Dallas County Democratic Party Chair Carol Donovan, standing, speaks with others attending a Human Rights Campaign press conference in Dallas last November regarding President Trump’s attempt to ban open military service by transgender people. Donovan said that Dallas County Democratic Party will have filed its countersuit by the end of the week seeking to have a GOP lawsuit challenging the Democratic Primary ballot thrown out of court. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)
Democrats respond with countersuit, charge racism and ask suit be thrown out
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
Democratic candidates have filed a petition to intervene in response to a lawsuit the Dallas County Republican Party filed late last week against the Dallas County Democratic Party and Carol Donovan, Democratic Party chair. If the Republican suit were successful, 128 Democrats would be removed from the Democratic Party Primary ballot.
Among the charges by Democratic candidates in the countersuit is that the Republican Party has no standing in the Democratic Primary.
On Jan. 19, five minutes before the deadline to remove a name from the ballot, Republicans filed their suit charging that Carol Donovan didn’t sign 128 of the Democratic candidate applications. Ironically, on page 21 of the request for a temporary injunction, Missy Shorey, chair of the Dallas County Republican Party, forgot to sign the lawsuit.
In addition, on that same page that Shorey forgot to sign, the document appears to be a template that begins, “I, Davin Bernstein,” and continues through giving his birth date of “[redacted]” and his home address of “[redacted],” rather than changing the information to Shorey’s.
If courts rule the Republican Party does have standing, the dispute may come down to what Texas election law actually says about having the county chair’s actual signature on the application.
Donovan’s signature does appear on 23 candidate applications and not on 128 others. On the others, candidates are divided into two groups — those signed by “John Doe #1” and those signed by “John Doe #1.” That second group probably should have been labeled “John Doe #2,” but isn’t.
But does Texas election code require the county chair’s signature?
Texas Election Code Chapter Section 172 refers to parties nominating by primary. Section .022 says the application must be filed with the county chair. Election Code 1.007(a) makes it clearer what filing with the county chair means. Candidates may file with “an employee of the authority at the authority’s usual place for conducting official business constitutes filing with the authority.”
Nowhere in the code does it specify the county chair’s signature must appear on the application. The code doesn’t even say what the application should include. However, it does specify what information must be electronically submitted by the county chair to the secretary of state to be included on the ballot.
That information was successfully transmitted by the county chair to the Texas Secretary of State and has been on the Secretary of State website since December, when the deadline for applications closed.
Application forms that are used to appear on a primary ballot are created by the Secretary of State and are not mandated to be in any particular format by law. Nowhere in the election code does it specify the county chair’s signature must appear on an application form for the application to be valid.
One section of the election code Republicans contend Democrats have violated is 141.037: “Form of name certified for placement on the ballot.” Republicans contend this refers to a form that must be filled out. But what that section of the code actually refers to is the form in which the name will appear on the ballot.
For example, Larry SECEDE Kilgore will appear on the Republican ballot running for governor against Gov. Greg Abbott. This disputed section allows Mr. SECEDE Kilgore’s name to appear in that format and has nothing to do with the forms he filled out to get his name onto the ballot.
Lee Daugherty, president of Stonewall Democrats, is a Democratic precinct chair and a member of the Democrats’ County Executive Committee. That group, which includes all precinct chairs, met on Monday evening, Jan. 22. Many of the candidates attended as well.
Daughterty described the group as concerned but unified to fight the lawsuit.
“If this is the way they want to behave, we’re not just going to smash them at the polls, we’ll smash them in the courts as well,” Daugherty said.
He called this a desperate attempt to put their own people into positions throughout the county. “If they can’t find candidates to run in Dallas County, that’s not our fault,” he said.
Donovan is up for re-election as county chair. That election is held during the primary. She has one opponent, Chris Hamilton, who released a video on Monday calling for Democrats to come together without finger-pointing.
“This lawsuit is a cynical attempt to undermine the rights of our voters in Dallas County to select their elected officials,” Hamilton said. “Now is not the time for us to engage in a dispute within our own party.”
He said there would be time later to sort out what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. At the executive committee meeting, Donovan thanked Hamilton for his words.
Candidates are not letting the lawsuit distract them from their campaigns.
Julie Johnson is running for the Northwest Dallas County Texas House District 115 seat currently held by Republican Matt Rinaldi, who authored the House version of the bathroom bill.
“We are not going to let the Republicans be successful and distract us,” Johnson said. “I have full faith in the Dallas County Democratic Party’s attorneys who are going to get this fixed and have that lawsuit dismissed.”
She said she was staying focused and has several fundraisers planned as well as a number of campaign appearances she’s concentrating on.
Jessica Gonzalez, who is running for the Texas House District 104 in Oak Cliff, said her campaign was business as usual.
“We’re hoping to get it resolved,” she said. “I’m keeping focused on the campaign.”
State Rep. Eric Johnson, who was also one of the 128 candidates Republicans wanted off the ballot, said, “Texas Republicans are constantly looking for ways to disenfranchise minority voters.”
He pointed out that the vast majority of the 128 candidates are minorities.
“This is just the latest attempt by Texas Republicans to take away the ability of minority voters to elect candidates of their choice,” Johnson said.
Donovan sent a message out to Democrats in Dallas County on Wednesday, Jan. 24. She said by the end of the week, the party would file a response to the Republican lawsuit and “seek sanctions and legal fees and counter the falsehoods perpetuated by the Republican Party lawsuit.”
She said the party is evaluating whether the Republican lawsuit violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965, because, as state Rep.
Eric Johnson charged when he first saw the suit, “it appears calculated to deny minorities the right to vote for candidates of their own ethnicity and disproportionately harms minority Democratic candidates.”
Donovan also charged that the lawsuit was released to the press before it was filed and included addresses and other personal information of judges, some of whom have received death threats.
Dallas Voice has a copy of the lawsuit posted on our website with personal information redacted.