By John C. Moritz, USA Today
AUSTIN – Republicans pulled U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold’s name off the ballot late Tuesday after their lawyer was told in court that the secretary of state’s office would not mount a legal challenge to leave the four-term incumbent as an option for March 6 GOP primary voters.
The decision, made without fanfare, means that the short legal challenge is likely over – unless a voter who feels disenfranchised or a would-be candidate who stayed out of the primary race on the assumption that Farenthold would still be on the ballot sues.
Just hours before Farenthold’s name came off the ballot, Texas Democrats went to court in an effort to force the GOP to keep the congressman running whether they, or he, likes it or not.
The problem was that the decision to drop out came after the legal deadline to formally withdraw from the primary.
But in court during the brief hearing on the matter Tuesday, state lawyer Esteban Soto said the lawsuit had no affect because the secretary of state office does not set primary ballots. That’s up to the major parties, and the state had no desire to push any court action on the Farenthold matter, Soto said.
But there was a wrinkle: Because U.S. District Judge Sam Spark basically accepted the GOP’s decision to withdraw the lawsuit after it was learned the state does not set the primary ballot, there was no affirmative ruling that Farenthold’s name must be dropped. During the brief hearing, and with a question-and-answer session with reporters afterward, GOP attorney Chris Gober acknowledged that the primary field could be subject to a challenge because Farenthold had met the requirements to file for re-election.
His decision that he would no longer run came after the deadline for dropping out and having his name scratched.
Gober said any challenge to the GOP lineup of candidates would seem unlikely given that Farenthold had voluntarily announced he was quitting the race.
“That’s certainly a possibility,” he said outside the courtroom. “But those are legal proceedings that would play out in time with presumably a plaintiff, a defendant and people with ability to enforce that, whereas the secretary of state’s office has made the assertion that they do not.”
Asked Tuesday whether a legal avenue might be open for the Democrats to weigh in, Gober said no because only have Republicans have standing to challenge a Republican ballot.
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