Last week, the Republican Party of Denton County issued a resolution calling for Republican Brent Hagenbuch to drop out of the race for District 30 of the Texas Senate.
Hagenbuch is one of four Republicans vying for an open seat in the district, and over the course of the campaign, there have been questions about whether or not Hagenbuch actually lived within the district.
The Republican Party of Denton insists that Hagenbuch lives not in Denton, but in Little Elm – a separate city in the DFW Metroplex. Other GOP challengers have filed lawsuits to get Hagenbuch off the ballot.
Yesterday, a judge ruled that while Hagenbuch was allowed to continue campaigning, she didn’t throw the lawsuit out entirely. Philip Jankowski has been covering the story for the Dallas Morning News and he joined the Texas Standard to break down the political fight. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: Who is Hagenbuch exactly?
Phillip Jankowski: Brent Hagenbuch has worked with the Denton County Republican Party for a while. He’s a former chair of the county GOP. He owns a multi-state trucking company that is based in Denton.
So where did this controversy first emerge? Did the Republican Party on its own decide, “hey, we’re going to challenge this candidacy?”
No, it came from his Republican rivals in the upcoming March primary.
A couple of weeks after he filed for office, they began looking through some of his public property records and stuff, that made it appear that he didn’t live in the district. So they started writing, raising concerns, and then filed lawsuits.
So this district includes Denton, as I understand it. Where does Hagenbuch live, according to those challenging his candidacy?
Yeah, I mean, that’s the big question. He says he lives in Denton. He says he lives at the headquarters of his trucking company.
Property records and voting records show that he lives in a little community called Little Elm that is just outside of the district. However, when he filed for candidacy, he listed his trucking company’s headquarters as his residence.
Well, let’s consider the arguments from his perspective. Is it possible that since he last did anything like vote, for example, he has officially informally moved? I mean, we have heard candidates, certainly at the national level, coming from places that didn’t seem like the states or districts from which they were said to be running.
Yeah, that’s true. Federal offices are a bit more lenient.
In Texas, you have to show that you’ve lived within the district that you seek to represent for a year before the election. It’s going to come down to a judge, to decide whether he can seek the office.
So there was a hearing on this, correct?
Yeah, a couple.
Tell us a little bit about how those have transpired.
Well, I went to the first hearing, which ended kind of without anything really resolved because of some last minute court filings there. But I did get a chance to speak to the lawyers, for both sides. The lawyers for one of his rivals say that this is pretty clear that he does not live at his trucking company’s headquarters.
The other side says he certainly can live there. And they’ve pointed out some case law that basically says, you know, none of that really matters. If you claim that you live there and you intend to live there, it doesn’t really matter what zoning laws state.
Voting rights laws say that the person can still vote. They can claim that as a resident. So it doesn’t matter whether it’s a straight up house. Do you understand?
Yeah, I do, but it seems like time is of the essence here. I mean, we have voting coming up on March 5, I believe. Right?
Yeah, that’s very true. And, Hagenbuch’s team campaign says that this basically is already done after they got this ruling, because nothing’s going to happen, they say, before the primary happens.
The other side says that doesn’t matter. If he wins the primary, they’re going to keep fighting him in court.