Matt Kiely alone on GOP ballot for Caldwell County JP1 primary after appeals court rejects Suzy Falgout’s petition
By Miles Smith
The Third District of the Texas Court of Appeals on Friday rejected a petition for emergency relief filed by Caldwell County Precinct 1 justice of the peace hopeful Suzy Falgout, whose application had been rejected by her county’s party after the filing deadline.
The move by the court leaves incumbent Pct. 1 JP Matt Kiely as the party’s default nominee in that race on the March 2018 Republican primary ballot.
Falgout said she is evaluating what to do next, including continuing the appeals process, and has not ruled out the possibility of continuing her campaign.
“I’ve received a lot of support and am considering my options,” Falgout said. “I feel that running as a write-in candidate is a viable option.”
Falgout’s petition to face off against Kiely was formally rejected by the Caldwell County Republican Party after the Dec. 11 filing deadline. After the deadline had passed, Kiely issued a challenge to the petition, citing that it had been filled in incorrectly.
The error on the application was that “2018” had been entered in the blank for party affiliation rather than “Republican Party.” The same mistake was made and had been found after the filing deadline on county clerk candidate Debbie Sanders’ application, which was also rejected, according to Caldwell County Republican chair Kathy Haigler.
Sanders has indicated that she will challenge the rejection but as of Tuesday had not filed a formal appeal. Caldwell County currently has no Republican county clerk candidate on its ballot.
The Third Court of Appeals cited#legal precedent and changes to the election code made in 2011 in the Falgout decision.
“In 2006, the supreme court allowed a would-be candidate the opportunity to cure a defect under very similar circumstances, explaining that the election code did not require that he be excluded from the ballot after he and the party chair overlooked a defect in his petition until after the deadline had passed,” the decision dated Dec. 22 read. “However, in 2011 the legislature amended the election code to specifically bar a would-be candidate from amending an application or an accompanying petition after the filing deadline.
“Falgout concedes as much in her petition, acknowledging that ‘a petition must be rejected due to noncompliance with form, content or procedure’ and that ‘a position in lieu of filing fee may not be amended after the filing deadline.’
“She argues, however, that because an application accompanied by a rejected petition “can instead be accepted with the tender of an appropriate filing fee,” we should interpret the election code as allowing her to tender the fee after the filing deadline, thus curing the defect in her petitions. Our reading of the election code does not allow such an action.”