deadline.

As I said before, though I think putting Hopkins back on the ballot would have been an acceptable ruling, I'm okay with it going against her as well. The fault was as much hers as Thode's, and it wasn't a mis-filled blank that cost her. Sorry, Glory. I can't get to the site at this moment, but Fort Bend Now has a story as well.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 29, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack