January 05, 2008
The accidentally-resigned Council member?

Is Friendswood City Council member Laura Ewing required to resign from her post now that she's running for the State Board of Education?

A provision of the Texas Constitution says that if any office holder announces a candidacy in any general, special or primary election and the candidate has more than one year remaining in his term, then "such announcement or such candidacy shall constitute an automatic resignation of the office then held."

The State Board of Education adopts textbooks and curriculum standards, and it also helps manage the multibillion-dollar Permanent School Fund.

The Position 7 seat represents Galveston, Jefferson, Chambers and parts of Harris and Brazoria counties.

With Ewing's entry into a statewide race, Friendswood officials must determine when to fill her unexpired council seat. She was first elected to City Council in May 2003 and re-elected to her Position 1 seat in May 2006. Her current term expires in May 2009.

The council may decide to call a special election or wait until May to fill the seat in the city's general election.

Ewing, who serves as secretary of the North Galveston County Democrats' Club, said she will serve on the Friendswood City Council until her position is filled.


Ewing, meanwhile, said since the state board of education position is a four-year term, she had no choice but to file by Wednesday's deadline.

"I'm sorry I won't be able to serve Friendswood on City Council," she said. "I just feel like it's (state board of education) something I can really offer. I'm an educator. I have a great deal of experience with what happens in the classroom and within a school district."

The same question was raised a day earlier by the Galveston Daily News.

[C]ity officials are questioning if state law requires Ewing, a Friendswood council member since 2003, to resign and if a special election is needed to replace her.

Article 16, Section 65 of the Texas Constitution says if officers become a candidate for any "general, special or primary election, for any office of profit or trust" and the elected official has a year or more left in office, the candidacy "shall constitute an automatic resignation."

Ewing was re-elected in May 2006, and her term expires in May 2009.

Ewing said she was unaware of the law and would look into what her options were.

Texas Secretary of State spokesman Scott Haywood said Ewing's case "looks as though it would trigger an automatic resignation."

Mayor David Smith said he was unsure when a special election would be held if deemed necessary and said the council could set the date for one during its Jan. 14 meeting.

Okay, the first thing that comes to my mind is, if she has to resign, what about Adrian Garcia? For that matter, why didn't Shelly Sekula-Gibbs have to resign when she decided to run for CD22 in 2006? You may recall, she remained on Council until she won the special election to fill the unexpired portion of Tom DeLay's term, and she had more than a year of her own term left. So what gives?

Well, here's the text of Article 16, Section 65 of the state Constitution, as cited in the GalvNews piece:

a) This section applies to the following offices: District Clerks; County Clerks; County Judges; Judges of County Courts at Law, County Criminal Courts, County Probate Courts and County Domestic Relations Courts; County Treasurers; Criminal District Attorneys; County Surveyors; Inspectors of Hides and Animals; County Commissioners; Justices of the Peace; Sheriffs; Assessors and Collectors of Taxes; District Attorneys; County Attorneys; Public Weighers; and Constables.
(b) If any of the officers named herein shall announce their candidacy, or shall in fact become a candidate, in any General, Special or Primary Election, for any office of profit or trust under the laws of this State or the United States other than the office then held, at any time when the unexpired term of the office then held shall exceed one (1) year, such announcement or such candidacy shall constitute an automatic resignation of the office then held, and the vacancy thereby created shall be filled pursuant to law in the same manner as other vacancies for such office are filled. (Added Nov. 2, 1954; amended Nov. 4, 1958, and Nov. 2, 1999.)

My layman's reading of this is that it only applies to the named offices, which is why people like former District Clerk Charles Bacarisse had to resign in order to run for County Judge. I'm not sure why this is being read to apply to Laura Miller, and I'm not sure why the SOS is saying it is. Any election law experts out there have an opinion on this?

Later in the story:

Ewing's candidacy makes her the third serving Friendswood council member to seek a higher office. Council member Chris Peden is running for the Republican nomination for congressional District 14 and John LeCour is running for the Galveston County Republican Party chair.

Both Peden's and LeCour's terms expire in May.

Peden, who filed for office the same day as Ewing, said he purposely waited until less than a year of his term remained to launch his campaign.

"We were very careful about making sure it was an exploratory committee at first, as the law allows," he said. "We got a calendar out and made sure we were not only a year out, but a year out from the last possible day a new council could be seated."

Either I'm missing something or they are, because this doesn't make sense to me. Thanks to South Texas Chisme for the GalvNews link.

Speaking of council members and resignation requirements, BOR had noted a controversy in Fort Worth concerning SD10 Democratic candidate Wendy Davis. The Lone Star Project presents a timeline in Davis' defense, and accuses her Republican opponent, State Sen. Kim Brimer, of pushing this accusation. Check it out.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 05, 2008 to Election 2008

I'm neither an election expert, nor a morning person, but as I read the cited article of law, all the positions mentioned seem to be county as opposed to city.

Also, my memory isn't clear on this, but didn't Shelia Jackson Lee announce for congress on pretty much the same day she was sworn in for her term on Houston City Council? What happened there? Did she have to resign her term? It seems to me, she went on and served the first year of the term, while campaigning for congress.

Posted by: merci_me on January 5, 2008 8:31 AM