Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Judge to decide future of Democrat Wendy Davis' state senate bid

By JEFF MOSIER - The Dallas Morning News - Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Arguments took place this morning in a hearing to determine whether Democrat Wendy Davis can continue her campaign to try to unseat veteran Republican state Sen. Kim Brimer.

Mr. Brimer filed a lawsuit this month alleging that Ms. Davis was not eligible to run. The suit says that Ms. Davis was still technically a Fort Worth City Council member when she filed to run against Mr. Brimer.

The Texas Constitution’s “holdover” provision says that elected officials will continue to serve until they are replaced. Another part of the state Constitution said that individuals holding a “lucrative office” are not “eligible to the Legislature.”

Wendy Davis Matt Latham, Ms. Davis’s campaign manager, said that state district Judge Tom Lowe notified the parties that he expected to issue a ruling this afternoon.

Two major issues in dispute are when Ms. Davis’s successor, Joel Burns, took office and whether a council member has to leave office before running for the legislature or being elected.

The deadline for filing for the Democratic primary landed between the dates that Mr. Burns won his race and when he was scheduled to be sworn in at a council meeting. Breaking tradition, Mr. Burns held a private swearing-in ceremony at his home on Jan. 1, just a day before the primary filing deadline.

Ms. Davis’s campaign said she was relieved of her council seat after that New Year’s Day ceremony, and the Brimer campaign said that she wasn’t replaced until a swearing-in ceremony at the council meeting about a week later.

The lawsuit said that Mr. Burns wasn’t allowed to attended a closed executive session of the council until after his public swearing-in. Fort Worth city officials have not commented on when they believe that Mr. Burns officially became a council member.

The Brimer lawsuit also claims that Ms. Davis didn’t properly withdraw an earlier filing to run. She filed for the primary first in December and then withdrew that and filed again on Jan. 2.

Even if the Davis campaign loses the argument about when Mr. Burns took over her seat, they can still point to a ruling this month in a similar dispute in Midland. An Austin judge ruled that Democrat Bill Dingus could continue his campaign against Republican state Rep. Tom Craddick, the House speaker. Mr. Dingus continued to serve on the Midland City Council long after he filed to run for the state House seat.

However, a federal judge earlier ruled that Mr. Dingus was not eligible.

A similar argument about Ms. Davis’s eligibility went to the courts early this year when several voters sued to keep her off the ballot. An appeals court ruled that they didn’t have standing to litigate.

Mr. Brimer’s campaign said they had nothing to do with the earlier lawsuit.
Read more in the Fort Worth Star Telegram

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