official photograph, U.S. Congress
U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold

Texas Democrats Slapped Down After Suing to Keep GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold on Ballot

At least U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold had someone who wanted him to seek re-election. Unfortunately for the retiring Texas GOP congressman, alleged sexual harasser and world's worst boss, the people in his corner were the Texas Democratic Party.

The Democrats sued the Texas GOP on Wednesday afternoon to keep Farenthold, whose pet name for his staffers was "fucktards," on the ballot for Texas' March primary. The Democrats dropped their suit hours later after being denied the temporary restraining order they needed to keep their fight alive before ballots are completed this week.

“Today, we sought court clarification regarding the deadlines on when a candidate can withdraw," Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said. "After considering our application for a temporary restraining order, the court denied it but said it would consider the case further next week. Given that ballots will be finalized in the coming hours, we chose to dismiss the case and proceed with the election process.”

Facing allegations of sexual harassment and other abusive behavior against his staff, the Corpus Christi congressman announced Dec. 14 that he wasn't running for re-election. The problem, for the GOP, at least, was that Texas' filing deadline was Dec. 11. Farenthold properly filed, Democrats said, and deserved his place on the ballot. Or, perhaps more accurately, the Texas GOP deserved to have his name on the ballot. 

“Texas Democrats will not stand idle while Republicans rig the ballot. Only voters have the power to choose who leads our state and nation, not politicians and party officers in backroom decisions," Hinojosa said before Texas Democrats stood down. "Last we checked, this was Texas, not Russia."

The Democrats' lawsuit came one day after the Texas GOP dropped its suit trying to keep its incumbent candidate off the ballot after it learned that the Texas Secretary of State couldn't force Farenthold's inclusion.

Sadly, the court's action means we'll never know whether Farenthold might have won re-election, which, while perhaps not good for America, would have been comedy gold.

"Since Congressman Farenthold had formally requested to withdraw from the race, and the Party believes our constitutional right to freedom of association allows us to do so in this specific instance, we have granted his withdrawal request," the Republican Party of Texas said in a statement.

In cynical bullshit appeals to liberty and democracy, the outcome was basically a tie, then.

On the Texas Secretary of State's official list of candidates, Farenthold is listed as having withdrawn from the race. Hinojosa said the congressman's permission to do so amounts to collusion between the office and Texas Republicans.

“The secretary of state and Republican Party of Texas should not be allowed to make a smoke-filled room deal. If state laws setting election deadlines mean nothing, then the courts should rule so," Hinojosa said. “This is about protecting democracy, not Republican Blake Farenthold’s vile actions. Farenthold has no business serving in public office, but the primary ballot is set and he failed to withdraw.”

To sum up, Hinojosa is saying that a man who isn't fit to hold an office should be forced to run for it although he wants to retire. Because this isn't Russia. Sadly, the court's action means we'll never know whether Farenthold might have won re-election, which, while perhaps not good for America, would have been comedy gold.

Politico reported Dec. 1 that Farenthold paid an $84,000 settlement for sexual harassment from a congressional account. Initially, the congressman tried to weather the storm. Last week, however, he released a five-minute video admitting to unprofessional behavior he attributed to "having no idea how to run a congressional office" when he was elected as part of the tea party wave in 2010.

"I allowed a workplace culture to take root in my office that was too permissive and decidedly unprofessional. It accommodated destructive gossip, offhand comments, off-color jokes and behavior that in general was less than professional," he said. [pdf-1]

Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.

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