April 27, 2009
Two legislator stories

The Chron has a nice profile of State Rep. Kristi Thibaut, who had a very busy year last year.

Thibaut first ran for the Legislature in 2006. She had been a state Senate messenger and a government major while in college and a legislative aide for two years. Taught by her father to hunt geese on the coast, she had headed the youth hunting group. She also worked for the Texas Wildlife Foundation and as a campaign fundraiser.

Thibaut got at least one Republican vote: her husband's. But she lost the race to Republican Jim Murphy in District 133, which includes upper-middle-class homes and modest apartment complexes near Westheimer and the Sam Houston Tollway.

Democrats reloaded on hope for 2008. Thibaut started running again in late 2007. And the candidate, who had suffered a miscarriage months earlier, talked with her husband about starting the adoption process after November's election.

Then Thibaut got pregnant.

"I was as hysterical as anybody in that position would be," she recalled. She'd been fearful she would disappoint supporters and contributors who might think she no longer was game for political combat.

But she was. Her husband encouraged her to stay on the campaign trail, as did groups such as Annie's List, which backs Democratic women seeking Texas offices.

Her son was born June 11, and soon after, Thibaut sought campaign donations with a letter that included a baby photo. On Election Day, she greeted voters at polling places with her son, who wore a T-shirt saying "Vote for my mommy."

Child exploitation for political gain? "We were shameless," Thibaut said.

Turnout doubled from 2006. She beat Murphy by fewer than 500 votes.

I remember talking to Thibaut shortly after the news of her pregnancy became public. She was confident at the time that she could run an effective campaign, and more importantly raise the funds she'd need to run that campaign, during and after her pregnancy. The results speak for themselves. Thibaut got a sizable boost from the Democratic wave of 2008, and will be one of the more endangered incumbents in 2010 because of that; Murphy is running again, for the rubber match. She's a hard worker, she's already got some good legislative results, and she's just a super person, so if anyone can hold that seat, it's her.

Meanwhile, the Statesman has an interesting piece on longtime conservative stalwart Rep. Warren Chisum, who lost power in the Speaker transition but has since morphed into a key player on environmental legislation.

With ever more likely federal rules limiting emissions of carbon dioxide, which have been associated with global warming, Chisum has teamed up with Democrats and some Republicans to make business-friendly proposals that would give subsidies to companies that capture greenhouse gas emissions.

Chisum, in short, has sought out engagement with the federal government over carbon dioxide rules even as some leading Republicans have taken a more confrontational posture.

Gov. Rick Perry, for one, has warned against an activist Environmental Protection Agency and said the greenhouse gas rules could derail the economy in a state that is the nation's largest emitter of carbon dioxide.

But Chisum has avoided the politically divisive rhetoric of global warming, which most Texas Republican leaders are unwilling to connect to emissions from the state's power plants and manufacturing facilities.

Instead, he has focused on modest goals aimed at tamping down the state's carbon emissions by dishing out tax breaks and other incentives to industries. The proposals could save utilities and other industries money, depending on how expensive carbon emissions become under federal limits, and could earn Texas political credit as those limits are shaped.

"There's not much sympathy for Texas" in Washington, said Chisum, who said the state should try to influence the shape of federal law. "We should try to get a legitimate seat in any rule-making that the federal government is involved in sooner rather than later."

Chisum gets positive reviews from environmental advocates in the piece, though they note that there's a whole lot of legislation that hasn't passed yet. He's really a good fit for the role he's taken here, because everyone likes and respects him, and he's clearly taken a pragmatic, let's-get-things-done perspective. I wish him well in this pursuit.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 27, 2009 to That's our Lege
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