The Texas Republican Who Settled a Sexual-Harassment Suit With Taxpayer Money Won’t Seek Reelection

What’s next for his gerrymandered district?

Tom Williams/AP

Texas Republican Blake Farenthold, who earlier this month made headlines following revelations that he settled a 2014 sexual-harassment lawsuit using $84,000 in taxpayer funds, announced Thursday that he won’t seek reelection for his congressional seat in 2018. 

In an emotional video posted to his campaign Facebook page, Farenthold apologized for his “angry outbursts” as congressman and for failing “to treat people with the respect that they deserved.” “I’d never served in public office before,” he said. “I had no idea how to run a congressional office, and as a result I allowed a workplace culture to take root in my office that was too permissive and decidedly unprofessional.”

Farenthold’s district is likely to remain a GOP stronghold, at least through November, said Mark Jones, a political science fellow at the Baker Institute at Rice University. A handful of Republicans, including former county GOP chairman Michael Cloud and former Texas Water Board Development chairman Bech Bruun, announced their candidacies earlier this month. But the 27th Congressional District, which encompasses much of the Texas Gulf Coast and goes nearly as far inland as Austin, may not be around much longer.

This year, a federal court in San Antonio ruled that congressional and state house districts drawn by Republican lawmakers after the 2010 census, including Farenthold’s, were created with the intent to discriminate against African American and Latino voters. This despite Texas gaining more US House seats following the 2010 Census because of population growth—largely of voters of color.

It’s unlikely any changes will be made to the seat prior to the 2018 midterm elections, says Michael Li, senior counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, thanks to a Supreme Court decision in September that blocked enforcement of the lower court’s ruling until justices had time to review the decision.

The earliest the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case is June. By then it will be too late to make changes to Farenthold’s district—as well as neighboring districts—in time for next year’s elections, Li says.

Should the Supreme Court rule Fahrenthold’s district unconstitutional, redistricting could favor the Democrats, says University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus. “I don’t know if it’s a winnable seat right now for the Democrats,” Rottinghaus says, “but it is definitely a seat that will change, and it will probably be a seat that flips.”