December 12, 2005
Filing news: Who's not filing

There are fourteen members of the State House that we now know of who are not going to run for reelection, and there may be more who just haven't made the decision yet.

"I'm weary, just tired. Why do you hit yourself in the head with a hammer? The answer is, it feels so good when you quit," said County Affairs Committee Chairman Ray Allen, of Grand Prairie, who is not seeking re-election.

Back in the old days, it was fun, because "there was not a lot of rancor," said the seven-term Republican. But that changed with painful budget cuts in 2003, continued failure to act on school finance and special session after special session that hit hard the pocketbooks of lawmakers.

"In the end, we've had little to take home to our constituents and say we've done well," Allen said. "It's easier to make sacrifices when people back home say, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.' It's an emotional fatigue, at least for me."

With the Jan. 2 election filing deadline fast approaching, 14 House members have announced they won't be returning.

Four of those, including former House Speaker Pete Laney of Hale Center, are Democrats. The 10 departing Republicans include six committee chairs and two vice chairs.

"It's not a part-time job anymore. It's a killer," political consultant Bill Miller said of the six special sessions in three years that lawmakers have endured.

"People who actually like public service, they're bitter about this turn of events," he added. "They feel they have to leave, because it is taking up too much time from their families."

Miller predicts the number of departing legislators will grow, adding that the unofficial list of those who have seriously thought about quitting is roughly four times longer than those who have made the decision.

In terms of how this will affect the overall House makeup, there's a slight edge to the Democrats in their quest to pick up seats. Of the four open Dem seats so far, one (HD85 - Laney) is a near-sure pickup for the GOP. Two are potential swing seats: Carlos Uresti, who has filed for SD19, won HD118 by a 57-43 margin last time, his challenger from that race is running again, and the top prospect for the Dems isn't running. Jim Solis' HD38 was carried by George Bush 51-49, but no other Republican did better than 45%. Richard Raymond's HD42 is pretty safely Democratic.

On the other side, while there are no sure pickups for the Dems, there are at least four seats that qualify as swing or better: HD47 (Keel), HD48 (Baxter), HD106 (Ray Allen), and HD133 (Nixon). The others are varying degrees of unlikely, with Hupp's HD54 being about as optimistic as it gets. As there seems to be a greater likelihood of more Republican open seats to come, the opportunities here may get better for the Dems.

As a parting thought, what's one reason for all the departures?

Greg Thielemann, a University of Texas-Dallas political scientist, says, "The Republicans, in terms of their leadership, made one terrible error they are still paying for. They tackled congressional redistricting before they tackled school finance. It left the chamber so strongly partisan, and the division was so severe."

There'd be some justice, perhaps the only available justice all things considered, in Democratic gains this year resulting from Republican retirements spurred in part by the redistricting saga.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 12, 2005 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

Ellen Cohen has filed in District 134. She will bring it.

Posted by: Red Dog on December 12, 2005 6:37 PM