Judge Bill Burke of the 189th District Court said today in a hearing that he will sign an order restoring Lloyd Oliver’s (pictured, left) name to the November ballot as the Democratic candidate for Harris County district attorney.
“I’m inclined to enter the temporary relief sought — that Mr. Oliver’s name be placed on the ballot,” Burke said from the bench this morning. He asked attorneys to prepare a written order for his signature this afternoon.
Oliver seeks the court order because the Harris County Democratic Party removed him from the ballot last month on the ground that he 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 to Mike Anderson. The party announced that it would present no DA candidate for the Nov. 6 election.
In Lloyd Wayne Oliver, et al. v. Lane Lewis, et al., Oliver sued Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis and Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, among others.
Ruling from the bench, Burke found that Oliver did not violate Democratic Party rules.
Burke said that any public statements Oliver made about Lykos following the primary election did not amount to an endorsement of Lykos, “since she had been defeated by then and it was kind of coupled with a swipe at the candidate Mike Anderson.”
Burke said the Texas Election Code does provide for reasons why a candidate who won a primary election could be removed from the ballot — such as death, a candidate removing their his or her name or ineligibility — but “I don’t think any of those things occurred in this case.”
Dion Ramos (pictured, right), who represented Lewis, Hinojosa and the Harris County and Texas Democratic parties at the hearing, argued to Burke that a court order would violate the Democratic parties’ First Amendment rights to assembly, unless Oliver can prove there’s a sufficiently compelling state interest.
Burke said he needs to weigh the constitutional rights of political parties against the constitutional rights of Oliver and the Democrats who voted in the May primary.
Oliver told reporters after Burke’s ruling, “I feel like I’ve won. The voters won. That’s how it should be.”
After the hearing, Ramos, of The Ramos Law and Mediation Firm of Houston, said he wasn’t immediately sure what his clients would do next in the legal battle.
— Brenda Sapino Jeffreys