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2021 Political Advertising Season Preview

- Cities, School Boards, Constitution

After a busy 2020, broadcasters will see a quieter political advertising year in 2021 as municipal and school board offices are the only regularly elected positions up for a vote this year. There are no elections for federal, state or county offices, unless a special election is called to fill the unexpired portion of a term.

One of those is taking place this Saturday in HD 68, a special election called to replace state Sen.-Elect Drew Springer, R-Muenster. Springer moved to the Texas Senate by winning a special election runoff in December.

Four Republicans and one Democrat are running for the job.   

Most Texas cities and school boards will use the May 1 Uniform Election date to conduct their vote.

The candidate filing period for municipal and school board candidates up for election in May opened a week ago on Jan. 13 and will close on Feb. 12.

Some cities, however, use the Nov. 2 General Election date to conduct their vote. 

You should check with your municipal clerk to determine which date is used in your area.

The FCC political window for both the May and November election periods is 60 days and does not include the date of the election itself. 

The political window for the May 1 Uniform Election opens on March 2, Texas Independence Day.

The FCC political window for the Nov. 2 General Election will open on Sept. 3.  

The Texas Legislature, which gaveled into session last week, could also pass constitutional amendments for consideration by Texas voters this fall. Those measures would be on the Nov. 2 ballot.

A list of the 2021 election-related dates of importance to broadcasters may be found in the Members section of the TAB website.

Most FCC Political Rules Apply
Attorney David Oxenford with TAB Associate member law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer has written before that most of the FCC’s political rules apply to local elections, so broadcasters need to be paying attention.

For example, candidates for local elections are entitled to virtually all the political broadcasting rights afforded to Federal candidates with one big exception, the right of reasonable access which is reserved solely for Federal candidates. 

Oxenford notes that only Federal candidates have the right to demand access to all classes and dayparts of advertising time that a broadcast station must sell. 

For municipal and school board candidates, he said, “stations don’t need to sell the candidates any advertising time at all. But, if they do, the other political rules apply.”

Oxenford has written a handy review of what’s required for such candidates which stations can access here.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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