Citing a lack of jurisdiction, federal District Judge David Counts has dismissed Empower Texans Inc.’s lawsuit seeking to shield itself from prosecution for mailers it sent in the HD99 primary race.
The group, operating under the assumed name Texas Ethics Disclosure Board, sent mail pieces to HD99 voters purporting to provide notice of Rep. Charlie Geren’s (R-Fort Worth) relationship with a registered lobbyist, his wife Mindy Ellmer. A Tarrant Co. voter lodged a criminal complaint, which the Travis Co. District Attorney’s office said was “under review.” Empower Texans filed suit to prevent the district attorneys of Midland, Tarrant and Travis Cos. and the attorney general from investigating the potential criminal violation. “Fear of prosecution has had a chilling effect” on the group’s speech, the lawsuit contended.
“At this point, no Texas governmental entity has filed an indictment, made a threat, commenced an official investigation, contacted Plaintiff, or even expressed an official or unofficial opinion that Plaintiff’s conduct is proscribed by stature,” the court ruled. “Accordingly, the only government action that Plaintiff can cite as ‘chilling’ its First Amendment speech is that a district attorney’s office is ‘reviewing’ a private citizen’s complaint.” Because Empower Texans did not demonstrate a credible threat of prosecution, the court ruled it has no jurisdiction to take action and accordingly dismissed, or found moot, all pending motions.
Runoff Crib Sheets: We have added special Crib Sheets listing the Republican and Democratic runoff races for statewide, legislative, board of education and federal offices.
SD31: The Republican Party of Texas denied Mike Canon’s request for a recount. Sen. Kel Seliger received 50.4% in the Republican primary, avoiding a runoff by 334 votes. Canon (31%) would have qualified for a runoff had Seliger slipped below a majority vote.
HD8 open: Texas Alliance for Life PAC endorsed Cody Harris. The group previously endorsed Linda Timmermann in the Republican primary. Harris faces Thomas McNutt in the runoff.
CD27 open: The Michael Cloud campaign announced he has been endorsed by all four of his vanquished Republican primary rivals: Eddie Gassman (3%), John Grunwald (7%), Jerry Hall (8%) and Chris Mapp (12%). Cloud, who received 34% of the vote, faces Bech Bruun (36%) in the runoff.
CD29 open: Robert Schafranek, who finished fourth in the Republican primary, endorsed Carmen Maria Montiel for the nomination to oppose Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston). Montiel faces Phillip Aronoff in the runoff.
Lampasas Co.: Edith Harrison won a coin flip against incumbent District Clerk Cody Reed to advance to a runoff against Trina Hudson. Harrison and Reed each received 1,007 votes, finishing behind Hudson’s 1,106 votes. The two were tied after Election Day, and a recount confirmed the tie. Reed was arrested in early February on a misdemeanor theft charge, and local authorities were investigating possible discrepancies in his official time sheets, the Lampasas Dispatch Record reported.
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