Alexandra del Moral Mealer, the Republican candidate for Harris County judge, filed a lawsuit Jan. 6 to contest the results of the midterm election that saw incumbent County Judge Lina Hidalgo win a second term in office.
Del Moral Mealer was among a slew of Republican candidates to file on the last possible day allowed by the Texas Election Code—losing candidates must file petitions within 45 days of the canvass of an election, according to Sec. 232.008—joining judicial candidate Erin Lunceford, who filed on Dec. 7, and the trio of Tami Pierce, Rory Robert Olsen and James Lombardino, who filed on Jan. 5.
In a statement posted to Twitter at 11:51 p.m. Jan. 5, del Moral Mealer said she had decided to file an election contest after reviewing the post-election report released by the Harris County Office of the Elections Administrator on Dec. 27.
“It is inexcusable that after two months, the public is no further along in knowing if, and to what extent, votes were suppressed,” del Moral Mealer said. “There were serious operational issues that occurred throughout Election Day that call into question whether the county’s failures denied voters their right to vote. ... My decision to file an election contest is fundamentally about protecting the right to vote in free and fair elections.”
Del Moral Mealer lost by an 18,183-vote margin, or 1.67%, according to the official canvass of the election. The smallest margin of defeat by number of votes for a candidate challenging an election was 449 votes between Republican Tami C. Pierce and Democrat DaSean Jones for the 180th Criminal District Court seat, while the largest was 34,742 between Republican Chris Daniel and Democrat Carla L. Wyatt for the county's treasurer position.
In a Jan. 6 statement, Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee called the election contests “frivolous attempts” by the group of Republican candidates to overturn the votes of over a million residents and said they should not be taken seriously.
“The county will now have to spend substantial resources handling these contests—time that could instead be spent serving the people of Harris County,” Menefee said. “Voters have moved on. Public servants have moved on. These losing candidates should move on too.”
The list of candidates contesting their elections had grown to 21 by 5 p.m. on Jan. 6, with 17 of the candidates filing on Jan. 6, including a number of judicial candidates for district and county courts, as well as Chris Daniel, who ran against incumbent Marilyn Burgess for district clerk.
All of the candidates who filed on Jan. 6 are being represented by Elizabeth D. Alvarez, the chief of the election litigation and civil litigation division at Guest & Gray law firm in Forney, Texas.
According to Sam Taylor, spokesperson for the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, an election contest is a civil lawsuit filed in a district court in which the plaintiff is the candidate contesting the election and the defendant is the candidate who won the election.
However, the provisions in Sec. 231.004 of the Texas Election Code dictate the judges of Harris County’s district courts are disqualified from presiding over the contests, meaning a special judge will be assigned.
“That judge oversees the election contest, and if presented with evidence that the election has to be declared void, they void the election and order a new election to take place,” Taylor said.
Taylor said state law does not lay out a timeline for election contests, and that it will be up to the judge to set the pace of the lawsuit.
Candidate for House District 135 Mike May had also indicated that he would file an election contest in December. According to Cassi Pollock, press secretary for Dade Phelan, speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, May did not post the requisite $5,000 bond per Sec. 241.0061 of the Texas Election Code, in turn ceding his opportunity to contest the election.