Sealed medical records related to the mental health of state Rep. Susan King, R-Abilene, became a flashpoint in the Republican primary runoff to replace outgoing state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, on Thursday.
A judge this week granted an order temporarily shielding the records, including a 911 call, from being released to the public. King criticized her opponent Dawn Buckingham on Thursday, saying Buckingham’s campaign was trying to release medically sensitive information. Buckingham denied any involvement.
The judge's order was in response to a lawsuit filed by King and her husband in Travis County seeking protection from the public information disclosure under state privacy laws.
Last year, the lawmaker temporarily withdrew from her senate race to seek treatment for depression. At least four people have requested records related to King from the City of Abilene under the Texas Public Information Act, according to legal filings.
King later returned to the race and ultimately finished first in a six-way primary, prompting a runoff with runner-up Buckingham, a Travis County eye physician.
Buckingham “and her political handlers are desperately seeking to drag my private health records through the mud,” King told the media outlet Quorum Report, which first reported the judge’s order. “Buckingham, as a physician, should know that protecting the privacy of individuals’ confidential health records is sacrosanct.”
A spokesman for Buckingham vehemently denied that the doctor’s campaign was involved with seeking the release of those documents.
"Susan King is lying,” campaign spokesman Matt Langston said in an emailed statement. “Under HIPPAA privacy rules, her medical records aren’t public – and never will be. We didn’t ask for them, and we don’t want them released.”
Despite saying the campaign did not want the records released, Langston added, “Clearly she is hiding something potentially embarrassing and damaging to her campaign.”
Langston said King’s restraining order was an attempt to keep the Abilene Police Department from “doing their job and complying with a legal, open-records request.”
The requestors of the information are Mark Bogetich, Kevin Burns, Jamie Burch and John Gober, according to King’s lawsuit.
Burch, a news director for the Abilene television station KTXS, said the requests sought merely an incident report — typically a matter of public information — and not health records.
King and Buckingham are vying to represent Senate District 24, a sprawling, rural district that reaches from Abilene to the northwest suburbs of Austin.