November 29, 2008
The twelfth Senator

The Star Telegram talks about what the election of Wendy Davis to the State Senate means.

With Davis, they now have 12 members -- one more than the 11 votes needed to block legislation in the 31-member Senate -- and hope to expand to what they would consider a lucky 13 if Chris Bell wins a runoff for a Houston-area seat.


Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who has led Senate Democrats since 2003, said that senators from both parties traditionally put the interests of their districts above partisanship, with Democrats and Republicans often coalescing along rural-urban lines or forming blocs based on particular issues.

Nevertheless, she said, "there are a few core what I'd call non-negotiables for Senate Democrats." She said they will be "absolutely united" against any attempt to revive a voter identification bill, a measure Democrats blocked last year in a confrontation with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the Senate's Republican presiding officer.

Other non-negotiables, she said, would include legislation that Democrats perceive as attempts to weaken the state's public education system or diminish voting rights. Moreover, she said, Democrats are likely to "congeal" around other issues such as insurance, healthcare and consumer protection.


Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who grew up in Saginaw, said that Democrats, with their strengthened bargaining position, might refuse to support certain items in the budget unless they have assurances that state children's health programs will be fully funded to their satisfaction.

The new Senate configuration also dilutes conservative Republican control of the chamber, Watson said, and creates "a greater opportunity" for bipartisan cooperation. "It swings power back toward the center -- not all the way there, but it moves it in that direction," he said.

The Senate requires a two-thirds vote to bring up legislation, meaning 11 senators can stop a bill from coming to the floor. Davis' added vote makes it easier for Democrats to forge a bill-stopping bloc.

In particular, it makes the caucus less dependent on the health of Sen. Mario Gallegos and the transitory goodwill of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst; you may recall Dewhurst's attempt to pull a fast one last year when Sen. Carlos Uresti was home sick. Davis' presence gives them some slack. It also means they're less dependent on the whims of Sen. Eddie Lucio, who wasn't exactly a model of dependability. All these are very good things. Given the budget battles that are likely to come up next year, having more leverage and one more voice for progressive principles will be huge.

And of course, we can still do better than that. If having twelve Democratic Senators is good, having thirteen would be super. That means doing whatever needs to be done to get Chris Bell elected on December 16. If we're really lucky, this will be the last legislative session with Rick Perry as Governor. Wouldn't it be great if it was with the most Democratic legislature he's had to face since his first term? Please go visit Chris and see what you can do to help. Thanks very much.

Finally, you have to wonder if the Democratic establishment up in North Texas isn't kicking itself over a couple of missed opportunities to make even bigger inroads in the Senate. Sen. Chris Harris, whose district covers parts of Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant counties, won with an unimpressive 54% of the vote against a complete non-entity named Melvin Willms. One can only imagine what might have happened had he faced a challenger of Wendy Davis' qualities and resources. I can't wait to get statewide precinct data to see what might have been there. And in Dallas County, Sen. John Carona was re-elected with 56.3% against Rain Minns, who I thought was smart and ambitious, but also young and way underfunded. Given how much more Democratic Dallas is these days, you'd think Carona (and for that matter, US Rep. Pete Sessions) would have had a bigger target on his back, but it wasn't to be. 2012, anyone?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 29, 2008 to Election 2008

There are a few people who wanted former HD106 candidate Katy Hubener to run against Chris Harris. She may have had a shot. I think the Denton county part of the district is the tough nut to crack, Lewisville and the Denton County part of Carrollton are still 65% GOP. I don't think folks realize how fast Arlington has shifted to the Democrats. You now have one state senator and two out of the three rep districts that include Arlington in Democratic hands.

Carona has large support from the teachers and state employees. He also represents the Park Cities.

There is one prominent Democrat who could give Sessions a strong race, Irving Mayor Herb Gears, but I doubt he will since Irving is split between the 24th and the 32nd.

Posted by: asmith on November 30, 2008 9:22 PM

I honestly can't recall a post being right on so many topics.

Please go visit Chris and see what you can do to help.


Finally, you have to wonder if the Democratic establishment up in North Texas isn't kicking itself over a couple of missed opportunities to make even bigger inroads in the Senate.

asmith correctly identified Katy Hubener. During candidate recruitment, I emailed and called Tarrant and Denton Democrats encouraging them to encourage her to enter. The bigger kicker is not running in the Tarrant JP7 Constable position. JP7 should be the (that's "the" not "a") top target in 2010.

2012, anyone?

This depends upon what the districts look like. Given that there are three Democratic areas SW Fort Worth (SWFW), NE Fort Worth (NEFW), and East Arlington (EA), there are two realistic outcomes.

1) SD10 gets SWFW, NEFW, and EA. This would make both Davis and Harris safe.

2) SD10 gets SWFW, SD12 gets NEFW, and SD9 gets EA. Davis would be in trouble, but given the trends of Tarrant, Harris might be vulnerable midway through the decade.

If Democrats have any say in the districts, Outcome 1 is the result. Also, Harris is a little paranoid, so I suspect that Outcome 1 is his preference too. Outcome 2 only occurs if Republicans completely control that map, and they get greedy, which sounds very plausible to me. It all depends upon what happens in 2010.

Posted by: blank on December 1, 2008 4:27 PM
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