Texas Elections 2018

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Gov. Greg Abbott wants to hold a special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, as soon as possible.

That's according to a letter he sent Thursday to Attorney General Ken Paxton, seeking guidance on whether the governor can suspend certain laws he believes are standing in the way of a timely special election. 

The letter amounts to Abbott's first public comments on the subject since Farenthold suddenly resigned earlier this month, leaving the governor to ponder how long the Coastal Bend-area district could go without representation given that it is still reeling from Hurricane Harvey. Abbott made clear Thursday he believes there is no time to waste.

"It is imperative to restore representation for the people of that district as quickly as possible," Abbott told Paxton in the letter. "I am acutely concerned about this issue because many of the district’s residents are still recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Harvey."

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The problem, according to the governor, is that state and federal law are in conflict, making it "practically impossible to hold an emergency special election and to replace Representative Farenthold before the end of September." Therefore, Abbott asked Paxton if he could use his executive authority to "suspend relevant state election laws and order an emergency special election."

In posing the question, Abbott cited a part of the Texas Government Code that allows the governor to temporarily set aside certain statutes if they hinder "necessary action in coping with a disaster."

Abbott's request for an opinion from Paxton — the attorney general's response will be nonbinding — is the latest political twist in the 27th District. Farenthold, who had already announced he was not seeking re-election, abruptly resigned April 6 amid mounting scrutiny over the revelation last year that he used $84,000 in taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment allegations in 2015. 

A race is currently underway to fill Farenthold's seat for the full term starting next year. Democrats Raul "Roy" Barrera and Eric Holguin are in a runoff, as are Republicans Bech Bruun and Michael Cloud.