Texas Democrats Get Early Christmas Gift
with Republican Fumbling on Libertarians
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
September 6, 2020
The Texas GOP could be giving the Lone Star State to the Democrats on a silver platter by declining the opportunity to knock nearly four dozen Libertarian candidates off the fall ballot for failing to pay the filing fees.
The Democrats scored a potential game-changing break on Saturday when the Texas Supreme Court ruled that a group of Republican candidates and groups had missed an August deadline for a legal challenge that would have automatically eliminated most of the Libertarian slate here if it had been handled properly.
The legal snafu offers Democrats an instant boost in nearly two dozen legislative, congressional and statewide races that could be close in Texas with Libertarian candidates who typically drain two or three percentage points from Republicans. But the real rub for some down-ballot Republicans in Texas may come from new state Chairman Allen West's apparent refusal to get involved in the third-party ballot cleansing that GOP leaders and legislators had initiated with a law they approved last year in Austin amid opposition from Democrats.
Texas Democratic Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa seized on the new law last month when he successfully challenged the qualifications of some Green Party candidates who were removed from the fall ballot for non-payment of campaign sign-up fees. The Greens tend to siphon off a point or two from the Democrats in a state where they're always outnumbered by the Libertarians significantly.
The new law stemmed from an amendment that GOP State Rep. Drew Springer of Muenster sponsored in a move that was designed to hurt Democrats much more than Republicans at the ballot box here. But it's having the opposite effect in light of the events of the past few days and weeks.
West - a former Florida congressman who claimed the Texas party leadership post in a state convention mutiny on Zoom in June - has been splitting his time between attacks on Governor Greg Abbott's leadership during the coronavirus crisis and warnings to the faithful on socialist mobs trying to take over the state. West hasn't appeared to be overly concerned with administrative details or the consequences that persistent criticism of his own Republican governor could have on the GOP's quest to protect its majority in the west wing of the statehouse.
Three of the nine Republican incumbents on the state's highest court are facing Democrats and Libertarians in re-election races. President Donald Trump and U.S. Senator John Cornyn have Libertarian foes at the top of the GOP ticket in Texas where they're dueling Democrats Joe Biden and MJ Hegar in races that could go to the wire.
With Democrats just nine seats short of a Texas House majority, the current minority party's hopes of a west wing takeover in November have never been higher with Libertarians still alive in a half-dozen highly competitive fights for the lower chamber in Dallas-Fort Worth area districts where the GOP is on the defensive.
The Libertarian Party has candidates in races for seats that GOP State Reps. Angie Chen Button of Garland, Craig Goldman of Fort Worth, Morgan Meyer of Dallas and Tony Tinderholt of Arlington are seeking again as top-level targets for the Democrats in the general election less than two months from now. Two other Tarrant County seats that Republican State Reps. Jonathan Stickland and Bill Zedler are giving up in swing districts feature Libertarians and Democrats as foes for the GOP nominees.
Libertarians also will be on the ballot in six of the congressional contests that Democrats at the national level are targeting in Texas this fall. Republican U.S. Reps. Dan Crenshaw of Houston, Michael McCaul of Austin and Chip Roy of Austin have Libertarian opponents in districts that the Democratic Party has a good chance to win.
Libertarians also are competing in open contests for swing seats that Republican U.S. Reps. Will Hurd, Kenny Marchant and Pete Olson are leaving behind without re-election bids.