Amid allegations of sexual harassment, payoffs, and rude behavior, U.S. Representative Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi announced today that he is withdrawing from his campaign for re-election. The problem is that the Republican congressman can’t.
I asked Sam Taylor with the Texas Secretary of State’s Office if Farenthold could withdraw since the candidate filing deadline passed on Monday. “No,” Taylor replied. “Barring a successful challenge to the candidate’s application before the mail-in ballots go out in late January, his name will still be on the ballot for the March 6 primary.”
The only way to remove Farenthold from the ballot now is for the Republican Party of Texas to declare him ineligible to serve in office. Using $84,000 of taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit does not count. There are only three qualifications to be a member of the U.S. House: to be a citizen, older than 25 years in age, and to be an inhabitant of the state in which you hold office. Farenthold could declare that he no longer is a resident of Texas and become ineligible, but that also would raise questions about whether he could serve out his term in the U.S. House.
Had he withdrawn by 6 p.m. Monday, none of this would be an issue. It’s just the final screw-up of a congressman who has been the subject of one political and social mistake after another ever since he appeared wearing ducky pajamas next to a scantily clad model at a Corpus Christi fundraiser in 2010 while running for office the first time. He won that election over incumbent Democrat Solomon Ortiz by 799 votes.
Farenthold’s 27th Congressional District was made more Republican in the 2011 redistricting. His service largely developed a record as a Republican placeholder.
But his incumbency started a slow decline in 2014 when Lauren Greene, his communications director, sued him for sexual harassment. Another aide told her that Farenthold said he has sexual fantasies about her and “wet dreams.” The lawsuit had not been a secret, but only recently news broke that $84,000 in taxpayer money had been spent to settle with Greene. Farenthold admitted no fault but said he would borrow money to repay the settlement.
Then another aide on Wednesday described an abusive atmosphere in Farenthold’s office that included him calling people “fucktard.” He said it was in jest. That was the final straw, and Farenthold announced he would not seek re-election today.