News Roundup: South Texas Counties Are Scrambling To Pay For A Special Congressional Election

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Alexandra HartMay 4, 2018 1:41 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Several Texas counties are preparing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to hold a special election to replace former congressman Blake Farenthold.

The Corpus Christi Republican representative, who was planning to retire at the end of his current term, resigned abruptly last month, leaving District 27 unrepresented. Farenthold stepped down months after it was revealed he had settled a sexual harassment claim from a former staffer with $84,000 of taxpayer money.

Governor Greg Abbott called an emergency special election to replace him and asked Farenthold to cover the cost. But this week, Farenthold said he would not do that.

Vicki Vogel is the elections administrator for Victoria County, which falls in the district. She says the election will cost around $25,000 – and it’s an expense her office didn’t plan on having.

“I don’t have the money in my budget,” Vogel says. “So I have to go to Commissioner’s Court in the county to have them fund my budget to pay for that. So it is significant. They have to get it from other places within our county budget.”

The special election to determine who will complete former U.S. Representative Farenthold’s term is set for June 30. Nine candidates have filed to run. The 27th Congressional District runs from Corpus Christi up to Bastrop, near Austin.

The fate of Houston ISD and 10 of its struggling schools is now in the hands of of the Texas Education Agency. That’s because of a recent law that imposes penalties on failing schools.

But as Houston Public Media’s Laura Isensee reports, some think there’s another way.

That other way leads straight to the Texas Legislature.

“Let us get back into session and change this law and give HISD a waiver,” says State Representative Garnet Coleman. One Houston school on the watch list, Blackshear Elementary in Third Ward, is in his district.

The problem is that lawmakers won’t meet again until 2019 – way past the deadline for the Education Commissioner to enforce penalties if Houston’s struggling schools don’t improve. But Coleman says the commissioner can stall until lawmakers fix what he calls extreme consequences.

We should try something that doesn’t disrupt the community first,” Coleman says. “Maybe we needed a gun to our head but I don’t believe you burn it down to get it there.”

Coleman wants to repeal the entire law or revise it so districts have more options.

After a catered banquet this week, more than 100 people fell ill, many of whom were players, coaches and parents of the Round Rock Dragons baseball team. The event was an annual banquet held for the baseball team, celebrating the end of the regular season

The timing couldn’t have been worse – the stomach illness hit just days before the team took to the field for a playoff opener. Despite that, all but one player made it the game yesterday, where the Dragons beat Atkins 3 – 0.

The restaurant that catered the event – La Margarita – closed Thursday for a “deep clean” out of an abundance of caution. Williamson County health authorities say they are investigating the incident.