Corpus Christi Congressman Blake Farenthold had been missing in action, at least from his Washington office, until late Friday when he abruptly announced he was quitting, effective immediately – leaving an awkward eight-month gap between now and the time his retirement was supposed to take effect. Now there are questions over what happens in the meantime to the 27th district seat.
For critics, Farenthold’s departure doesn’t come soon enough, since he faced charges of sexual harassment, creating a hostile work environment, and using $84,000 of taxpayer money to cover a settlement with the former employee who made the initial allegations against him. After first promising to repay the money, Farenthold seems to have walked back that pledge. He also remains under official investigation.
Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor of political science at the University of Houston, says Farenthold should have resigned months ago, when he announced he wouldn’t be seeking reelection. His departure now leaves the district, still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, unlikely to have a representative until November.
Rottinghaus says Gov. Greg Abbott can call an election to fill Farenthold’s former seat on the next available uniform election date. That happens to be in November, at the time of the general election that will choose who serves the 27th district. The winner of the election to replace Farenthold would only serve from November until the new Congress member’s term begins in January 2019. Alternatively, Abbott could call a special election earlier in the year, if he wished. That could cost taxpayers between $100,000 and $200,000, Rottinghaus says, and turnout would probably be quite low.
Rottinghaus says it’s unclear why Farenthold chose last week to resign.
“It could just be that he had enough, and decided that maybe it’s time to hang em up,” Rottinghaus says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.