Less than a month remains until the special election to fill the unexpired term in Senate District 22. The candidates are just now filing, but race is getting hot. The latest entry comes word that former senator-turned-lobbyist-turned senate-candidate David Sibley may have just copped to a misdemeanor.
The Fort Worth Star Telegram relates the “eligibility” problems of two of the four candidates.
Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell is a native Texan and decorated soldier, but stayed in Virginia after retiring from the military to finish medical treatments for wounds sustained when Islamic terrorists attacked the Pentagon on 9/11. Birdwell voted in one election in Virginia as a result.
Birdwell maintains he had previously bought residential property in Texas and incorporated a business in Texas, so his intent was to be a Texan for voting purposes.
State law requires one has to be a resident in a senatorial district for five years before being eligible to run. In the case of those performing military service, being a registered voter in the district counts.
Now comes word from the Fort Worth Star Telegram that Mr. Sibley took a homestead exemption from a “second home” he owns in Austin. He says he never stopped living in Waco, and only took the Austin homestead exemption because it gave a bigger tax break.
One problem: property owners are only allowed to file for an exemption at the primary residence.
When asked by the Star-Telegram editorial board Thursday, Sibley agreed that he had shorted Travis County out of tax money but did not think he did anything wrong.
Filing for an exemption on a home that’s not a primary residence is a misdemeanor, according to the Travis County Central Appraisal District.
“I can find no record anywhere of that being prosecuted,” Sibley said.
It remains to be seen which voters find to be more worthy of a waiver from a strict eligibility interpretation: a war hero’s missed election, or a lobbyist’s pursuit of a tax break.
Also running in the seat are Darren Yancy and Gayle Avrant, neither of whom apparently have eligibilty issues. Yancy ran for the seat in the March primary, losing to incumbent Kip Averrit. Avrant is a professor at Baylor.
Averrit announced in early January health problems prevented him from serving and didn’t campaign for the seat, though he still won the primary. He formally resigned several weeks ago, necessitating this special election.