January 13, 2006
Shapleigh endorses Uresti

The Democratic primary for SD19 just got more interesting.

State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, is taking the unusual step of publicly opposing a colleague by endorsing a challenger in a Texas Senate district reaching from San Antonio to El Paso.

State Rep. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, is challenging 12-year veteran Sen. Frank Madla in the March 7 Democratic primary.

Madla is not a reliable vote for the interests of the district that tilts heavily Democrat, Shapleigh said.

"After 30 years in Austin, the people need to ask Frank, 'Who owns your heart?'" Shapleigh said.

Shapleigh's involvement in Madla's race raises some eyebrows because senators, who consider themselves members of an elite club, seldom directly involve themselves in a colleague's political contest.

"That's highly unusual," said Joe Garcia, a longtime Capitol lobbyist.

Madla has done a good job for his district, and his reputation as a swing vote makes him an important member of the Senate, Garcia said.


Because of Senate tradition and rules, 11 senators from the 31-member body can block legislation. But Democrats can't count on Madla, Shapleigh said, citing Madla's support for debate on such bills allowing school vouchers, cutting children from Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program or shifting taxes from wealthy Texans to middle-class families.

"The first vote that the (Senate) Republicans go to get is Frank Madla's," Shapleigh said.

Link via Aaron Pena, who agrees that this is unusual, but not unexpected from Sen. Shapleigh. Madla does have the backing of one key Democrat, however:

A state representative who shares nine counties with Madla said the senator does a good job representing their common constituents on water, economic, transportation and funding issues.

"How he plays the game and whether he's a hard-core right-wing guy or a hard core left-wing guy, I don't think folks where I live care," Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, said. "They want somebody who gets the job done — where they can see a difference."

By voting with Republicans to allow debate on certain controversial issues, Gallego said, Madla "allows the process to move forward."

"I know that he's motivated by the right thing," Gallego said.

There was some talk last year of Gallego running for this seat in the event of Madla's retirement. Make of that what you will.

For sure, Shapleigh's endorsement is a hit among the local bloggers, plus of course PinkDome. I don't live in San Antonio, but I like this as well. We'll see if any other incumbents take Uresti's side on this one. Shapleigh's full statement is beneath the fold.

(EL PASO) - Democratic State Senator Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso today endorsed challenger Carlos Uresti in the March 7 primary for Senate District 19, saying the district needs "a new energy and a new direction" to meet the challenges facing it.

"Carlos will bring a new energy, and put people first when it comes to votes in Austin," Shapleigh said. "He will be an independent voice, one who asks what does this bill do to our families, not just a rubber stamp for the failed leadership in Austin. Over the years that Carlos and I have worked together, he has been a strong voice for our children and our families."

Shapleigh said that incumbent senator Frank Madla is a friend and colleague, but he has crossed the line on a series of critical votes on water resources, children's health, and other important issues.

"Frank voted to cut 500,000 children from CHIP and Medicaid," Shapleigh said. "He voted to hike taxes on 94 percent of the people I represent, then cut taxes for the wealthiest 6 percent. And he voted to privatize public schools and hand them from elected school boards to distant corporations."

"But Frank Madla really crossed the line when he filed and fought for a bill that ended the right to vote for 75,000 of the people I represent in El Paso's Water Improvement District," Shapleigh said. "I understand that he likes to get along with the Republican leadership. But no vote, no trade, no chairmanship is worth the harm to our children and our future. His voting record is a declaration of war on the children of Texas."

In backing Uresti, Shapleigh is endorsing a former Marine who has served in the Texas House since 1997, where he led the effort to reform the state's Child Protective and Adult Protective Services. Uresti co-founded the Bexar County Blue Ribbon Task Force against child abuse and neglect, and has served as chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, the House Veterans' Coalition, and the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Uresti said Shapleigh's endorsement adds to the momentum of his campaign throughout the district, which stretches through all or part of 23 counties from San Antonio to El Paso.

"Eliot Shapleigh embodies the kind of independent spirit and bold leadership that is reshaping our region," Uresti said. "He is a strong champion for great schools, healthcare for children, veterans, and our elderly. He heads our state's BRAC effort. His support for my candidacy sends a strong signal that voters are looking for change, not the status quo, and a new direction, not just the same old failed politics."

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 13, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

A little more integrity and commitment to basic principles a la Shapleigh and Uresti, and a little less political calculation a la Dewhurst and Madla, is exactly what the Texas senate needs.

Posted by: seth on January 13, 2006 9:43 AM