Elections 2022Texas GOP Denies Appeal to Remove a ‘Rick Perry’ from GOP Governors Primary Ballot

Attorney Eric Opiela filed the challenge to Perry's candidacy with the Republican Party of Texas, threatening litigation if it went unresolved.
December 15, 2021
Parker County resident Rick Perry — not the former governor — filed a declaration of candidacy for the GOP gubernatorial primary this week.

At first, this sparked a frenzy over whether former presidential candidate and Texas governor Rick Perry had decided he wanted his old job back. After that claim was disputed, questions were raised over this unknown Rick Perry’s existence. Turns out, he is an IT engineer from Springtown who has served as a precinct chair for the Republican Party.

The validity of his gubernatorial candidacy was challenged Tuesday by attorney Eric Opiela who delivered a letter to the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) requesting Perry’s removal from the 2022 gubernatorial primary ballot on behalf of a client.

Being a primary election, its oversight is the responsibility of the party rather than the secretary of state.

RPT Chair Matt Rinaldi issued a ruling on Opiela’s appeal on Wednesday and denied the request.

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The issue at hand is that Perry filed for re-election to his precinct chair position on November 30. Under state code, individuals may not be on the same ballot for two different positions at once. If that happens, “each application filed subsequent to the first one filed is invalid.”

On December 12, the day before he filed for governor, Perry sent a letter to Scott Utley, chairman of the Parker County GOP, to withdraw his name from the precinct chair race. That normally triggers the removal automatically, but Opiela’s letter alleges the withdrawal isn’t valid because it wasn’t properly notarized.

“I ask that you immediately reject his application, or in the alternative declare him ineligible, take any and all necessary steps to remove Mr. Perry from the 2022 Republican Primary Ballot for Governor, and notify me when you have done so,” Opiela’s letter reads.

“If you fail to do so, litigation may be necessary to compel the performance of your duty under the law.”

Perry’s campaign treasurer is Tony McDonald, an Austin attorney and conservative activist who is on the endorsement list for Don Huffines, one of Governor Greg Abbott’s primary opponents.

Reached Wednesday, McDonald pointed to a section of the state election code which both supersedes the section of code Opiela cites and lacks the “acknowledge[ment]” requirement pointed to.

There is also legal precedent on this question. In 1986, a similar situation arose and Texas’ Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the section Opiela cited this week “has no application” in situations of a withdrawal from a primary ballot.

RPT’s reply to Opiela’s letter said, “You rely upon Section 145.001 of the Election Code, which is a general provision for withdrawal of candidates that does require a request be in writing, signed and acknowledged. This section has no application.”

The letter then cited that case law precedent as support for its ruling.

Further, Rinaldi writes, “As an initial matter, it is unclear from your correspondence whether you are making this request in your personal capacity or on behalf of a client. If it is the former, I question your standing to seek a judicial remedy. If it is the latter, please identify on whose behalf this request is being made.”

For a legal challenge to be heard, before its merits are considered, the plaintiff must prove legal standing, or that they were dealt harm by the issue and person at hand. At first glance, it’s likely that the only individuals who might have standing against Rick Perry ineligibly appearing on the ballot are the other GOP gubernatorial candidates.

Abbott is facing the first substantial primary of his political career, headlined by Huffines and Allen West. While not the fruits of his labor, Perry’s spot on the ballot would carry with it considerable name-ID and threaten to siphon off votes from the other candidates.

Neither Opiela nor Perry returned a request for comment after the RPT issued its ruling.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.