‘Highest crime you can commit’: Incumbent into runoff because of ‘ghost candidate’ reacts to charges in case

HOUSTON – Earlier this year, State Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) faced his first runoff in his 36 years of representing District 142, and it was all because of a candidate who prosecutors said never existed.

Dutton got the highest number of votes during the Democratic primary in March, but not enough to avoid a runoff with the second- and third-place finishers.

Prosecutors said Friday that an investigation revealed that the third-place candidate, Natasha Ruiz, was actually Natasha Demming, who filed under a false name. Prosecutors accused Demming of conspiring with Richard Bonton, who was another candidate in the District 142 race, to manipulate the vote.

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Both Demming and Bonton have been charged with felonies related to tampering with a governmental record.

Dutton said he thinks the severity of the charges is warranted.

“When somebody steals votes from people, that is about the highest crime you can commit, as far as I’m concerned,” Dutton said.

Prosecutors also filed charges against political consultant Damien Jones in connection with a threat made to an incumbent in State House District 132 just before the filing deadline for the 2020 election.

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