Republican wins right to replace Farenthold in Congress

Republican wins right to replace Farenthold in Congress
© Greg Nash

Voters in a conservative stretch of exurban and rural Texas on Saturday sent a local Republican Party activist to Congress to replace disgraced incumbent Rep. Blake FarentholdRandolph (Blake) Blake FarentholdFormer aides alleging sexual harassment on Capitol Hill urge congressional action AP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Ex-lawmakers see tough job market with trade groups MORE (R), who resigned amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment and abusive behavior.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Republican Michael Cloud led the field of nine candidates with 54.7 percent of the vote. By winning more than half the vote, Cloud was able to avoid a runoff election and serve the rest of Farenthold's term.

Cloud is a member of the Texas Republican Party's central committee, and a former chairman of the Victoria County Republican Party. He owns a small media production and public relations firm. 

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By next month — once Congress returns from its July 4 recess — he will be a congressman.

Texas's 27th District, once a majority-Hispanic swing territory long represented by the centrist Solomon Ortiz (D), flipped parties when Farenthold won election in the 2010 GOP wave. 

Two years later, Republicans redrew the district to favor Farenthold. It now stretches from El Campo, a distant Houston exurb, west to Lockhart, near San Antonio, and south along the Gulf Coast to its population center, Corpus Christi. 

Farenthold won his last two reelection bids with more than 60 percent of the vote. President TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate MORE and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyMaher makes million donation to Democratic Senate super PAC Poll: House GOP candidate leads in California swing district Super PACs spend big in high-stakes midterms MORE both took 60 percent of the vote in the district in the 2016 and 2012 presidential elections.

Farenthold did not distinguish himself in Congress, except perhaps for images in which he appeared in duck pajamas next to a scantily clad woman who was not his wife, a year before he won election to Congress.

Farenthold was sued by his former communications director in 2014 for creating what the staffer called a hostile work environment and for sexual harassment. Farenthold used taxpayer dollars to settle that suit for $84,000 — money he pledged to repay, before reversing that statement. 

Farenthold resigned abruptly in April, without a major legislative accomplishment to his name, to take a job as a lobbyist for the Calhoun Port Authority, in his former district.

A local newspaper sued the port authority, claiming it violated open meetings laws when it hired Farenthold at a $160,000 annual salary.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who was required by law to set a special election to fill the rest of Farenthold's term, asked the ex-congressman to pay for an election that will cost cash-strapped Texas counties hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Farenthold refused to pay for the special election he prompted.

Updated July 1 at 5:22 a.m.