You Had One Job Tarrant County GOP

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The results of the race for Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 could be determined by the failures of a County Chair and his staff. A judge will now decide which of the candidates in this race will remain on the ballot.

Precinct 3 incumbent, Justice of the Peace Russell Casey, filed suit against Tarrant County Republican Chairman Tim O’Hare, claiming O’Hare violated Election Law when he denied Casey’s petition to have his challengers removed from the ballot. According to Casey, the Tarrant County GOP (TCGOP) did not properly complete William “Bill” Brandt’s and Leonard “Lenny” Lopez’s petition signature paperwork for ballot access.

It all began with petition signatures. Judges must collect 250 signatures from voters in their district and pay a fee in order to get their name on the ballot. They may also collect 750 signatures instead and avoid the fee. An affidavit must then be signed by each circulator (collector of signatures) and that affidavit must be notarized and dated.

The petition signatures are only valid if they were signed before the petition was notarized. The TCGOP Executive Director, notary for Brandt and Lopez, failed to date their petitions. Casey, in his complaint to O’Hare, alleged that since there was no date on the notarization, it could not be compared to the dates of the signatures, thus making them invalid according to a strict interpretation of the Election Code.

When O’Hare received the challenge from Casey, he failed to notify Brandt and Lopez, and instead paid Republican Party of Texas Assistant General Counsel Wade Emmert for his legal opinion. He then responded to Casey stating, “After receiving the opinion from Republican Party of Texas Assistant General Counsel Wade Emmert, consultation with the Secretary of State’s Office, and consultation with multiple past Tarrant County GOP Chairs, your request to have Bill Brandt and Lenny Lopez removed from the ballot is denied.”

In a compelling response, Casey rebuts Emmert’s opinion and points out O’Hare’s further alleged violations of the Election Code. Casey filed suit against the Chairman, asking the court to make the final decision on the validity of signatures.

Meanwhile, Brandt and Lopez were finally notified of the challenge to their eligibility. Since then O’Hare and his staff have continued to fail the two challengers. O’Hare, an attorney himself, advised the two to share council on the matter. Even a layman can easily see the conflict of interest there. If an attorney were to act in Brandt’s best interest it would be to have Lopez removed from the ballot and vice versa. In fact, Casey alleges more violations on Brandt’s paperwork than Lopez’s and Lopez would certainly benefit if Brandt was removed from the ballot.

Lopez requested copies of Brandt’s petition signatures from TCGOP to check their validity for himself. TCGOP said they would provide copies at $.25 per page. This is another violation for the office. When it comes to petition signatures, TCGOP is subject to the same Public Information Act as government entities. This means the office can legally charge no more than $.10 per page. While it’s not a lot of money, it speaks to TCGOP’s disregard for the law.

It is worth noting that the tension between Chairman O’Hare and JP Russ Casey has history. Casey was brought before the TCGOP Executive Committee for censure after he was reprimanded by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. O’Hare led the charge for censure, but the motion ultimately failed.

O’Hare told the Fort Worth Star Telegram that “Nobody in the Republican Party wants him to be our nominee or on the ballot… He’s going to go down in flames.” With such bias, is he qualified to oversee this election?

Could it be that Chairman O’Hare is putting his beliefs above the law, or is there really nothing to Casey’s claim? Ultimately the Supreme Court has ruled that courts should err on the side of ballot access. While Casey’s arguments are sound, in all likelihood the court will rule to leave Brandt and Lopez on the ballot. The truth is, this whole thing could have been avoided if the TCGOP hadn’t made simple mistakes.

You had one job Tarrant County GOP…

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