Lloyd Oliver, the Democratic candidate for Harris County district attorney who was removed from the general election ballot last week, filed a petition Aug. 24, seeking a court order to ensure that his name appears on the ballot in November.
Oliver, a Houston attorney, sued Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade.
Oliver seeks a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction to secure his name on the ballot in Harris County for the Nov. 6 general election. He filed Lloyd Wayne Oliver, et al. v. Lane Lewis, et al. in the 133rd District Court in Harris County.
On Aug. 26, Lewis and Hinojosa filed a notice of removal to federal court on the ground “the claims pleaded, though inadequately pleaded, arise under federal law.” Oliver says he will file a motion to have the suit moved back to state court.
Oliver alleges in the petition that the Harris County Democratic Party removed him from the November ballot on the ground he had violated Texas Democratic Party rules by making favorable public statements on May 30 and June 18 about current DA Pat Lykos, a Republican who lost the primary election in May.
Oliver alleges that on Aug. 10, he received a letter from Lewis alleging Oliver had violated the party rules by making the statements about Lykos, and on Aug. 22, Lewis notified him that he would remove Oliver’s name from the November 2012 ballot and the party would present no candidate for DA.
On Aug. 23, Oliver alleges, Hinojosa informed him he “concurred” with Lewis.
Oliver seeks a declaratory judgment that Texas Democratic Party Rules (H)(103) do not apply to him because he is not a “party officer,” and “there was no supportive statement or contribution given or made to a candidate of the Republican Party” because Lykos had lost the Republican primary election before he made the statements.
Oliver alleges that unless the defendants are enjoined and restrained from removing him from the November ballot, the “people’s choice” will be denied. He seeks emergency relief because “once removed, Plaintiff cannot be placed on ballot and cannot campaign or raise necessary campaign funds.”
Joseph Libby, of Dyer & Libby Attorneys at Law in Houston, represents Oliver. He did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
Two Harris County residents, David B. Wilson and Woody Monica, are also plaintiffs. They allege they are suing on behalf of themselves and other Democratic primary voters who were “disenfranchised and had their voting rights nullified and supplanted by the Defendants who have trampled upon the rights of the people who chose a candidate in May and their right to support a candidate in November.” Libby also represents them.
Lewis did not return a telephone call seeking comment. A message for Hinojosa was returned by Jacob Limon, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party. Limon declines immediate comment because he has not read the petition.
Chad Dunn, a partner in Brazil & Dunn of Houston who is general counsel for the Texas Democratic Party, could not be reached for immediate comment after Oliver filed the petition. But earlier on Aug. 24, Dunn said party rules require the chairman to remove a candidate who endorses a candidate from another party.
Alicia Pierce, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Andrade says, “There is no state statute allowing a party to remove a qualified candidate.”
Stanart says his office, which runs county elections, must finalize the ballot by Aug. 30 to accommodate voting by mail.
A call for Emmett was referred to Joe Stinebaker, Emmett's director of communications. Stinebaker says Emmett has no control over which Democratic candidates appear on the ballot. Stinebaker says, “Although he’s named as a defendant, he’s unsure why he’s even mentioned in the suit.”
A call to the Harris County Attorney’s Office, which represents county officials, was not immediately returned.
--- Brenda Sapino Jeffreys