Felon tests law banning candidacy
A criminal justice activist with a past behind bars is the first candidate to jump into the race against Austin City Council Member Ora Houston.
He doesn’t know if he’s eligible. But he may be the first in Texas to challenge a state provision blocking felons from public office.
Lewis Conway Jr., a Grassroots Leadership organizer, launches his campaign Tuesday with a party and fundraiser at Midtown Live Sports Cafe. Conway has a 1992 manslaughter conviction for stabbing an acquaintance to death during a fight over stolen money. He served eight years in prison and 12 on parole. After completing parole, his voting rights were restored in 2013.
Conway figures that should allow him to run for City Council. State law says a felon cannot hold Texas public office unless he has been “released from the resulting disabilities.”
But completing parole doesn’t count, the city and Secretary of State’s Office say. To run for office, a felon such as Conway would need a pardon or a court declaration saying they’ve been released from their disabilities.
What does that mean? No one knows.
Soon, Conway will head to court with a motion for a restoration of his rights. If denied, he will appeal and file his candidacy.
For Conway, this fight is just an extension of what he’s fought for since his release.
“It’s ‘When does the sentence end?” he said.