Trey Apffel will become the next president-elect of the State Bar of Texas after winning 52.55 percent of the vote in a first-ever runoff election that ended yesterday.
Apffel, a League City solo, earned 14,721 votes, while his opponent, Rockport solo Steve Fischer, garnered 13,290 votes, or 47.45 percent, according to the election results.
When asked his thoughts and feelings upon learning the results, Apffel says the "support and encouragement" he received during the campaign "meant a lot to me."
"Also, it was certainly a time for reflection, in terms of the effort that Steve put forward, and I certainly recognize and acknowledge his efforts, and I think he did a tremendous job of energizing a voice of our bar that needed to be heard — and has been," says Apffel.
Apffel says he "was listening very closely" to concerns that some of Fischer’s supporters voiced about their belief that the State Bar does not adequately provide for the needs of solos and small-firm lawyers.
Apffel says he thinks the State Bar has "a great infrastructure," but it must do "a better job of educating and communicating with our membership."
He says he’ll sit down with the State Bar’s current leadership to "have a discussion about how we can reach out and address those comments and concerns, and determine the best way to approach that goal.
"Fischer says about the results, "[T]here’s going to be a lot of angry people." He adds, "I’m thankful I won so many areas in Texas."
During the campaign, lawyers credited Fischer with energizing voters, leading to a high turnout in the general election and motivating them to discuss the election on Facebook and in mass emails.
Voter turnout was even higher in the runoff. State Bar spokeswoman Kim Davey says lawyers cast 28,011 votes for candidates in the runoff, and another eight ballots did not choose either candidate, leading to a turnout of 30.3 percent of the 92,459 lawyers eligible to vote. State Bar voting records show this as the highest turnout since 2000, when turnout was 33.2 percent. In the regular election that ended on April 30, only 24,409 votes were cast for president-elect candidates. The total votes cast for all candidates in the regular election represented a 27.17 percent turnout.
When asked his feelings about the results, Fischer says that people have contacted him and are "outraged," because of "negative campaigning" against him during the runoff.
Fischer alleges that people who supported Apffel engaged in "negative campaigning" by sending emails that listed quotes by Fischer that were "out of context."
"It’s sort of disgusting; it makes me sick, really," Fischer says, adding, "I don’t care about all the other campaign rules. Negative campaigning hurts the State Bar."
Fischer says, "What I want is that for the Bar to have the credibility when it comes to the Sunset Commission: They need to, [No.] 1, do election reform and really change the rules to make sense, and [No.] 2, they need to enforce the rules against negative campaigning."
The Sunset Advisory Commission is a legislative commission that reviews state agencies every 12 years and suggests changes. Lawmakers will consider changes to the State Bar, based on Sunset recommendations, in the 2017 legislative session.
Bob Black, co-chairman of the State Bar Nominations and Elections Subcommittee, didn’t immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.