May 13, 2005
Onward from Ardmore

I somehow managed to forget to note that yesterday was the two year anniversary of the Ardmore walkout. Aaron Pena, who was one of the quorum-busting reps, remembers with a link to this DMN story (generously excerpted by Save Texas Reps). One thing I want to point out from this article, which talks about the prospects of an eventual Democratic resurgence in Texas:

"They're pretty much gone for the rest of the decade," said GOP strategist Royal Masset.

"Their big problem is not having a base of talent," he said.

Gone are the national stars that once led the state party: Gov. Ann Richards, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros. The last Democrat to be House speaker, Rep. Pete Laney of Hale Center, agrees that it will take a long time for such talent to be replaced.

"What the Democratic Party has to do is develop a farm team at the college level and the high school level," Mr. Laney said.

I'm not going to offer any guesses as to how Dems will do next year at this time. Obviously, I'm an optimist, but then, I was an optimist in 2002 as well. I do think, though, that both Masset and Laney are overlooking something. It's certainly true that Republicans have a deeper bench. How could they not? They hold more offices. But there is a place where you can find a lot of diverse and promising Democratic talent, and it's a place that's a traditional breeding ground for aspirants to higher offices. I'm talking of course about the State House. Take a look at the Historical Election Returns page, and check out some of the people who were candidates for the State House in 1992:

State Sen. Steve Ogden (HD14)
US Rep. Kevin Brady (HD15)
US Rep Henry Cuellar (HD42)
Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs (HD47)
State Sen. Kip Averett (HD56)
Transportation Commissioner Ric Williamson (HD61)
State Sen. Robert Duncan (HD84)
State Sen. Kim Brimer (HD96)
US Rep. Kenny Marchant (HD99)
State Sen. John Carona (HD108)
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (HD115)
Former US Rep Ciro Rodriguez (HB118)
State Sen. Mike Jackson (HD129)
Former Houston City Councilman and Mayoral candidate Orlando Sanchez (HD132)
Harris County Judge Robert Eckels (HD133)
State Sen. Kyle Janek (HD134)
State Sen. Mario Gallegos (HD143)

Other familiar alumni of the House include Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, US Rep. John Culberson, US Rep. Tom DeLay, and Governor Rick Perry. Note that a couple of the people named above were not winning candidates in 1992 - Orlando Sanchez lost to Scott Hochberg in a open-seat race, while Kyle Janek failed to oust incumbent Sue Schechter.

Here in 2005, I can think of at least a dozen Democratic State House members who'd make great candidates for higher office, some today and some in a few years. Some of them are in imperviously safe seats, as were some of the future stars of 1992. I believe a good leading indicator of a change in perception of Democratic fortunes will be when you start seeing some of those safe-seat owners giving them up for a shot at something higher. I don't think that'll happen in 2006 (at least, not based on what little I've heard so far about who may be running for what), but I think you'll see some movement in this direction by 2010.

Obviously, there's more to a bench than one legislative body. Having a few incumbents in countywide offices in places like Harris County is nice, too. What I'm saying is that it's a myth to claim there's no base of talent for Democrats. It needs to be bigger, but it's certainly there.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 13, 2005 to Killer D's | TrackBack