Texas Republicans and Democrats are battling over the status of a candidate running for state senate in District 19, which encompasses 17 counties including part of San Antonio. Republicans have filed suit saying Senate candidate Pete Gallego does not actually live in that district, making him ineligible to run for that seat.
Democrats said the lawsuit is a desperate attempt by Republicans to win the special election run-off.
The seat in question was formerly held by State Senator Carlos Uresti, a Democrat.
Uresti was convicted of federal fraud charges in February and sentenced to 12 years in prison. He resigned as state senator in June and an emergency special election was held to fill his seat.
No candidate in that election received enough of a majority to win. The two leading candidates, Republican Peter Flores and Democrat Pete Gallego, will move on to a runoff.
With the runoff on the horizon for Texas State Senate District 19, the Republican party has raised an issue with Gallego. “This is such a blatant disregard for the law that we just can't sit back and let it happen and sanction it by our silence,” said James Dickey, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.
The lawsuit claims evidence shows Gallego does not qualify to run for that district.
“The law clearly says you can't be a candidate or an office holder for the Senate in Texas if you have not lived there for a year previous and live there currently, and he doesn't,” Dickey said.
Gallego filed for the state senate seat using an address in Alpine, which is part of District 19.
Texas Democratic Party General Counsel Chad Dunn issued a statement saying: "Everyone knows Pete Gallego is long-time resident and registered voter of West Texas. He's a cornerstone of the Alpine community and has served the good people of West Texas for decades."
However, Dickey said Gallego doesn't actually live at that home. “It's a property that belongs to his mother and that he hasn't lived in since at least 2000. It's not what he claims as his homestead exemption, it's not what he has sworn as his residence in multiple mortgage filings,” said Dickey.
Dickey believes Gallego actually lives in Austin.
Neighbors to the Austin home in question said they do see Gallego there very often.
Still, in a statement, Dunn said the claims are ridiculous, writing: "This lawsuit is frivolous and the Republican Party of Texas' legal team knows it. Even a first-year law student knows you have to have standing."
The Republican Party of Texas is asking the Secretary of State to remove Gallego's name from the special election runoff ballot, leaving only Republican candidate Peter Flores.
Democrats are calling the move a hail mary. Gallego has not responded to requests for comment. Dickey said the party waited to file the suit until now because it wasn't relevant to them before learning Gallego would face republican Peter Flores in a runoff.
Governor Greg Abbott has yet to set a runoff date.