By Jim EllisApril 10, 2018 — Four-term Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi), who had shelved his plan to run for re-election well before the March 6 state primary largely due to details stemming from a sexual harassment settlement, abruptly resigned from the House on Friday. Farenthold delivered his announcement via video during the middle of the day and left his position by 5 pm.
The resignation from his TX-27 seat had been rumored because the House Ethics Committee was about to conduct a further investigation into the harassment case and the $84,000 taxpayer funded settlement. Rep. Farenthold said earlier that he would reimburse the government for the payment, but records do not indicate the refund was made. By resigning, the Ethics Committee cannot continue the investigation because Farenthold will no longer be a member.
With now former Rep. Farenthold having left office early, five House seats will be vacant upon Pennsylvania Rep-Elect Conor Lamb’s (D-Pittsburgh) imminent induction. The others are: AZ-8 (Franks-R), MI-13 (Conyers-D), NY-25 (Slaughter-D), and OH-12 (Tiberi-R). All will be filled by special election before the current Congress ends, though the Michigan seat will be done concurrently with the regular election cycle and there is no announced schedule for the New York seat. The AZ-8 seat special general election is April 24. The OH-12 special primary will be held May 8, concurrent with the regular state primary. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to decide a replacement procedure for the late Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester).
The Texas succession situation is unclear. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has eight days to decide on a special election schedule. The post-primary run-off for both parties is May 22 for the now vacant 27th CD.
It’s possible for the governor to schedule the special simultaneously with the regular general election but a problem would arise if no one received an electoral majority in that election. Since Texas has adopted a two-month run-off cycle to comply with the federal MOVE Act that pertains to military and overseas voting, such a schedule here would mean filling the seat after the Congress ends, thereby rendering the entire special election process as moot. Thus, it remains to be seen what action Abbott will take.
Competing in the May 22 run-off are former state Water Development Board chairman Bech Bruun and ex-Victoria County Republican chairman Michael Cloud on the GOP side, and court security officer Roy Barrera and ex-congressional aide Eric Holguin for the Democrats. The eventual Republican nominee is favored to hold the seat in the regular term.
North Dakota Republicans
The North Dakota Republican Party held its statewide endorsing convention in Grand Forks over the weekend in the same arena where Democrats met over March 16-18.
At-large Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) was unanimously endorsed for the US Senate. With the potential of only a minor Republican candidate gaining ballot access for the June 12 primary, the general election is all but set. It is now fully evident that Rep. Cramer will challenge Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) in November.
The vote to replace Rep. Cramer in the at-large House seat became more interesting. State Sen. Tom Campbell (R-Grafton) launched a US Senate campaign early in the cycle and has been advertising. When Rep. Cramer announced he would run for the Senate, Campbell switched into the open House race. Several others joined him, and three contenders ultimately earned delegate votes at the state endorsement convention.
On Saturday, a strong majority of delegates supported state Sen. Kelly Armstrong (R-Dickinson) for the official nomination on a vote of 847-480-28, defeating Campbell and defense contractor and Iraq War veteran Tiffany Abentroth. Sen. Armstrong is also a former North Dakota Republican Party chairman.
Both Sen. Campbell and Abentroth said they will force a statewide primary, so this contest is not over. Now, however, Armstrong must be viewed as the man to beat for the nomination and would be viewed as the early general election favorite against former Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, who won the official Democratic nomination endorsement at the March statewide convention.