And honestly, by the same calculations, it could go later than that.
The Houston City Council District B runoff could be delayed until March if a lawsuit contesting last month’s election result is not resolved by Monday, the Harris County Attorney’s office said.
The third-place finisher in the race filed the contest, arguing that second-place finisher Cynthia Bailey’s felony conviction bars her from holding public office.
Meanwhile, incumbent District B Councilman Jerry Davis said he intends to hold the seat until a successor is elected, while Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said the runoff should not have been delayed.
“There’s a lot of people out there that are angry,” Ellis said at this week’s Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday. “And to be honest with you, I’m angry as well.”
Assistant County Attorney Douglas Ray said Dec. 9 is the deadline to place District B on the Jan. 28 ballot, which also will feature the runoff for the vacant District 148 seat in the Texas House of Representatives. The county will begin sending mail ballots for that election next week, Ray said.
“We don’t want to have to run another election in addition to the ones that we’re already doing,” Ray said.
A hearing on the election contest has been scheduled for Friday.
See here for the previous update. According to the Secretary of State, the deadline to send out the mail ballots for the March primary election is January 18th. That means that if we don’t have a resolution by the 9th, we have a bit less than six weeks to get resolution in time to have the election in March. Otherwise, the next opportunity is May. Isn’t this fun?
The District B race was a topic of discussion at Commissioners Court, where Ellis questioned whether the county should have yanked the runoff from the ballot. He suggested the county attorney could have sought to quickly dismiss Jefferson-Smith’s suit so the runoff could proceed as scheduled.
Ellis said the county’s decision sets a dangerous precedent where any disgruntled party could cause delays to an election.
“We’re going to be the laughingstock of the country if there’s some last-minute challenge, and then somehow we’re going to affect the presidential primary on Super Tuesday,” Ellis said.
County Judge Lina Hidalgo suggested the county attorney’s office develop a strategy to more quickly resolve election challenges in the future.
To be fair, the fact that the state law in question is ambiguous and has not been resolved by a court is part of the problem. Short of declaring Bailey ineligible when she filed, I’m not sure what the County Attorney can do or could have done. That said, I Am Not An Attorney, and they are (it’s right there in the name), so maybe they can think of something. Whatever they do think of, getting that law fixed needs to be a priority as well.
City and county leaders have said they support keeping Davis on council until his replacement is named.
“Although his term will expire on January 2, 2020, the City expects Council Member Jerry Davis to serve on a holdover basis (if necessary) until his successor is elected and qualified for office,” said Alan Bernstein, communications director for Mayor Sylvester Turner.
While some question whether that may run afoul of the city’s term limits, Davis and county officials said the Texas Constitution allows him to stay.
“All officers of this State shall continue to perform the duties of their offices until their successors shall be duly qualified,” Article XVI of the Constitution says.
I’m fine with this as well, but we all know this is another lawsuit waiting to happen, right? Lord help us if Davis is on the winning side of a 9-8 vote in Council in 2020. It sure would be nice if we get a verdict by Monday.