Fans of unadulterated political theater will likely be disappointed by this, but I think it's for the best.
A court challenge to the procedure that allowed embattled Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal to withdraw from the Republican primary now appears unlikely.
The remaining candidates from both parties apparently will refrain from taking action for political, rather than legal, reasons.
Just minutes before the withdrawal deadline on Jan. 2, Harris County Republican Party officials received a letter in which Rosenthal asked to be taken off the March 4 ballot. The only other contenders at the time were Republican Jim Leitner and Democrat C.O. Bradford.
Under state law, the incumbent's departure from the campaign triggered a two-day extension for others to sign up to run as Republicans. Police Capt. Doug Perry, former judge Pat Lykos and prosecutor Kelly Siegler did so.
Local Democratic Party chairman and attorney Gerald Birnberg and others said, however, that Rosenthal's letter was void because it lacked notarization and asked that his "nomination" rather than his "name" be removed.
The primary determines who gets the nomination.
But now Leitner says he has decided against filing a lawsuit aimed at rewinding the process so that he and Rosenthal would be the only contenders. Bradford, after meeting with advisers about the issue, has taken no action and won't comment on the issue, according to a spokeswoman.
Leitner said he realized that filing and winning a lawsuit would make him the sole Republican challenger to Rosenthal, who has been politically wounded by the disclosure of sensational e-mails he sent and received on government computer equipment.
"Even though much of me wants to do just that, I cannot take that step," Leitner wrote to the news media. "I feel that the last thing voters need right now is to have the court decide who their candidate will be.
"This may be the way to turn a sure win into a possible loss, but I feel it is the right thing to do," he added.
As for Bradford, I think the case for not intervening is equally clear. A Leitner candidacy, which I think we'd have wound up with had Bradford pursued this, would make it harder for him to be tha candidate of change. The self-interest of wanting to run against Rosenthal enough to force him back on the ballot after he tried to drop out undercuts the message of wanting to clean up the office by getting rid of Rosenthal. You might still get the matchup you want, but now you look cynical. I think the downside is too high, and I think the decision to let sleeping dogs lie was the right one.
One last thing:
Birnberg said political strategy prevents Bradford or any other Democrat from going to court against the Republicans' acceptance of Rosenthal's letter as a legally binding document.
"We will (probably) let the Republicans disobey the law," Birnberg said. "We will explain to the public they are not following the law, they want to put in a DA who does not want to follow the law -- and let the voters decide."
GOP officials said, however, that before they accepted Rosenthal's withdrawal they were assured it was legal by the Texas Secretary of State's office and the Harris County Attorney's Office.