HOUSTON - When Houston voters return to the polls December 14 for runoff elections, the finalists for City Council District B will be absent from the ballot.
After the November election, Rene Jefferson Smith was on the outside looking in. With a third-place finish, 133 votes short of a run-off in the crowded race to represent District B, Jefferson Smith filed suit against Cynthia Bailey, accurately claiming the runner-up was a convicted felon, and under Texas law, ineligible to hold public office.
"Surely, I have a right to fight for myself, because if I didn't I wouldn't be able to fight for the people. It's about being honest, about integrity, about the character of the individual and about telling the truth," said Jefferson Smith.
But Bailey and her attorney Oliver Brown disagreed, claiming the candidate had sufficiently paid her debt to society and was clear to seek elective office.
In a ruling many see as controversial, Judge Dedra Davis agreed, triggering an immediate appeal by Jefferson Smith.
Top vote-getter Tarsha Jackson says despite her criminal past, Bailey should remain on the ballot, avoiding a damaging delay that could ultimately suppress voter participation.
"I don't know what the reason behind this lawsuit, it's wrong. It's not fair to the people of District B that we are running to represent, because it's putting their lives on hold. I just hope and pray that we resolve it soon," said Jackson.
Attorney Brown accused Jefferson Smith of generating unnecessary "chaos" with her legal challenge. He also predicted his client Bailey's name will ultimately remain on the ballot despite her felony conviction.