U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi resigns from Congress

April 6, 2018

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, resigned on Friday. 

The decision marks the capstone of a tumultuous few months for the four-term congressman, who has been dogged by sexual harassment allegations.  

“While I planned on serving out the remainder of my term in Congress, I know in my heart it’s time for me to move along and look for new ways to serve,” he said in a statement.  

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He previously announced his retirement in December, a move that created an open-seat race to succeed him. Former Texas Water Board Development Chairman Bech Bruun and former Victoria GOP Chairman Michael Cloud are in a Republican runoff to replace him in the two-year term beginning next January. 

The governor now needs to call a special election to fill the seat, the winner of which will serve until early January 2019.  

In 2014, Lauren Greene, Farenthold’s former communications director, sued the congressman alleging gender discrimination, sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. Both parties agreed to drop the case in 2015, but the terms of the settlement were not clear at the time. Last year, Politico reported that the little-known Office of Compliance had covered an $84,000 settlement to Greene in that case. Farenthold at first pledged to reimburse the federal government for the settlement cost but later became more circumspect about when he would do so. 

But even members of his own party are pushing Farenthold to make good on that earlier pledge. Within minutes of Farenthold announcing his resignation Friday, U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, raised the issue in a pointed statement. 

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“I thank Blake Farenthold for his service in Congress,” Stivers said. “I hope Blake is true to his word and pays back the $84,000 of taxpayer money he used as a settlement. As I have said repeatedly, Congress must hold ourselves to a higher standard and regain the trust of the American people.” 

Farenthold, meanwhile, faces an investigation by the U.S. House Ethics Committee over the harassment allegations, along with questions about whether he used official resources for his re-election and if he made false statements to the committee. 

Farenthold first came to Congress in 2011, after winning a stunning race against now-former U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, a Democrat. His re-election from then on was essentially assured when the Republican-led legislature dramatically redrew his 27th District and made it far more GOP-friendly.  

His step-grandmother is Democratic state legislator Sissy Farenthold.  

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Farenthold served on the Oversight and Government Reform, Judiciary and Transportation U.S House Committees. 

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2018/04/06/blake-farenthold-retire-congress/.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.