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Sen. Chris Harris and Rep. Will Hartnett to retire

One more out the door of the upper chamber.

State Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, announced [Monday] afternoon that he will not seek reelection — the fourth veteran lawmaker to announce their retirement from the Upper Chamber.

He is the longest serving Republican in the Senate and chairs the Senate Jurisprudence Committee.

“I want to express my deepest gratitude to the people of North Texas and to my family for allowing me to serve,” Harris said in a statement. “It has been the greatest honor of my life that my friends and neighbors have asked me to represent them alongside so many amazing men and women for almost three decades.”

Harris has served in the Senate since 1991 and served before that in the Texas House.

State Rep. Rodney Anderson, R-Grand Prairie, announced last month that he planned to challenge Harris in next year’s primary, insisting that the district needed a more conservative voice. Harris said at the time that he planned to run again.

In his announcement, Harris encouraged Victor Vandergriff, son of late former Tarrant County Commissioner and Arlington Mayor Tom Vandergriff, to replace him in the Senate.

Sen. Harris is joined at the exit by State Rep. Will Hartnett in HD114.

Eleven-term Dallas state Rep. Will Hartnett has decided not to seek re-election, creating an opening for other Republicans to move up the ladder — or in one case, return to the House.

As expected, Hartnett said in a statement on his future plans Thursday that he would retire.

“My wife and three sons have stood by me during my years of public service, and now I look forward to having more time to stand by them in our family life and events that, in the end, are vastly more important than political life,” he said.

First elected in 1990, Hartnett is the longest-serving House member from North Texas and has sponsored scores of new laws — many of them refining the state’s legal system, though he also did some heavy lifting in 2005 to help secure water supplies for the region. In July, Hartnett was selected by Texas Monthly as one of the Ten Best lawmakers, largely for his handling of a House election contest. The magazine also applauded him for winning passage, in “a session in which any issue having to do with immigration or citizenship was potentially explosive,” of a resolution urging the federal government to grant a conditional green card to noncitizens who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and who graduate from high school, and then allow them to enlist in the armed services and be granted citizenship after four years of service. In his retirement statement, though, Hartnett took pains to point out that in 2001, he “was the only House member who voted against passage of the now controversial HB 1403, which provides in-state college tuition for undocumented immigrants.”

A mixed record, to say the least, but I will definitely give him his props for running a fair election contest process. I hope whoever succeeds him at that does half as good a job at it.

From an electoral standpoint, Hartnett’s HD114 is more purple now that it was before. To sum it up in two numbers:

Dist McCain % Obama % Wainwright % Houston % ================================================ Old 54.5% 44.6% 54.2% 43.4% New 52.4% 46.6% 51.7% 45.7%

There was only so much the Republicans could do to hold onto what they won in 2010 in Dallas County. With HD114 being open, this ought to be a top tier race.

As for SD09, as redrawn by the Lege it’s almost identical to SD10 in terms of partisan performance. Assuming SD10 doesn’t get altered by the courts, it deserves a respectable challenge from a Democratic contender. For what it’s worth, SD09 could have been a pickup for the Dems in 2008 – as it is now in the new map, SD09 was nearly identical to SD10 in partisan performance, when Sen. Wendy Davis knocked off Kim Brimer. Sen. Harris was fortunate to draw an underfunded no-name, and still barely beat him by ten points.

All ancient history now. I wish Sen. Harris and Rep. Hartnett well in their retirement, and I hope someone on the Democratic side is sizing both of these races up.

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