Democratic Justice of Peace files suit against Republican challenger

By Phil Archer - Reporter

HOUSTON - Democratic Justice of the Peace George Risner has filed suit to throw his Republican challenger off the March ballot.

Risner claims Lenoila Olivares Salazar used forged signatures to qualify for the race. His allegations have also prompted the Harris County attorney to review ballot petitions submitted in every judicial race in the county.

On Thursday Risner's attorney went to court asking to have Salazar dropped from the primary ballot.

Risner claims most of the voter signatures she submitted to get in the race are forged.

Last week Salazar told Local 2 she hired a consultant to collect most of the signatures.

"I hired someone who hired someone else," said Salazar.

Three of the collectors hired to solicit signatures door to door, all convicted felons, admitted in signed affidavits given to Risner's investigators, that the signatures are bogus.

"We started looking through there and what we can see and what she told us there are some signatures I believe aren't valid. So the question becomes are there enough to allow her to stay on the ballot. She needs 250 signatures," said Chairmann Jared Woodfill of the Harris County Republican Party.

Risner claims he doesn't have them and that more than 350 signatures were forged.

His request for a restraining order to keep Salazar off the ballot was denied on Thursday until a visiting judge can be brought in to hear the case.

In the meantime the county attorney's is reviewing all petitions submitted by county judicial candidates in more than a hundred races, to determine if there are more forgeries.

"We're looking at both parties. This is not any partisan issue. It has to do with our view of judicial integrity and making sure it's a straight ballot," said Assistant Harris County Attorney, Terry O'Rourke.

It's already too late to keep Salazar's name off mailout ballots. About 17,000 have already gone out but there is still time to remover her from the general election in November if the court rules against her.

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