Election Challenge Drags On

Howard fighting to retain her seat

Austin Rep. Donna Howard still awaits an election challenge.
Austin Rep. Donna Howard still awaits an election challenge. (Photo by John Anderson)

Legal briefs for the contested election in Travis County's House District 48 race were filed Jan. 18, giving Austin Demo­crat­ic Rep. Donna Howard until Jan. 25 to complete the discovery process in Republican Dan Neil's challenge of her 12-vote win. Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, serving as master of discovery, will rule on which contested ballots from the Nov. 2 election will be referred to a panel of nine state reps. That group of six Republicans and three Democrats – led by chair Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi – will make the final adjudication on whether the current result stands. The good news for Howard is that, historically, the win/loss ratio is heavily in favor of whoever won on election night: In 2005, Hartnett oversaw the challenges of three Republican House hopefuls, and all three finally withdrew on legal advice. However, there are two pieces of bad news for Howard. One, with no date set for a hearing, the wrangling over this seat could last for weeks. Two, House rules about election contests prohibit her from using her seniority picks for committee seats, placing the three-term incumbent's appointments at the mercy of Speaker Joe Straus.

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Donna Howard, Dan Neil, Legislature

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