Hartnett Expected to Recommend HD-48 Winner Friday

Dan Neil at table with attorneys during a public hearing for the election contest of House D-48
Dan Neil at table with attorneys during a public hearing for the election contest of House D-48

After three days of testimony and today's closing arguments, state Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, is expected to recommend the winner of the disputed House District 48 seat on Friday.

Travis County Republican Dan Neil ran against state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, in November. When Neil lost by 16 votes, he requested a recount, but he lost for a second time by 12 votes. Neil appealed to the state House, and proceedings on the matter started last week.

Neil's lawyer, former state Rep. Joe Nixon, urged Hartnett to grant another election because the margin of votes was too close to ascertain a clear winner. There were 35 people who were not registered to vote but still did, and there were 222 people who were registered but were not allowed to vote, Nixon said.

"Who bears the burden of those mistakes?" he asked. "It’s no more appropriate for Dan to bear the burden of those mistakes than it is for Ms. Howard to bear the benefit of those mistakes."

Nixon said the hearing is not about the Neil-Howard race, but about applying the rules of democracy fairly.

Randall "Buck" Wood, Howard's lawyer, accused Neil, a former offensive lineman for the Denver Broncos, of essentially asking for a do-over because he didn't like the results. 

"I think Mr. Neil with his background in football knows that at the end of the game, if somebody's got 23 points and the other person's got 24 points, the person with 23 points loses," Wood said. "We can argue about some of those ref calls and maybe about how they should have gone, but it doesn't change the outcome."

Hartnett, who was asked by House Speaker Joe Straus to handle the legal details of the dispute, will review the testimony and is expected to make his recommendations to a specially appointed committee of lawmakers in a report Friday. The committee will make its own recommendations to the House, and the representatives will then decide the winner.

 

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