Farenthold announces retirement amid sexual harassment controversy
Author: Jonathan Munson, Brian Burns, Taylor Alanis, Miranda Lindley
Published: 6:25 PM CST December 14, 2017
Updated: 10:37 AM CST December 15, 2017
LOCAL 4 Articles

Congressman Blake Farenthold announced Thursday morning that he will not be running for re-election in 2018.

News of Farenthold's decision was first confirmed by Nueces County Republican Party Chairman Mike Bergsma, but soon after that the congressman released a video statement to his constituents on his Facebook page.

"I understand fully that this issue has become a political distraction, and that I would be forced to engage in a month-long campaign for personal vindication," Farenthold said. "That's not why I came to Congress."

Farenthold's decision comes following the revelation two weeks ago that he used $84,000 in taxpayer dollars to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by a former aide. The money was used as required by law from a fund meant to settle legal disputes involving congress.

However, in Farenthold's video statement, he admitted to allowing a culture of unprofessionalism in his congressional office.

"It accommodated destructive gossip, offhand comments, off-color jokes and behavior that, in general, was less than professional," Farenthold said. "And I allowed the personal stress of the job to manifest itself in angry outbursts and, too often, a failure to treat people with the respect that they deserved. That was wrong."

Farenthold has said the settlement was a strategic decision to put the matter to rest even though he insists the charges are untrue. He refers to the settlement as a distraction.

"My constituents deserve better," Farenthold continued. "They deserve a primary campaign that's focused on the serious issues facing our country and our state, and fixing a broken system. Therefore, I'm announcing my decision not to run for re-election. Let me just say, I'm proud of the work I've done in my office and what we've accomplished."

Farenthold will not be campaigning in the March primary and will serve out his term, which expires at the end of next year.

EXPLORE

Farenthold announces retirement amid sexual harassment controversy

LOCAL
Chapter 1

His Constituents

Viewers across the Coastal Bend spoke with 3News following Farenthold's announcement Thursday. Many were out running errands during the day when they heard the news.

"I like Blake, and I think he's doing a good job and I think it's way overblown with what's going on with this stuff," a bystander said.

That "stuff" they were referring to was the news of the sexual harassment lawsuit that was settled with taxpayer money.

"I worked around men all my life. Pretty normal conversation. Maybe he said it in a wrong way, but I don't see it," a viewer said. "I think he should go ahead and run. I don't think he's done nothing wrong."

Some said despite weeks of speculation about whether or not he would remain in office, they were shocked that Farenthold is retiring.

"He's done a lot for veterans and I think he's done a decent job while he's been in office," a bystander said.

"I worked with his wife during the Wimberley floods and rescues," another viewer said. "From what I know of them, they are really good people, so that really does surprise me."

Others said it has been a long time coming, and that they were surprised Farenthold hadn't already gotten the boot.

"I sent him an email on his website about the allegations and I said, 'Do the right thing,'" a viewer said. "'You should resign immediately.'"

"Everybody should be held accountable for their actions and I'm glad he's stepping up to the plate and doing what's best for everybody," another viewer said.

Chapter 2

His Party

Michael Bergsma, chairperson of the Nueces County Republican Party, supported Farenthold in past elections. He said he's disappointed that Farenthold will not seek the seat again.

"He's been a fine congressman," Bergsma said. "Infrastructure has been a good example of it, and his support for pro-life issues has been a good example of it. His support for the military. And he's been working his way up in Congress. He's on the Transportation Committee. We're going to miss that, and it's a shame."

Bergsma said he believes another Republican will be elected to replace Farenthold -- one who shares similar conservative views -- to support South Texas.

Even Speaker of the House Paul Ryan commented on Farenthold's announcement Thursday.

"I had a couple conversations with Blake Farenthold," Ryan said. "He's making the right decision to retire. There are new stories -- very disconcerting, unacceptable behavior alleged in the stories -- and he made the right decision. He will be leaving Congress. That reflects on the conversations we had."

Chapter 3

His Opponents

While some in Farenthold's party have expressed disappointment that he is retiring, at least one notable South Texas Democrat says he should resign immediately instead of serving out the rest of his term.

State Rep. Abel Herrero released a statement Thursday calling on Congressman Blake Farenthold to resign effective immediately.

“Given the growing number of allegations against Congressman Blake Farenthold, I urge him to resign effective immediately from his position as Representative of U.S. House District 27," Herrero's statement reads. "He has used $84,000 of taxpayer funds to silence the accusations of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. Moreover, he is now embroiled in an official ongoing sexual harassment investigation. Because the people of District 27 do, in his own words, “deserve better”, they deserve it now. In the people’s best interest, Rep. Farenthold should relinquish his seat immediately, reimburse taxpayers, and make way for a congressional member who will make Texas proud.”

Chapter 4

The Candidates

A total of five Democrats and five Republicans are racing to replace Farenthold. They will face off against each other in the March primaries.

The Republican candidates include: Bech Broon, Michael Cloud, Eddie Gassman, Jerry Hall and Chris Mapp.

Democratic candidates include: Raul Barrera, Vanessa Edwards-Foster, Eric Holguin, Ronnie McDonald and Rene Pena.

The deadline to file for candidacy was Monday.

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