Updated 9:10 p.m. to reflect additional comment from HD139 primary runoff candidate Kimberly Willis.
Three of the four candidates advancing to primary runoff elections to succeed retiring state representatives are not on the ballot for the special elections to fill their unexpired terms.
In HD120, neither Barbara Gervin-Hawkins nor Mario Salas will be candidates in the special election to fill the unexpired term of former Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio), who resigned on January 31. In HD139, Kimberly Willis, who finished first in the primary, did not file for the special election to fill the unexpired term of former Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston), who was sworn in as mayor of Houston on January 2. Their resignations triggered special elections, which Gov. Greg Abbott ordered to occur on the May 7 uniform election date.
LaTronda Darnell (D), a Converse consultant
Chris Dawkins (D), a San Antonio marketing specialist
Lou Miller (D), a San Antonio insurance agent
Laura Thompson (I), a San Antonio freelance writer
Darnell (12%) and Miller (8%) ran in the primary but did not make the runoff. Dawkins did not participate in the primary. Thompson may qualify for the general election ballot as an independent.
Jarvis Johnson (D), a Houston restaurant owner and former city council member
Rickey “Raykey” Tezino (D), a Houston school teacher
Johnson is a candidate in the primary runoff. Tezino did not participate in the primary.
In September, former Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio) announced she would not seek re-election, prompting several candidates to express interest in and eventually run for the seat. Several candidates relocated into the district prior to filing for office, ensuring they would meet the residency requirement by the general election.
Article III, Section 7 of the Texas Constitution establishes the eligibility to hold office as a state representative. It requires a candidate to be a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old. At “the time of his election,” a candidate must be a qualified Texas voter, a resident of the state for at least two years and a resident of the district for at least one year preceding the election. Section 141.001, Election Code, expands the voter registration requirement to include at least the last six months within the district for which the office is elected.
The same eligibility requirements apply to special election candidates, which means that anyone who moved into HD120 to run for the full term are ineligible for the unexpired term because the special election winner will take office shortly after votes are canvassed.
Residency requirements prevented Gervin-Hawkins and Salas from being able to run (Salas originally filed, believing Gervin-Hawkins would as well. He withdrew when he learned she did not file.). The voter registration requirement could make Darnell ineligible as well. She did not update her registration to a district address until February 1, well short of the six months required by statute. The constitutional voter registration requirement does not include a stipulation that the registration must be within the district, so its impact on Darnell’s eligibility is unclear.
Eligibility does not appear to be an issue in HD139. We asked Willis via Twitter if residency issues affected her decision to skip the special election. “Not the case,” she replied.
Willis did not specify a reason for declining to file for the special election in response to our inquiries. We asked Willis via Twitter if she declined to run in the special election in order to focus on the primary runoff, to which she replied, “Absolutely.”
Willis, who received 32% of the vote in the four-way primary election, faces former Houston council member Jarvis Johnson in the primary runoff election. He received 29% of the vote.
Johnson is the sole primary candidate to file for the special election. He will face Rickey “Raykey” Tezino in the special election. Tezino appears to have attempted to run for Congress in 2016, and he shared on Facebook a letter he sent to Harris Co. Judge Ed Emmett seeking to be appointed to succeed the late Harris Co. Commissioner El Franco Lee.
The result is that at least one, and potentially two, members of the House will serve out the remainder of these unexpired terms without being able to compete for a full term. The last member to win a special election but not serve a regular session was former Rep. Dan Barrett (D-Fort Worth) in 2007. He won a special runoff election to succeed former Rep. Anna Mowery (R-Fort Worth) but lost the 2008 general election.
A possible result is that the HD139 primary runoff election could feature an incumbent if Johnson wins the special election.
Early voting for the special elections begins April 25 and runs through May 3. Early voting for the primary runoff election begins May 16 and ends May 20.