Lane Lewis, the new chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party, told us late Wednesday afternoon that he received a letter Tuesday morning from Abercia. It stated that Abercia was withdrawing his name from the primary ballot, citing health reasons.
The news comes about two weeks after 13 Undercover broke exclusive details involving Abercia's office. Multiple sources tell 13 Undercover the FBI is investigating possible bribes to Pct. 1 officials. Among those under scrutiny are two of the highest ranking commanders in Pct. 1.
Sources told 13 Undercover that the bribery investigation centers on the hiring of a deputy who'd been turned down by seven other law enforcement agencies.
"With Abercia stepping aside, that opens up a seat that's been held for 20 years by one person. It's a seat that most likely will go to a Democrat, given that the Precinct 1 is a reliable Democratic district," said Mark Jones, chairman of the Rice University Department of Political Science.
Four candidates for are already on the ballot: Cindy Vara-Leija, Quincy Whitaker, Alan Rosen and Grady Castleberry.
The deadline to file was December 19, but officials anticipate it reopening sometime in February because of the court battle over redistricting.
"It does open up the race; however, since Cindy Vara-Leija has already established a campaign and has the support of a lot of Hispanic heavyweights in the city, such as Jessica Ferrara, Mario Gallegos [and] Ed Gonzalez, she's likely to be the odds on favorite to win the Democratic nomination now that Abercia has stepped aside," Jones said.
Abercia has not endorsed anyone at this time.
We attempted to reach Pct. 1 for a comment and are awaiting a response. The democratic primary is April 3.
For months now, 13 Undercover has been investigating constables. The reports have helped to spark three separate investigations by both federal and local authorities.
While the FBI is reportedly looking into bribery allegations at Pct. 1, the Harris County district attorney and the county attorney are both investigating Pct. 6 Constable Victor Trevino and Pct. 7 Constable May Walker. The allegations against Trevino are potential misuse of charity funds, county personnel and county equipment. The Walker investigation centers around the possible misuse of county equipment and personnel, as well as possible illegal fundraising.