A calf scramble for legislative seats set off by two lawmakers’ decisions to run for San Antonio mayor could produce a rare shakeup in the Bexar County delegation that reports for duty in Austin on Jan. 13.
As many as three of the county’s 10 Texas House members could be new, along with one of its four senators — the only senator whose district is entirely in Bexar County.
The main catalysts for the upheaval were announcements by state Rep. Mike Villarreal and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, both D-San Antonio, that they’ll run for the city’s mayorship in 2015, though the filing period isn’t until next year.
Both lawmakers have asked Gov. Rick Perry to call special elections to replace them in the upcoming 84th Legislature. No voting dates have been set.
Villarreal initially made his request to Perry on Nov. 6, but a clarifying letter was requested from him and had not been received late Thursday, state officials said. Election officials said that Villarreal can’t formally decline his office — and thus provide such a letter — until the votes are canvassed, which is expected around Dec. 1
The hiccup fueled speculation that Villarreal was reassessing his path, but he bristled at the suggestion and insisted he’s focused on the mayoral race.
“I’ve been in it for six months. We have built a coalition that is as diverse as our city. We all are in it to win. We all have our oars in the water and we’re pulling,” the District 123 representative said Thursday.
Here’s the letter Villarreal sent to Perry, from the Trib story that I had linked to previously. Note, which I had not done before, that he does not use the word “resign” but instead says he will “decline to assume the office”. I’m not an expert in the finer points of this sort of thing, but one could imagine the possibility of some wiggle room in that statement. I have no reason to doubt Villarreal’s sincerity when he says he’s running. He really has been planning for this for months, and it would be more than a little weird if he were to change his mind just like that. Still, if there’s one lesson we all learn again and again it’s that sometimes weird things happen. It’s not impossible that Villarreal could suddenly find that Sen. Van de Putte’s entry into the race has made his path to victory a lot harder, to the point that maybe it’s not worth giving up a safe legislative seat for it. We’ll know soon enough. Also, I take back the snarky things I’ve been saying about the difference between the pace at which a special election was called in SD18 and (not) in HD123. I can’t say for sure Perry is on the hook to call a special in HD123 just yet, so I’ll back off for now.
Pouncing on the Senate opening Thursday were state Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer and Jose Menéndez, both D-San Antonio, who declared they would compete in the District 26 special election to finish the remaining two years in Van de Putte’s current term. Neither candidate must vacate his House seat during the Senate race, only upon election, election officials said.
Other Democrats are considering the Senate race, and it wouldn’t surprise party leaders if a Republican enters the fray. Bexar Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina said local Republicans appear emboldened by their midterm election gains.
“I’m sure the tea party feels that in a low-turnout election, which this would be, they could be competitive,” Medina said.
Bexar GOP Chairman Robert Stovall confirmed his party is seeking a Senate candidate and probably won’t let the Democrats go unchallenged, despite “difficult” odds in District 26, where Van de Putte has served since 1999.
“There could be an opportunity of us,” Stovall said.
Greg Abbott actually nipped Barbara Radnofsky by 0.3 percentage points in SD26 in 2010, so I would agree that the Bexar GOP has an opportunity there. I’d actually agree even if that weren’t the case – there’s no real downside in trying, after all – but note that every other Dem that year carried SD26 by at least ten points, so I’d say their odds are slim and slimmer. I’d also note that President Obama scored 62% in SD26 in 2012, so if by some fluke a GOP candidate did manage to win a no-turnout special election there, he or she would be doomed in 2016. Be that as it may, I’ll put my money on either Martinez-Fischer or Menendez, both of whom had previously expressed their interest in VdP’s seat. For sure, San Antonio is in for a whirlwind of electoral activity over the next few months, and when all is said and done there ought to be more than a few new faces in new places.