So, where do we begin?
Let’s start with the upcoming December 14th runoff election to determine who will be the next representative for several elected positions, including Houston’s Mayor, every At-Large Council seat and all but four (4) of the Council District seats. Why am I bringing this up first?
Well, out of all the races that were slated to appear on the ballot, it was announced that one of those races would not appear on the December 14th ballot. The Harris County Clerk’s Office released a statement on November 20th indicating that Houston’s District B seat, which includes Acres Homes, Fifth Ward, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and other areas, would not appear on the ballot due to a another lawsuit that had been filed by the third place finisher in the race, Renee Jefferson Smith. This caused a major firestorm in the District B community.
In another stunning blow to Jefferson Smith’s legal challenge, the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas denied her original proceeding on a Petition for Writ of Mandamus issuing the following Memorandum Opinion: “We deny relator’s petition for writ of mandamus. We dismiss all other pending motions as moot.”
This decision came prior to a joint rally that was organized by key stakeholders in the District B community against the removal of District B from the December 14th municipal runoff Elections. The rally was held on Saturday, November 23rd at East Houston Civic Club, located at 7418 East Houston Road. The coalition included outgoing District B Council Member Jerry Davis; State Representative and former District B Council Member Jarvis Johnson; former District B Council Member Carol Mims Galloway; Linda Robinson, Precinct Chairperson; Charles Noble, Coalition of Northeast Civic Clubs; and several others, who demanded that the 2019 City of Houston District B race be placed on the ballot immediately.
The community rally resulted from Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan’s decision to remove District B from the municipal Elections ballot, predicated by the contentious legal battle brought forth by Jefferson Smith.
According to the Texas Election Code, a contested runoff cannot be officially held if there is a legal issue and until there is a final judgment in the matter.
In the statement released by the Harris County Clerk’s Office, their officials stated:
“Due to a legal challenge, the City of Houston Council Member District B race will not appear on the December 14, 2019 Runoff ballot. This will not affect any of the other races of the election procedures the Harris County Clerk’s Office carries out.”
Harris County officials were trying to meet a deadline of Thursday, November 21st to send out mail ballots for the runoff election, but because of the pending litigation, they made the decision to move forward without including the District B race in Houston. The key stakeholders in District B were not having it and made their voices heard loud and clear.
State Rep. Johnson, who represents District 139, which includes District B, also announced his plans to author legislation during the next Legislative Session to address the ambiguous law.
As a follow-up to what the Forward Times reported a few weeks ago, Jefferson Smith followed through on her promise to secure a lawyer to look into the qualifications of second-place finisher, Cynthia Bailey, by filing a lawsuit in Harris County due to her claims that Bailey should be disqualified from holding public office because of her past felony record.
Jefferson Smith retained the services of The Law Office of Nicole R. Bates, and filed a lawsuit to have Bailey removed from consideration as a candidate. At a recent hearing that came before Harris County 270th District Court Judge Dedra Davis, the judge denied the request by Jefferson Smith have Bailey removed from the ballot, despite the past felony conviction.
In response to the ruling by Judge Davis, Jefferson Smith’s lawyers filed another lawsuit against the City of Houston and Harris County, and sent out another press release expressing their position and what they believe is their solid legal standing.
It is a fact that Bailey has a 2007 felony conviction for theft over $200,000. But according to her attorney Oliver Brown, as well as District B Council Member Jerry Davis and Tasha Jackson, who finished in first place (21%) on November 5th in the District B race, they all believe the voters in District B were well aware of Bailey’s conviction prior to the November 5th election and also believe the will of the voters should be honored by allowing her to continue.
“Cynthia has earned her second victory at the First Court of Appeals,” said Oliver Brown, attorney for Bailey. “The voters have spoken, and the court affirmed their decision. Jefferson-Smith cannot overturn the court’s decision or the will of the people.”
Of course, Jefferson Smith does not believe the state law in place that is supposed to prevent individuals with felony convictions from running for office should be ignored and she is pressing forward with her lawsuit.
As we previously reported, these actions have caused a huge stir in the District B community of Houston, with people on both sides expressing their views on the matter. It will be interesting to see how this entire ordeal plays out, not only in actual court, but also in the court of public opinion; especially with the people who voted for Bailey as their candidate of choice.
For further information on why the District B race wasn’t slated to appear on the December 14th ballot, please contact Douglas Ray Special Assistant of the Harris County Attorney’s Office 713-274-5163 or Ron Lewis City Attorney for the City of Houston 832-393-6491.