Don’t mess with Texas — and definitely don’t mess with Texas taxpayers, is the message Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) sent today in a letter to former Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), who resigned earlier this month after it was revealed that he had paid $84,000 of taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment complaint filed by a former staffer.
Farenthold had promised to repay that money, but has so far failed to do so. It’s not a question of being able to afford it — financial disclosures Farenthold filed last year showed him to have a net worth of at least $2.4 million.
After the scandal broke, Farenthold announced he would not run for re-election, but his resignation on April 6 was a surprise, and triggered a special election for his seat.
Abbott had previously announced the special election would be held on June 30, with a runoff (if necessary) to be held in September.
Farenthold’s district includes part of the area heavily damaged by Hurricane Harvey last year, and Texas has been working with FEMA and other federal agencies in their disaster relief efforts. In fact, every single county in the district still remains under a state disaster declaration from the hurricane.
These hurricane recovery efforts were cited by Abbott in his call for the emergency special election, which Texas law allows to be held sooner than a regular special election, and in his letter to Farenthold demanding that he cover the costs of the election.
“While you have publicly offered to reimburse the $84,000 in taxpayer funds you wrongly used to settle a sexual harassment claim, there is no legal recourse requiring you to give that money back to Congress,” wrote Abbott. “I am urging you to give those funds back to the counties in your district to cover the costs of the June 30, 2018, special election. This seat must be filled, and the counties and taxpayers in the 27th Congressional District should not again pay the price for your actions.”
Abbott’s letter requests a response by May 2. He also posted a tweet calling on Farenthold to “pay for the special election that had to be called to fill the seat he resigned from because of his disgraceful conduct,” adding that “Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for his misdeeds.”
RT to tell Blake Farenthold to pay for the special election that had to be called to fill the seat he resigned from because of his disgraceful conduct. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for his misdeeds. #txlege @Elect_Blake https://t.co/TATimZEkaz
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) April 25, 2018
Victoria County Elections Administrator Vicki Vogel told the Victoria Advocate that the cost of the special election could run as much as $200,000 in total, depending on if a runoff is needed.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.