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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Is It Libel in Texas?

DENTON, Texas (CN) - The loser in a Texas Republican primary race for justice of the peace claims in court that his opponent defamed him by insinuating that he - the loser - had voted for President Obama.

Harris Hughey lost the Republican primary race for Denton County Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4, by 52 votes to defendant Jay W. Hand, on May 27, Hughey claims in his Oct. 6 lawsuit in Denton County Court.

Hughey claims that Hand defamed him twice in a campaign flyer that stated: "The only election Mr. Hughey ever voted in was 2008, when Barack Obama won the Presidency ... Don't you wonder what brought him out to vote that year?"

Hand repeated the alleged slurs in a video, Hughey says.

This defamed him because he has voted in other elections, Hughey claims.

Though his six-page lawsuit never states outright that Hughey did not vote for Obama, it does say: "Due to the calculated timing of the falsehoods, plaintiff was not able to get the truth to the voters of the precinct thereby leaving the conservative voters in the precinct with the impression that not only had Plaintiff failed to routinely vote, that the only time he had voted was for the sitting Democratic President who was

likely to be unpopular with the Republican electorate in Denton County. Considering the razor slim margin of victory, it is of little doubt that the defamatory statements made a difference in the election or played a substantial factor in plaintiff's loss."

Hughey says the 52-vote margin was less than 1 percent of the votes cast.

He claims that Jay won the election through "the malicious act of blackening plaintiff's reputation and attempting to expose plaintiff to public hatred, contempt, ridicule and financial injury and to turn public opinion on plaintiff with falsehoods in an attempt to sway voters in the election."

Hughey seeks punitive damages for libel and mental anguish.

He is represented by Andrew Hawkins, with Hawkins & Walker, of Fort Worth.

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