- Ken Herman American-Statesman Staff
The political dust has settled and I’ll understand if you missed this because it went by in a blink or two. But last week, for just a few precious hours, both political parties made a federal case over whether U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold’s name should remain on the March GOP primary ballot.
Quick review: Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, has been in the U.S. House since 2011. His district includes parts of Bastrop and Caldwell counties and he never seemed to make any “best” lists. Now, of course, it turns out he’s probably worthy of a few “worst” lists. So he made a 13th-hour decision not to seek re-election (13th hour because it was past the deadline for getting off the primary ballot).
I’ll spare you a repetition of the details of his demise, but it included the use of your taxpayer dollars to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. He’s now also under congressional investigation to see if he also used your tax dollars to help pay for his campaigns.
Farenthold thought he was a good candidate for re-election until journalists alerted his constituents to some things he would have preferred remain secret. So he decided not to seek re-election. But there was that deadline problem. Cue the lawyers.
The Republicans, eager to avoid the confusion and embarrassment of a confused and embarrassed incumbent who no longer wanted to be on the ballot, filed a federal lawsuit to force the state to remove him. They withdrew the lawsuit after the state said the deadline indeed had passed, but also that it had no way to keep the GOP from dumping Farenthold from the ballot.
The Democrats, eager to embarrass the Repubs even more than the GOP had embarrassed itself via L’Affaire Farenthold, ran to federal court to try to force the state to keep him on the ballot. After getting an adverse ruling, the Dems dropped their lawsuit because a looming deadline for getting the ballots ready mooted the whole thing.
Yeah, I know, that quick review wasn’t so quick. Sorry, but we’re dealing with the hazardous intersection of politics and lawyers. The bottom line is Farenthold is off the ballot.
And that’s too bad because it denies us (defined here as those who expect entertainment in politics) of one of the more entertaining things in civics: a ballot with a candidate who doesn’t want our vote. The only thing more entertaining than that is a ballot with a dead candidate. We’ve had that a few times. Look up state Sens. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, in 2012, and John Wilson, D-LaGrange, in 1982. Both overcame the handicap of death and won. Impressive.
I tell you all this because I was ready with a helpful solution (that’s my job; you’re welcome) if deadlines really meant anything and Farenthold had been forced to stay on the ballot.
Because some voters don’t pay as much attention as they should, a shocking number of them probably would have cast ballots for Farenthold even though there are six other candidates in the GOP primary. Heck, he might have won the nomination. And, even hecker, he also might have won the November general election.
So, to avoid getting a job he no longer wants, perhaps Farenthold could have used some of his political money to run TV ads telling voters not to vote for him. The ads, using Farenthold’s own words, also could have told voters why he’s not qualified for the job.
For example, in his recent speech announcing his withdrawal from the race, Farenthold acknowledged he didn’t know what he was getting into when folks first elected him in 2010. “I had no idea how to run a congressional office,” he said.
And he said he’s still working on it.
“Hi,” he could say on an ad, “I’m Congressman Blake Farenthold. I really don’t know how that happened and I’m still kind of clueless. Don’t vote for me. I’m Blake Farenthold and I authorized this message.”
There also could be an ad recalling he used $84,000 (which he now says he’s repaying) of taxpayer money to pay the sexual harassment case settlement.
And if after those ads the polls still showed him en route to renomination, he could have closed with a silent ad just showing the now-infamous, semiexplicable photo of him in ducky pajamas posing with a lingerie-clad young woman.
Tagline: “Make America Grimace Again.”