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Senate District 30 candidate Hagenbuch can stay on ballot

The Texas Capitol in Austin, shown in 2022.
Eddie Gaspar
The Texas Tribune
The Texas Capitol in Austin, shown in 2022.

The issue of Texas Senate District 30 candidate Brent Hagenbuch’s residency will move to trial after Judge Lee Gabriel ruled Monday against Hagenbuch’s attempt to dismiss the suit.

Monday’s ruling also means Hagenbuch can continue campaigning and remain on the Republican ballot in the race.

Candidate Carrie de Moor has challenged Hagenbuch’s eligibility to run for the senate seat due to allegations that he lives outside the district.

De Moor, an emergency room physician in Frisco, has been endorsed by Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Carrie de Moor
Denton Record-Chronicle
Carrie de Moor

Michael S. Alfred, de Moor’s lawyer, said in a phone call on Monday they will move forward to a trial, where Hagenbuch will need to appear under oath and finally try to explain his disputed residency.

Hagenbuch has not been present during the first postponed hearing earlier this month or during last Friday’s hearing.

“So what this means is we’re going to go forward with the trial,” Alfred said in a phone call on Monday. “And we’re going to ask for the trial date to be set as soon as possible on this.”

Hagenbuch formerly served as chair of the Denton County Republican Party. He is one of four Republicans running for the open seat after state Sen. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, announced he was not seeking reelection. Hagenbuch has been endorsed by Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Brent Hagenbuch
Denton Record-Chronicle
Brent Hagenbuch

Alfred said that de Moor is pleased with the hearing decision even though Hagenbuch can continue campaigning and remain on the ballot.

Alfred said if he stays on the ballot and is declared ineligible at trial, then there is a way to cast his name as an ineligible candidate on the ballot.

Allen Blakemore, Hagenbuch’s spokesperson, said in a press release that just like Donald Trump’s opponents, Hagenbuch’s opponents thought they could win the election at the courthouse.

“Each of our opponents knows they cannot win at the ballot box,” Blakemore said in a press release. “Each of them thought they had a better chance with a judge than with the voters. This strategy has failed.”

Last Thursday, ahead of Friday’s hearing, the executive committee of the Denton County Republican County voted to demand Hagenbuch suspend all campaign activities for Senate District 30, and officially drop out of the race for Senate District 30.

Friday’s hearing

De Moor was set to argue earlier this month about his residency to run for the seat, but her lawyers requested to delay that argument after Hagenbuch’s lawyers submitted last-minute records claiming the candidate lived within the district.

According to those records, Hagenbuch agreed to a “corporate apartment sublease” on Oct. 2 at Titus Transport, the business he owns at 2800 Shoreline Drive in Denton, for $1 of a quarterly payment.

Under the Texas Constitution, candidates running for legislative office are required to reside in the district they are seeking to represent for at least a year before the election. This means that candidates for Senate District 30 would have had to live there since Nov. 5, 2023.

During Friday’s hearing, Hagenbuch’s lawyers argued it would be unconstitutional for the judge to place restrictions on Hagenbuch’s campaigning, explaining that the Texas Constitution provides greater rights to free speech.

They also argued that Hagenbuch’s name must remain on the ballot regardless of his residency.

Hagenbuch’s lawyers also argued that the statutory deadline to challenge Hagenbuch out of the ballot was Dec. 12 of last year, the day after the candidate filing deadline.

De Moor’s lawyers did agree Hagenbuch should remain on the ballot but maintained he did not meet eligibility because he lied about where he lived full-time.

De Moor’s lawyers presented claims that Hagenbuch purchased his home at 1504 Highland Circle at Little Elm in 2017. That address falls within District 12. De Moor’s lawyers said Hagenbuch claimed a homestead exemption for the property.

Hagenbuch voted in Senate District 12 on Oct. 29 during last year’s constitutional elections.

De Moor’s lawyers argued the city of Denton did not issue a certificate of occupancy at the building he claimed to live in until Oct. 23, more than two weeks after Hagenbuch’s claim of living at the location on Oct. 5, arguing it would make it impossible for Hagenbuch to have resided at the location.

Hagenbuch allegedly used his Little Elm address to apply for the certificate of occupancy on Oct. 17 for the residency he claims he resides in, according to the city of Denton permit application in the court filings.

De Moor’s lawyers also questioned why Hagenbuch changed his residency again on Nov. 30 to an apartment located at 2801 Shoreline Drive, which is across the street from Titus Transport.

Operation manager testifies

Michael Kaptain, an operation manager at Titus Transport, 2800 Shoreline Drive, was called to testify in regards to Hagenbuch’s residency on Friday.

Kaptain said he was only aware Hagenbuch claimed to live at the property when it became public. He said he is not aware whether Hagenbuch sleeps at the property, and that he has only met Hagenbuch once.

Kaptain said the location has no stove, but it does have a kitchen in the break room and a shower.

De Moor’s lawyers presented an Oct 12. email exchange from Hagenbuch and Kaptain requesting to take a shower at the location since the property had a shower because the previous business tenant was a workout facility.

Kaptain responded “no” to Hagenbuch since the shower was considered a public restroom.

De Moor’s lawyers asked Kaptain for clarification of the “general office use for no other purpose whatsoever” in the sublease.

“General office and nothing else,” Kaptain said. “So we permit just normal businesses to occupy the space for office use.”

Blakemore told reporters after the hearing that Hagenbuch was not present during the hearing since he was at a candidate forum. Blakemore said elections are won or lost by talking to voters, not talking to judges and other lawyers.

Blakemore also said de Moor’s lawyers recognized they couldn’t take Hagenbuch’s name off the ballot.

“The plaintiff came out and said we’re no longer trying to get his name pulled off the ballot,” Blakemore said. “We know we can’t do that. Nice that they finally recognized that, but they did. … All they want now is an issue of prior restraint. They want to restrain him from exercising his First Amendment rights.”

De Moor said after the hearing she was not afraid of Hagenbuch and would win against him in the primaries if the judge ruled in his favor.

“This is not about being afraid of taking him to the ballot,” de Moor told the media last Friday. “This is about ensuring that we have people live where they say they live, representing the people they represent.”

Alfred said on Monday that the judge’s ruling also means Hagenbuch may be liable for de Moor’s attorney fees because of his frivolous defensive tactics designed to delay the residency challenge.

The primaries are set for March 5.