November 19, 2003
Ratliff to retire?

The Quorum Report notes a press release (Word doc) by Sen. Bill Ratliff in which he will announce his "future plans for public office" tomorrow. They obviously believe that he's about to hang up his spikes, because they wrote an obituary for him:

Speculation has swirled for months about Ratliff's disenchantment with the disintegration of civility and collegiality in the Senate during the redistricting wars.

He opposed redistricting, fully aware of what it would do to the institution and his district. Though some of his Republican colleagues quietly opposed the process, he was the only one with the guts to stand with Democrats and use the 2/3s rule to stop the process -- until Lt. Governor David Dewhurst discarded the procedure as an inconvenient "management tool".

When most politicians say that the intention of redistricting is to honor communities of interest, they are either delusional or engaging in intentional misinformation. Ratliff was one of only two Republican senators to vote no on the plan. His fears were well founded. Now his rural area will probably be represented by a congressperson from Plano. In this brave new world, that passes for a community of interest.

He was one of the few voices courageous enough to oppose the majority party sanctioning the minority party when passions were their most inflamed. He thought the institution of the Senate transcended any petty, partisan advantage that might be gleaned from bending to Washington interests.

He is one of the few Republicans strong enough to remain unintimidated by the handful of big money contributors that dominate the agenda of the GOP. When first elected, he did something unprecedented -- he returned "late train" campaign contributions from lobbyists and trade associations.

He was the single individual fearless enough to rally his colleagues to speak out against the outrageous and patently false smear mailers put out by Richard Ford's Free Pac in the 2002 primary.

We are not privy to the specifics of his announcements tomorrow but suspect it will be a timetable for his departure from the scene. However, the wording of the release says, "Ratliff to Announce His Future Plans for Public Office."

Byron speculates that this could be a pickup for the Dems in the Senate, though he like I will be sad to see Ratliff go.

Some background on the Free PAC controversy can be found here, here (this one shows what bloggers used to do before they had blogs), and here. Here's a nice quote from that last article:

The single largest contributor to FreePAC in the last 21 months is Dallasite James Lightner at $95,000. Lightner is also one of the largest single contributors to Louisiana's own David Duke, the KKK guy. Lightner contributed the federal maximum amount to Duke in his three races in 1990, 1996 and 2000. In fact in 2000, Lightner was only one of two people nationwide who gave more than the amount allowed by law, causing Duke to have to refund the overage. Tommy Merritt's primary opponent attacks for receiving the Sutton Award from the Black Legislative Caucus seems more significant in view of this connection. Smart money says that FreePAC ends up spending more money against Merritt than anybody else.

Charming. Can't blame Ratliff for not wanting to deal with that crap any more. Have a great retirement, Senator Ratliff. You deserve it.

UPDATE: Here's what the Chronicle and the Statesman's Dave McNeely have to say. Note this:

[Ratliff] had gotten so frustrated at the rampant partisanship [in the Senate this session] that, after his fellow Republicans voted to impose fines on Democrats who had fled to block the redistricting, he went to the secretary of state's office to resign after 15 years. But Gwyn Shea, who held the job at that time, wasn't in, so he didn't.

I think that removes any remaining doubt about his intentions.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 19, 2003 to The great state of Texas | TrackBack