I’m not worried about the State Senate becoming more conservative, I’m worried about it becoming more stupid.
“A seat in the Texas Senate does not come open very often, and all of a sudden now there are four,” said Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, one of the four who have announced their retirements.
“The Senate is pretty conservative now but that could change, depending on who wins the seats. It’s going to be an interesting election.”
Retiring with Shapiro, the longtime chair of the Education Committee, are Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan; Jurisprudence Committee Chairman Chris Harris, R-Arlington; and Economic Development Committee Chairman Mike Jackson, R-LaPorte.
The four senators will take with them a combined 64 years of experience in the upper chamber.
And that’s before next year’s election, when all 31 senators are up for election because of redistricting, instead of the usual one half. In addition to the retirements, some senators could lose their re-election bids.
Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, for example, was one of only two freshmen senators in 2009. Now, she is expected to have a tough time running in a new district that the Republican-majority Legislature drew to elect a Republican.
Other senators are drawing challengers from the right. On Oct. 3, Donna Campbell, a Columbus ophthalmologist and tea party favorite who ran for Congress in 2010, announced that she will challenge longtime Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio.
I can’t speak to whatever ludicrous litmus test is controlling Republican minds this week, but none of the four retiring Senators can be reasonably classified as anything but solid conservatives. Ideologically speaking, whoever replaces them will be very close to them. What concerns me is that Ogden and Shapiro are well-informed (if generally wrong) on policy and care about outcomes, while it is highly likely that the people who replace them will be cookie-cutter Dan Patrick wannabees that won’t be able to add anything to the discussion beyond sound bites. (I see Jackson and Harris as essentially fungible; swapping them out won’t matter much.) Our discourse is dumb enough already, we don’t need it dumbed down any further. As for Davis and Wentworth, who may be the last remaining pro-choice Republican in the state, losing them would indeed make the Senate a more conservative place as well as a less intelligent place. I’m hopeful that Davis at least will get a court-mandated lack of preclearance reprieve, but beyond that it’s all up to the campaigns and the voters. In other words, one more thing to add to your list of things to worry about.