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GOP keeps control of Texas House after heated race decided

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/111108dnmethouse105.19d78f8e1.html GOP keeps control of Texas House after heated race decided
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 11, 2008
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      http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/111108dnmethouse105.19d78f8e1.html

      GOP keeps control of Texas House after heated race decided

      08:03 AM CST on Tuesday, November 11, 2008
      By BRANDON FORMBY / The Dallas Morning News
      bformby@...

      Republicans held their one-seat advantage in the Texas House late Monday as incumbent Linda Harper-Brown maintained a victory in the tight District 105 race.

      However, her already small lead shrank from 34 to 20 votes after a Dallas County ballot board accepted 61 provisional ballots, amid Republican allegations of impropriety.

      Her narrow victory could lead to a recount that might have implications for embattled House Speaker Tom Craddick.

      But it was unclear whether Democratic challenger Bob Romano would request a recount. He could not be reached for comment late Monday.

      "I think it's such a small number that you certainly need to consider the possibility of a recount," said Darlene Ewing, chairwoman of the Dallas County Democratic Party.

      Ms. Harper-Brown also could not be reached for comment.

      The results for the district, which covers most of Irving, mean Republicans hold their one-seat lead in the chamber, with 76 members to Democrats' current tally of 74.

      There's a growing list of lawmakers, including Republicans, seeking to replace Mr. Craddick as speaker of the House. Despite opposition from his own party, Mr. Craddick has no plans to give up the position.

      The vote for a House speaker is typically the first order of business during a legislative session. That means Republicans are likely to have a one-vote edge in the speaker's race, barring any further changes from a recount – even if there is a contested race.

      Tension was apparent at the Dallas County elections office as members from both parties awaited the results Monday night.

      Officials from both sides squared off before a Dallas County ballot board finished deciding how many of 231 provisional ballots to accept. Republicans accused Chorsia Davis, the board's Democratic judge, of improprieties and of accepting provisional ballots that were not cast legally.

      "All we know is she has clearly accepted ballots from voters who have not been accepted over the advice of the elections department," said Jonathan Neerman, chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party.

      Ms. Davis denied the accusations.

      Before the results were announced, Democratic Party officials accused their counterparts of wanting to minimize the number of provisional votes to maintain Ms. Harper-Brown's lead. They also accused Republicans of laying the groundwork for a contest to be heard before the state House, had the provisional ballots changed the outcome in Mr. Romano's favor.

      "It's more important to them to disenfranchise voters than to get to a true count," Ms. Ewing said.

      Dallas County commissioners are expected to canvass the results Monday. Governor Rick Perry is expected to administer a final canvass Nov. 19. Mr. Romano has two days after that final canvass to ask for a recount.

      Democrats last week took six Republican-held seats in spite of staunch resistance from Mr. Craddick's own political action committee, Stars Over Texas.

      For their part, Republicans flipped three seats, leaving the Democrats with a net gain of three. Even after provisional ballots are counted in the House 105 race and, perhaps, a recount, the candidate that is left behind could contest the election. That would ultimately leave the race's outcome up to House members who would decide whether particular votes were counted legally.

      Ms. Harper-Brown's supporters said they were happy with the result but planned to ask the Dallas County Commissioners Court to remove Ms. Davis from the ballot board.

      "We still stand by our prior statements that we're concerned," Dallas County GOP attorney Joe Meister said of how the provisional ballots were accepted.

      What's next in House District 105 race
      The Dallas County Commissioners Court is expected to canvass the vote Monday. Gov. Rick Perry is scheduled to administer the final vote canvass Nov. 19. Candidates have until two days after that final canvass to ask for a recount. Given the 20-vote gap in this race, a recount is almost certain.

      Once the recount is finished, candidates can contest the election. The Texas House has jurisdiction over such a contest, which could mean the election won't be finalized until after the Legislature convenes in January.

      The state House could determine a different outcome or void the election and force a new one. The winner before the results are contested is expected to take the District 105 seat in January and remain until the contest is resolved.
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