Joe Heflin named “Legislator of the Year”

Here’s one possible reason why State Rep. Joe Heflin is not at the top of the GOP list of vulnerable incumbents: He’s been doing a really good job.

State Rep. Joe Heflin of Crosbyton was credited with a $5 million reimbursement to counties for last May’s special constitutional amendments election in his 2007 Legislator of the Year Award from the Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association.

Representing Howard and Glasscock counties in the 16-county 85th District, he was lauded at the group’s annual convention last week in Galveston.

“Joe fought like a bulldog to make sure counties were reimbursed for the extra expense,” said TCJCA general counsel Jim Allison.

Heflin said Monday he and other sponsors initially sought $15 million but were gratified with the final amount.

“That certainly beats nothing,” said the Democrat, who has a town hall meeting from 10 to 11 a.m. today at Garden City Community Center.

“Being a representative is a participation sport. You have to get involved and go with it. As an attorney and former Crosby County judge, one of my concerns was if it would be as boring on the House floor as it appeared from the gallery.

“But there is a lot happening when you’re moving through 10,000 bills. It was pretty exciting and mostly non-partisan. If you go down to Austin with either side’s radical agenda, you’re not representing your district, in my view.”

He backed a secret ballot in the “test vote” for Speaker of the House Tom Craddick’s Jan. 9 re-election. It failed by 80-68 and the Midland Republican won a third two-year term.

However, Heflin indicated Monday he may support the speaker in January 2009. “I think Craddick has been good for West Texas,” he said.

“The West Texas coalition sticks together because we have to. With Craddick as speaker, we were able to do some things that might not have been accomplished. Especially in the last days of the session in May, a lot of things were pending and there was no budget.”

Heflin said he was impressed when Craddick secured crucial funding for Texas Tech University in Lubbock and Angelo State University in San Angelo.


Heflin said Houston and Dallas representatives want to replace Craddick as speaker with one of their own, but they are misguided because they “would spend all their time fighting each other and cancel each other out” if one had the speakership.

Noting the late Bill Clayton of Springlake, former Rep. Pete Laney of Hale Center and Craddick have held the powerful post since 1975, Heflin said, “I’m concerned that if we lose the speakership, it will go to Dallas or Houston and they’ll hang onto it forever.

“I have had six or seven members come to me since the session and ask for pledge cards for the next speaker’s race, but I’ve said, no, I’m not doing any pledges right now.”

The story notes that Heflin will be having a joint fundraiser with Republican State Sen. Kel Seliger. That’s how a Democrat can win in a heavily Republican area.

I’m not too happy to see that Heflin is considering backing Tom Craddick for Speaker in 2009, though I can at least understand his rationale. At least he’s not committed to it yet. Ironically, it was Craddick’s support from some mostly-urban Democrats that allowed him to hang on in the first place. All I know is that if we can get a Democratic majority in the House, we can spare Heflin the dilemma.

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