With state Sen. Pat Fallon (R-Prosper) recently becoming the GOP nominee in Texas’ 4th Congressional District, a safely Republican district, a special election is anticipated to fill his state senate seat.
The timing of that election has yet to be decided, though, as Fallon has not yet vacated his seat in Senate District 30, located mostly north of Fort Worth.
If he vacated immediately, a special election would most likely be held at the same time as the general election on November 3.
However, Fallon has indicated that he’ll be waiting to vacate his seat.
On the Mark Davis Show on Wednesday morning, Fallon said that he did not want his seat to be left vacant for any length of time like TX-04 after Rep. John Ratcliffe vacated it earlier this year.
But if Fallon vacated now, the seat would be empty for a few months until a new senator is sworn in at the beginning of next year.
One possible process that could be taken to fill Fallon’s seat would be for Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a proclamation for a special emergency election after the November election when Fallon is expected to win.
At that point, as a representative-elect, Texas Election Code Sec. 201.001 (c) would be applicable, which states, “An officer-elect who intends to qualify for the office but desires to resign at a subsequent date may submit a resignation in the same manner as an officer who has assumed office, and the vacancy may be filled in the same manner as if the resignation had been submitted after the officer-elect assumed office.”
Though a special election is typically supposed to be held on a “uniform election date,” Election Code Sec. 203.004 (b) provides for an “emergency election” to be held on a Tuesday or Saturday between 36 and 50 days after the governor’s proclamation.
That would provide the right amount of time for Abbott to call for an emergency election to be held just as Fallon automatically vacates his seat at the beginning of the next Congress.
The next Congress is constitutionally required to begin on January 3 unless the current Congress chooses to change that start date as they did with the start of the 114th Congress.
Considering that Jan. 3 falls on a Sunday in 2021, it would not be surprising if the start date is moved a day or two forward.
If Fallon and Abbott decide to take this route with the timing of the vacancy, the special election would consequently be held in late December or early January.
It is also possible that Fallon will not vacate his senate seat until forced to by law, when he is sworn in at the beginning of the congressional session next year.
If that happens, then the special election for his senate seat would not take place until well into next year and SD 30 would be without representation for a portion of the legislative session.
But election complications might not end with an emergency election for SD 30.
If a current member in the Texas House of Representatives officially joins the race and wins, it would trigger the need for another special election.
For Republicans, this means that they could be short one member for the election of a new speaker.
During his interview with Mark Davis, Fallon said that he knew of two individuals who were strongly interested in running to succeed him — Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster) and Salon A la Mode owner Shelley Luther.
Fallon said that he was holding off on endorsing anyone, but noted that he voted in the district and wanted to see candidates participate in forums prior to any special election.
Luther was on Davis’ show the day before Fallon, and though she did not make any official statement on whether she would be running, she indicated that she was strongly considering it.
Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) was rumored to be considering a run for the seat, but he confirmed to Davis that he was ineligible as he currently lives outside of the district.
However, Stickland said that he was strongly opposed to Springer and that he was impressed with Luther.
Denton Mayor Chris Watts also filed a campaign treasurer appointment with the Texas Ethics Commission last week.
If more candidates join the race when it officially begins, there is a possibility that no candidate would receive a majority of votes and a runoff would be needed.
In that scenario, presuming that the special election occurs in late December or early January, SD 30 would be vacant for several weeks, including some time at the beginning of the next legislative session that is scheduled to begin on Jan. 12.
While a runoff may be out of his control, the onus is ultimately on Fallon to decide when to trigger the need for a special election.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.