Texans Defy Justice Dept., Hold Election
A special election was under way in northeast Texas on Saturday for the 1st Congressional District seat despite Justice Department threats of possible legal action.
Bowie County Deputy Clerk Verble Kingston reported light turnout in the largest county of the district, which covers a wide area of northeast Texas. A light turnout also was reported by officials in nearby Titus County.
However, Secretary of State Myra McDaniel predicted a “moderate to heavy” vote. County officials said absentee voting has been relatively heavy.
Gov. Mark White and McDaniel said they decided to go ahead with the special election despite Justice Department objections.
White notified Assistant Atty. Gen. William Bradford Reynolds in Washington in a letter Friday that he did not consider Saturday’s election subject to pre-clearance under the federal Voting Rights Act.
Reynolds had threatened to take legal action against the state if it failed to halt the election.
White set the election after Democratic Rep. Sam B. Hall Jr. resigned May 27 to accept appointment as a federal judge.
The designated election date was one of the earliest possible, and Republicans complained that White, a Democrat, chose it to ensure that the GOP would not have time to organize in the traditionally Democratic district.
GOP’s Lone Entry
The GOP hopes election of its lone entry--Edd Hargett--will give it a head start on next year’s crucial congressional elections.
Seven other candidates, including six Democrats and a Christian Contender Party candidate, are vying for the seat. Most observers predict an August runoff between Hargett and one of two Democrats: Sam Russell or Jim Chapman.
National Republicans have placed a high priority on the election. Vice President George Bush has campaigned for Hargett, a 37-year-old engineer from Linden and one-time Texas A&M; University star quarterback, whose campaign fund of an estimated $1 million is reportedly larger than the combined total of his opponents.
If no one gets a majority, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held in July.