Hopefully, this is the end of the line.
In a long-awaited decision, a visiting judge ruled Tuesday that a Houston city council candidate who has a felony conviction should remain on the ballot for the District B runoff, declining a plea from the third-place finisher to replace her on the ballot.
Renee Jefferson-Smith, who finished 168 votes behind Cynthia Bailey in the Nov. 5 general elections, had argued that Bailey’s 2007 felony conviction for theft made her ineligible and the city erred in not declaring her as such before it certified the November results.
Jefferson-Smith’s lawyers cited a state law that says candidates cannot have felony convictions from which they have not been pardoned or otherwise released from its “resulting disabilities.” It doesn’t define that phrase, which has invited confusion about who qualifies and who does not.
She asked the judge to rule that the city should have declared Bailey ineligible and then place Jefferson-Smith on the runoff ballot with top vote-getter Tarsha Jackson.
Special Judge Grant Dorfman declined to do so, saying that Jefferson-Smith did not “conclusively prove Contestee Bailey’s ineligibility.”
“No grounds were presented that warrant the voiding of the November 5, 2019 election,” Dorfman wrote.
In a separate order, Dorman called for a May 2 runoff between Jackson and Bailey.
Dorfman also clarified that his rulings did not resolve an earlier case that Jefferson-Smith filed, in which she asked a judge to declare Bailey ineligible. The judge in that case dismissed that request, and appeals courts have declined to order the city itself to declare her ineligible.
Nicole Bates, an attorney for Jefferson-Smith, said shortly after the ruling was released that she had to consult her client before deciding whether they would appeal the ruling.
See here for the previous update. We’d been expecting a ruling last week, but I’ll let it slide. And Lord knows, I hope Jefferson-Smith accepts the defeat and does not appeal. It’s time to let District B vote.