Note: Yesterday’s report was sent out late due to an unforeseen software update error. We apologize for the inconvenience. Our latest content is always available on our website.

An Election Code provision granting the Office of Attorney General the ability to prosecute criminal election fraud cases is unconstitutional, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in an 8-1 decision. The case arises from an alleged campaign finance violation by the Jefferson Co. sheriff, a case the Jefferson Co. district attorney declined to prosecute.

Section 273.021, Election Code provides that the “attorney general may prosecute a criminal offense prescribed by the election laws of this state.” The Court ruled that power properly resides with county and district attorneys, who are part of the Judicial Branch, and not the attorney general, which is part of the Executive Branch.

“Absent the consent and deputization order of a local prosecutor or the request of a district or county attorney for assistance, the Attorney General has no authority to independently prosecute criminal cases in trial courts,” wrote Judge Jesse McClure for the majority (PDF). “Any attempt to overlap the Attorney General’s constitutional duties with county and district attorneys’ constitutional duties in the sense of a Venn diagram of sorts is unconstitutional.”

Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton (R) criticized the decision.

“Thanks to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, [George] Soros-funded district attorneys will have the sole power to decide whether election fraud has occurred in Texas,” Paxton tweeted. “This ruling could be devastating for future elections in Texas.”

The decision reverses an appellate ruling and remands the case to district court for dismissal.

Filings: The filing deadline has passed, but we are still learning about candidates whose filings are just now being, or have not yet been, reported. County and state party chairs are not required to submit candidate information to the Secretary of State until December 21. Our Crib Sheets have the latest information.

HD15 (Safe R): Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) has drawn a primary challenger in The Woodlands attorney Maris Blair.

HD28 (Likely R): Rep. Gary Gates (R-Rosenburg) has drawn a primary challenger in Sugar Land mechanical engineer Robert Boettcher, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for HD85 in 2020 (19%)

HD70 open (Toss Up): Plano real estate agent Lorenzo Sanchez, who lost a race for HD67 to Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Allen) by 4 points in 2020, filed as a Democrat for this open Collin Co. seat.

HD138 (Likely R): Rep. Lacey Hull (R-Houston) drew a second primary challenger in Houston real estate agent Christine Kalmbach. She already faced Former Houston ISD trustee Josh Flynn.

Bexar County: Candidates have until Monday to file for a special election triggered by P3 Co. Comm. Trish DeBerry’s (R) last-minute filing for county judge instead of re-election. DeBerry was elected in 2020 and took office in January.

Tarrant County: Texas Values Action endorsed Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) for district attorney.

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