Thursday, March 02, 2006

How the Primaries Will Affect the 2007 Session

Last year the Texas Legislature was not so evenly divided. The Senate had 12 Democrats compared to 19 Republicans and the House had 63 Democrats to 87 Republicans.

This means, on party lines alone, the Republicans controlled 60% of the House and Senate. To pass a vote that required a two thirds majority, Republican’s only had to pick up 2 votes in the Senate and 13 votes in the House. To pass something with a simple majority meant that Republicans only had to maintain their votes.

When conservative and moderate Democrats broke rank and voted on bad bills to either increase political capital or prevent being targeted in the primary, it empowered Republican leadership to continue aggressive cuts on children’s health care initiatives, cut or prevent funding for education, pass homophobic amendments to the state constitution, and create tax policy that the Texas Supreme Court has twice ruled unconstitutional.

Now as the primary season is coming to a close, something has become clear, urban conservative Democrats are getting the squeeze and so are moderate Republicans.

James Leininger, is aggressively going after Roy Blake Jr., Charlie Geren, Tommy Merritt, Delwin Jones, and Carter Casteel. If successful, Leininger would effectively eliminate the center of the party and replace them with anti-education, anti-small business, pro-toll road, pro-voucher officials.

If unsuccessful, the rumor is that Speaker Tom Craddick will have 5 more votes against him as Speaker for the 2007 session. This would make the total 68 to 82 votes for Craddick which is still more than enough to win back the position. According to the Austin rumor mill, shaving off those 5 votes, Jim Pitts and Bill Keffer become interested in running in opposition to Tom Craddick. Pitts and Keffer are in much tighter legislative seats and thus, tend to be more moderate than the extremist Craddick.

All of a sudden, because of 5 Republican moderates, the Democrats have the ability to flex political muscle and unite to elect the new speaker.

If Pitts and Keffer split off 25% of the Republican block then that leaves only 65 hard Republican votes for Craddick. 22 plus 63 (assuming absolutely no Democrats win in November) equals new Speaker.

Things get more interesting looking at the possible and nearly assured pick ups for the Democratic Party. Edwards faces a bitter primary that could elect a more progressive Democrat. Gene Seamen could easily lose to the charismatic Juan Garcia. Travis County could have a D in every state house seat. Martha Wong could lose to Ellen Cohen. And, Katy Huebner’s mere 300 vote loss in Ray Allen’s open seat keeps it in play for the general.

Of course, there are some at risk seats for Democrats too. Mark Strama could be in a tight race against Don Zimmerman, Pete Laney’s vacated seat could be a pick up for the Republicans, Carlos Uresti is now running for State Senate against Frank Madla, which puts House District 118 at risk. And, Hubert Vo will be a hard re-election campaign.

In the end, if Democrats can net 3 seats and the moderates can hold on for dear life, then that on face will create 71 votes against the current fractured leadership. All it takes is a simple majority to elect a new speaker.

After redistricting, the battle to serve in the Texas House or Senate is only a primary away, and we may hear rumblings of a Speaker’s race start as soon as the Special Session begins in April or May.


At 12:48 PM, Blogger dksbook said...

Fantastic analysis, Matt! You ought to dummy it up a little and send it to the E-N.

At 1:46 PM, Blogger Matt Glazer said...

Thanks much. The Express-News has been poking around the site lately, maybe Jamie Castillo will write an article with their thoughts?

I am looking at some of the statewide races tonight and will put together of races to watch on primary night.


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