State Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, will handle the legal details of the election contest between state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, and Republican Dan Neil, who is challenging the results of the election he lost in November.
House Speaker Joe Straus named Hartnett the "master of discovery" in that election contest, asking the Dallas lawmaker to reprise the role he had in previous challenges, including a 2005 contest between former state Rep. Talmadge Heflin and current state Rep. Hubert Vo, both of Houston. Vo, the Democrat, prevailed. Heflin dropped his challenge before the House actually voted, largely on the basis of Hartnett's official findings and his report to the House.
Howard beat Neil by a dozen votes after a recount. Neil contends overseas ballots that were disallowed by Travis County election officials should have been counted.
The announcement from Straus' office:
Speaker Joe Straus today issued the following statement and order appointing Representative Will Hartnett (R-Dallas) as the master of discovery in the matter of the contest of the election for state representative, District 48. Rep. Harnett served as the master of discovery for the Texas House of Representatives in three election contests in 2004-05.
"Rep. Will Hartnett is widely respected both as an attorney and a member of the legislature," said Speaker Straus. "I thank him for taking on this responsibility which may involve a significant portion of his time, and I have full confidence that he'll complete the task at hand."
Text of the Order:
ORDER APPOINTING MASTER OF DISCOVERY
As speaker of the house, acting under the authority of Section 241.009, Election Code, I hereby appoint Representative Will Hartnett as master of discovery in the matter of the contest of the election for state representative, District 48, that was held November 2, 2010.
In accordance with Section 241.009, Election Code, the master shall supervise discovery proceedings, issue any necessary process, receive and report evidence, and perform any other assigned duties in assisting the committee to which the contest is referred and the house of representatives in disposing of the contest in accordance with Chapters 221 and 241, Election Code.