January 17, 2008
Another City Council candidate conundrum

Yet another 2008 Legislative candidate is running into questions about his ballot eligibility.

The state Democratic Party wants a judge to settle questions over the eligibility of a Midland City Councilman to run for the legislative seat held by House Speaker Tom Craddick.

Democratic officials filed a complaint in federal court Wednesday and asked a judge to declare Midland City Councilman Bill Dingus, a Democrat, eligible to run.

The Republican Party of Texas sent a written notice this week to the state Democratic Party suggesting Dingus couldn't challenge Craddick, a Midland Republican, because he didn't resign from the City Council before filing to run for the House.

State Republican Party officials say an article in the Texas Constitution states a person holding a lucrative office during the term for which he is elected or appointed is ineligible for the Legislature.

But Democrats counter with a 1996 federal court ruling that says a city council member may announce candidacy for any office and is considered to have automatically resigned the local post when sworn in to another office.

Dingus said in a story for Thursday's Midland Reporter-Telegram that conversations with officials at the Midland City Attorney's Office and other legal representatives led him to believe the law doesn't require him to resign from the council to seek the House seat.

Here's the MRT story:

Papers filed in Midland's U.S. District Court came two days after the Republican Party of Texas sent written notice to the state Democratic Party suggesting Dingus, a Democrat, may be ineligible to run against House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, because he did not resign his council post before seeking the representative seat.

"The way we took their letter was a request for (Democratic) Chairman (Boyd) Richie to determine Mr. Dingus ineligible," explained Chad Dunn, general counsel for the Texas Democratic Party.


Dingus told the Reporter-Telegram he talked with the Midland City Attorney's Office and other legal representives before making a decision on filing. Those conversations, he said, led him to believe the law does not require his resignation from the council in order to seek the House seat.

Regardless, Dingus said he would like to see a judicial decision on the matter.

"It just makes sense," Dingus said. "The Democratic Party is asking the judge to settle this once and for all.

"I just want to obey the law and serve my community and if I err, I want to err on the side of public service."

Between this, Wendy Davis, and Laura Ewing, it would be very nice if we could get a clear and consistent answer for this issue once and for all. I don't know if there's an extra bounty of City Council members running for legislative offices this year, or if the matter had just been benignly neglected before now, but either way, we need something clear that everyone understands.

I note again that there isn't a controversy over Adrian Garcia, nor was there one over Shelley Sekula Gibbs. Which is fine by me, I don't want there to be a problem with Adrian Garcia's candidacy. It looks like the difference in all cases is the difference between Houston's two-year terms and other cities' longer terms - from what I can tell, Fort Worth has three-year terms (see the history of Davis' Council district for evidence of that), and based on the exceedingly crappy information I can find for Midland city elections, it looks like they have three-year terms as well. I've seen various suggestions for modifying Houston's term limits law that include longer individual terms in office for Council members. This sort of thing might wind up as an unintended consequence if we ever go down that road.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 17, 2008 to Election 2008

At least Craddick is having to deal with this instead of putting all his weight(= money) behind the candidates he has recruited to run against incumbents

Posted by: Woodland Heights Dude on January 17, 2008 11:21 AM