A special election to replace incumbent U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison could cost Texas taxpayers up to $30 million, the Secretary of State’s office estimates in an informational letter requested by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. The organization’s president called on Hutchison to factor this cost into her decision to resign.
“While it seems everyone is talking about the personalities in the gubernatorial race, we wanted to find out what impact a special election filling a vacated senate seat would have on Texas’ taxpayers,” said TFR president Michael Quinn Sullivan, noting his office contacted the Texas Secretary of State on Sept. 3 requesting the information. “The impact is substantial.”
Secretary of State Hope Andrade responded in a letter Wednesday to Sullivan that the first round of a special election could cost Texas counties “between $18 million to $20 million.” Andrade further estimated that a special election run-off would cost an additional $10 million.
“Many local governments have been tightening their budgets, so a special election will necessarily impact operational decisions in the coming months,” said Sullivan. “Regardless of which candidate anyone supports, taxpayers and local officials should be prepared for the costs they will bear in the event the senator resigns as part, or at the conclusion, of the gubernatorial campaign.”
Sullivan said that based on Andrade’s letter, it would appear costs could be mitigated if Sen. Hutchison resigned her seat in the next several weeks. That would allow the special election to conceivably be held on Nov. 3, when voters are already going to the polls statewide to decide on constitutional amendments.
“Obviously it’s Sen. Hutchison’s prerogative to seek the governorship, but there is a very real cost that comes with replacing her before the end of her current term. For the sake of Texas’ taxpayers, she should do everything possible to minimize the cost by timing a resignation around the calendar of the state’s upcoming constitutional amendment election. I hope the $30 million price tag to replace her factors into the senator’s decision-making.”
Andrade wrote that her office’s cost estimate is based, among other things, on the presumption that most of the state’s 8,400 polling places would not be consolidated because of federal rules. She adds in the letter that the “high profile vacancy” increasing voter turnout, and the likelihood the election would not be able to fall on a unified election date add to the cost assumptions.
“If Sen. Hutchison is going to resign, she should do so quickly so Texas’ taxpayers aren’t left holding the bag for the cost of an unbudgeted election,” Sullivan said.