By Jim Ellis
March 28, 2022 — If the upcoming Alaska special election isn’t complex enough, with the top-four jungle primary feature complete with Ranked Choice Voting that will be used to replace the late at-large Rep. Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon), the developing situation in Texas may be even more confusing.
A year ago March, five-term South Texas Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville) announced that he would not seek re-election in 2022, becoming one of the first sitting incumbents to enter into lame duck status. Late last week Vela made public his intention to resign in the “next few weeks” in order to accept a position with the Akin Gump law firm.
Texas election law states that a vacancy in office must be filled at the next regular election, or earlier if the governor rules that an emergency exists. In a similar situation before the regular 2018 election, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called an emergency special election to immediately replace resigned GOP Rep. Blake Farenthold. Current Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Victoria) won his initial election as a result.
In the current political climate, with the country facing record inflation, sky-high energy prices, a border crisis, oil and gas production limitations as a matter of policy, and a hostile invasion in eastern Europe not seen since the days of Adolph Hitler in the pre-World War II period, the governor could easily claim that enough issues need addressing by a full Texas delegation. Therefore, he could justify calling an immediate special election.
If so, the situation becomes interesting. The winner of Rep. Vela’s 34th District open Democratic primary on March 1 was sitting 15th District Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen). He is seeking re-election in the 34th with Rep. Vela’s endorsement instead of in his original district that is trending more Republican. Therefore, if a special election is held prior to the regular election, Rep. Gonzalez would have to resign his 15th CD seat upon winning the subsequent election, thus creating another short-term vacancy.