September 04, 2008
Bell files suit to remove Simmons from ballot

Ever since somebody named Stephanie Simmons filed to run in the SD17 special election at the last minute, people have been trying to figure out who she is, because she hasn't spoken to the press and initial searches into voter databases didn't turn anyone up with that name in the district. Not surprisingly, Chris Bell has now filed a suit against Secretary of State Hope Andrade asking that Simmons be removed from the ballot because she is ineligible. From his press release:

"Chris Bell has always stood up when others try to manipulate the political process and not play by the rules. He stood up to Tom DeLay on that front, and won. Unfortunately, Ms. Simmons is far outside the rules of engagement with her illegal candidacy, and her Republican backers know it. Bell has no choice but to act now in filing suit against the Secretary of State before voters are duped by this cynical Republican ploy," said Bell spokesman Jason Stanford.

Stephanie Simmons filed for SD 17 at 5 p.m. on Aug. 29, the deadline. She made no public announcement and has thus far not returned press or political calls. The Republican-appointed Secretary of State immediately certified the ballot, not allowing any administrative remedy in this matter. Therefore, the Bell campaign has no choice but to challenge Simmons' residency in court to get her off the ballot.

"Chris Bell is the Democrat in this race. Any attempt to distract from that is clearly a Republican attempt to stop Chris from running over his opponents without a run-off. The Republicans are well-aware of this, and that's why they've introduced a phantom 'Democrat' into the race. I support Chris Bell, and mainstream voters in Senate district 17 will too," said Texas Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

"Stephanie Simmons is probably a nice person, but we cannot know. She filed at the last second, made no public announcement whatsoever, and is not returning anyone's calls as far as I know. I am very concerned that she may well be the Republican pawn we've heard would be coming to force a runoff. This is a desperate attempt to keep Senate District 17 in Republican hands. Chris Bell is the real deal. That's why I'm supporting him and will do everything I can to help him win," said Texas Sen. Rodney Ellis.

You can read Bell's petition here (PDF). It's pretty straightforward, enough so that a non-lawyer like me can get the gist of it. Basically, Bell alleges that Simmons, who claims a residence in Missouri City, not only voted in the March Democratic primary in SD13 in Harris County this year, she even attended her precinct caucus. She only changed her voter registration the day before the filing deadline (August 28), and since you can only vote in your old precinct after a move if you're still in the same county, she can't have resided in SD17 long enough to meet the statutory requirement, which is one year. If the facts are as he alleges, it would seem like a slamdunk to me.

The ironic thing, of course, is that the initial designated Republican candidate for this seat, Spencer Tillman, dropped out of the running because he didn't live in SD17. It'd be pretty funny if two candidates were knocked out in this fashion.

The reason for the lawsuit is that there wasn't time before the deadline to examine Simmons' eligibility. Bell is claiming that SOS Andrade should not have certified her for the ballot. Bell is seeking an immediate temporary restraining order and an expedited trial on the merits for "permanent injunctive relief and declaratory injunctive relief" by September 12.

One last thing: His petition lists Simmons as "Stephanie Elaine Fridia-Simmons" - that may be the reason why no one could find her in VAN.

UPDATE: More from the Bell campaign:

Judge Stephen Yelenosky granted an emergency hearing scheduled Monday, September 8th at 2:00pm. The hearing will be held before a judge who is to be determined at a later date.

That would be in Travis County.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 04, 2008 to Election 2008

Unless Harris County "annexed" Sienna Plantation, it would appear Stephanie Simmons will not be on the ballot.

I suspect the Secretary of State will go "oops" and remove her name from the ballot.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on September 4, 2008 6:31 PM

Please advise me about your point about Harris County.

I live in Sienna and I live and am a legal registered voter in SD17.

There is a lot to SD 17 that is not Harris Co fortunately or not inlcuding all of the island of Galveston where I was yesterday, counties that border the Louisiana line and a lot of Brazoria Co.

It is true most of Fort Bend including the entirety of Sugar Land is in SD 17.

Posted by: Burt Levine on September 5, 2008 8:10 AM
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