TDCAA’s World Headquarters will close this Thursday afternoon and remain closed until January 3, 2022, so that we can recover from this God-forsaken mess of a year. Let’s all start 2022 with a fresh outlook, shall we?
Now that the deadline for 2022 candidate filings has passed, we thought we’d share with you this Google doc spreadsheet we found online that lists 2022 candidates for major federal and state offices in Texas, including congressional and legislative races. The first post-redistricting election of every decade is often a free-for-all, and with retirements and resignations factored in, it’s likely that 30–40 percent of members of the upcoming 88th Legislature will be new to their jobs in 2023. On the other hand, almost one-third of current state legislators drew no opponent in a primary or general election and will coast back to Austin unscathed by campaign wounds. (That’s considered good map-drawin’ if you work under the big pink dome!)
As for local prosecutors, the 2022 election cycle impacts only the state’s 50 criminal district attorney offices (except for three judicial district attorney offices that have swapped with three criminal DAs to run in this cycle—nothing can ever be simple when it comes to election laws, can it?). We’ve done our best to put together a list of 2022 prosecutor elections that you can view HERE. It’s hard to get good information on some prosecutor races outside of the big metro jurisdictions, so if you have information correcting or supplementing what we’ve cobbled together so far, please email that to Shannon HERE and he will update our running list.
PS–Congratulations to the 75 percent of y’all up for election next year who have no primary or general election opponent!
For constitutional law nerds (like us), Christmas came early last week courtesy of the Court of Criminal Appeals, which held in Stephens v. State that the state statute granting the Attorney General unilateral power to prosecute certain election law violations was unconstitutional because it violated the state constitution’s Separation of Powers Clause. Of course, this wasn’t anything prosecutors hadn’t been telling the Lege for years—and on your behalf, we’ve been publicly asserting that opinion in every legislative session in which it came up—but it is nice to have the Court back that reading of the state constitution on a topic that is so important to our members. Of course, the ruling didn’t make everyone happy, but perhaps that’s to be expected when the high court boxes your ears on something that you have made the center point of your re-election campaign.
So, what does this mean going forward? For starters, it probably won’t have much impact on the majority of election law cases because OAG’s Election Fraud Unit has historically worked cooperatively with local prosecutors in most cases. Nothing in the Stephens ruling limits the ability of OAG to prosecute crimes—election-related or otherwise—as long as the local prosecutor requests that type of prosecution assistance. So, in theory, things should run post-Stephens according to the standard model for other crimes. That said, the partisan nature of the “election integrity vs. voter suppression” fight in today’s politics will mean some legislators may decide that this ruling should be overridden. We will be keeping an eye out for proposed legislation on this topic—some of which is already being floated on social media—but barring this topic being added to the call of a special session, it will be 2023 before the state legislature can address this topic (if at all).
Some articles that you might find interesting:
- “Texas attorney general cannot unilaterally prosecute election cases, state’s highest criminal court rules” (Texas Tribune)
- “Starting assistant DA salaries seem criminally low” (The National Jurist)
- “What new data on gun recoveries can tell us about increased violence in 2020” (FiveThirtyEight.com)
- “You can stand your ground in Texas. Even when you kill a cop.” (Texas Monthly)
Quote of the Week
“I don’t always storm the Capitol of the United States of America, but when I do, I prefer Coors Light.”
—Paul Conover, of Keller, Texas, in a social media video of himself holding a “silver bullet” in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021. Conover is currently charged with several federal crimes relating to the breach of the capitol building on that date.
“If I can lose 30 pounds, it’ll be so worth it.”
—Jenna Ryan, of Frisco, Texas, remarking on her 60-day federal sentence for breaching the U.S. Capitol last January.
“I was kind of in shock. I was surprised someone would be that stupid.”
—April Hatch, a defendant in the 182nd District Court (Harris County), commenting upon the melee that broke out earlier this month when another defendant attacked a female bailiff and fought with a prosecutor and the judge who came to defend her.
“Saddle up, @RepMattSchaefer. The House is going to pass civil asset forfeiture reform again. #CJreform #txlege”
—House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), in a quote tweet of an article highlighting a K-9 unit at Love Field in Dallas that helped interdict $100,000 in cash, which the story said would be subjected to forfeiture. (Subsequent inquiry showed this to be a federal forfeiture, not a state matter, but key details like that sometimes escape the notice of policymakers.)
[Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at TDCAA!]