Abbott, also a Republican, had asked that Farenthold pay for the election, set for June 30, as a form of recompense: Farenthold resigned in April, months after it came to light that he had settled a sexual harassment claim from a former staffer with $84,000 of taxpayer money. The election could cost upwards of $200,000, according to local officials.
That payment mechanism is allowed under federal law but has nonetheless drawn sharp criticism on both sides of the aisle since it was uncovered last fall. Farenthold had originally pledged to repay that sum to taxpayers, but has yet to do so, claiming he is acting on the advice of his lawyers.
Farenthold is worth well over $2 million, according to a recent financial disclosure form. The news that he said he won’t pay for the election was first reported by the Houston Chronicle.
“Since I didn’t call it and I don’t think it’s necessary, I shouldn’t be asked to pay for it,” he wrote in his letter, which appears on his former campaign website, Blake.com.
A spokeswoman for Abbott called the decision “disappointing,” but said “it’s not surprising that his last act would be to stick taxpayers with the bill at the worst possible time.”
“While Mr. Farenthold may consider this resolved, we’re not closing the case on this issue,” said Ciara Matthews, Abbott’s deputy communications director.
Farenthold did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The special election was set for earlier than Texas law generally allows because, Abbott said, filling Farenthold’s seat in the Harvey-devastated Corpus Christi area constituted an “emergency.” Attorney General Ken Paxton gave Abbott the green light to call the election for next month. Nine candidates have filed for that race.
Farenthold wrote that his constituents in Harvey-wrecked areas “would still have a voice” if no special election were held, and that his former Washington, D.C. office is still actively meeting with those who need help.
In his winding four-page letter, Farenthold also seeks to “set the record straight” on the accusations made against him years ago by Lauren Greene, his former communications director. He has maintained his innocence and told Abbott “I want to make it perfectly clear that there were never any allegations that I ever touched anyone,” though he did “run a more informal office than some people may have expected.”
And he defended his decision to pay the settlement with taxpayer money, saying he offered to resolve what he called a “totally frivolous” lawsuit out of his own pocket but was advised that doing so could have been considered a bribe.
Farenthold also advised Abbott that he does not intend to end his public work, and will “continue to fight.” In his crosshairs: “the ‘deep state’, the politics of personal destruction, fake news, and mindless opposition to our President.”
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.