By Kevin Diaz
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has called for an emergency special election on June 30 to replace former Congressman Blake Farenthold, a Republican who resigned this month in the face of an ethics probe into past allegations of sexual harassment.
Abbott's decision on Tuesday came a day after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion saying that the governor could invoke emergency powers for an expedited election in Farenthold's 27th Congressional District, which is still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.
"All counties contained within this district continue to be under the state disaster declaration related to the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, making it imperative that we fill this vacancy as soon as possible," Abbot said. "Hurricane relief efforts depend heavily on action at the federal level, which can only occur if Texans residing in disaster zones have full and effective representation in Congress."
Abbott sought Paxton's opinion because federal and state election rules could have dragged out the normal election process into late September, two months before the regular Nov. 6 midterm elections.
Paxton wrote that to the extent current election laws might hinder "necessary action in coping with the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.... the Government Code authorizes the Governor to suspend those provisions."
Abbott's decision came on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a challenge alleging racial discrimination in the way at least two Texas congressional districts -- including Farenthold's -- were drawn up by the Republican-led state legislature.
The Supreme Court case could result in a judicial order to redraw the districts before the November elections. However, with a high court ruling not expected until June, a special election will almost certainly be held under the current electoral maps.
If a runoff is needed to determine the winner to fill the unexpired term, it would take place in September.
Abbott's proclamation gives candidates who wish to have their names placed on the special election ballot until Friday to file their applications to the Secretary of State.
Currently there are four candidates vying in a May 22 primary runoff for the Nov. 6 election in the 27th District: Raul (Roy) Barrera and Eric Holguin are competing in the Democratic primary, while Michael Cloud and Bech Bruun are in a runoff on the Republican side.
Early voting in the special election will be by personal appearance will begin on June 13 and end on June 26.
The 27th Congressional District of Texas consists of all or parts of Aransas, Bastrop, Caldwell, Calhoun, Gonzales, Jackson, Lavaca, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria and Wharton counties.
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