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More on Sen. Gallegos

For better or worse, we must discuss the politics of Sen. Mario Gallegos’ death this week. The first question to address is what happens next?

Sen. Mario Gallegos

Rich Parsons, a spokesman for Secretary of State Hope Andrade, this morning clarified the timing of a special election in state Senate District 6 if the late Mario Gallegos Jr. wins re-election posthumously.

Gallegos, 62, a Houston Democrat and retired firefighter, died Tuesday from complications of a liver transplant several years ago.

Explained Parsons:

Gallegos’s name cannot be removed from the November general election ballot because it is within 74 days of the election. If he wins on election day, the seat will be declared officially vacant, and Gov. Rick Perry will call an expedited special election to fill it.

It must be held within 21-45 days after Perry calls for the election, officials said, meaning the special election would be held sooner than the May date that Houston officials said late Tuesday was expected.

Gallegos is on the ballot with Republican R.W. Bray, who is considered a long-shot. If Bray should be elected, he will take the seat.

Here’s the relevant statute for why Sen. Gallegos will remain on the ballot. We had a similar situation in 2006 when State Rep. Glenda Dawson passed away in September. As was the case with Rep. Dawson, I fully expect Sen. Gallegos to win re-election and thus trigger a special election to replace him. The real question is when will that special election be? The Trib notes the math.

It’s not a swing district. President Obama got 63.5 percent of the vote in 2008. Republican Gov. Rick Perry got 31 percent in 2010. It’s not a race the Democrats were sweating.

[...]

Bray would be the 20th Republican in the 31-member Senate. If Democrat Wendy Davis of Fort Worth were to lose her hotly contested re-election race, Republican Mark Shelton would become the 21st Republican. That’s consequential: Under current rules, it takes consent from two-thirds of the senators to bring up legislation for consideration. With 21 senators, the Republicans would have two-thirds and, on partisan bills, enough votes to disregard the Democrats.

Here are the relevant laws for filling the office of a state legislator who has died. While I expect Sen. Gallegos to defeat Bray (a former staffer of CM Helena Brown, if you’re wondering where you heard that name before), it becomes critical if Sen. Wendy Davis does not win. If Sen. Gallegos wins re-election, then the Democrats will continue to have at least 11 Senators, which is enough for them to block legislation via the two thirds rule, or whatever is left of it when the Senate adopts its rules for the session. At least, they will have that many once the special election is settled, which if it is indeed expedited should be well before any serious votes come up. The important thing if you live in SD06 is that you still have a responsibility to vote for Sen. Gallegos.

At least, that’s how it would be until the special election is held to replace Sen. Gallegos, assuming that he wins in November. But here’s the thing – Rick Perry isn’t required to call the special election until the next uniform election date, which will be in May. Given the near certainty of a runoff in what will be a multi-candidate race, that means that SD06 would go unrepresented for the entire session. Which would be mighty convenient for the Republicans.

Now, Governor Perry does have the discretion to call an expedited election. That’s what he did in the case of Rep. Dawson – the special election to fill her seat came six weeks after the November election, with the ensuing runoff a month later, in plenty of time for all the action of that session. This stands in contrast to his actions in 2005, following the tragic death of State Rep. Joe Moreno, who was killed in an auto accident towards the end of the regular session. Perry called for the special election to replace him in November, despite subsequently calling two special sessions in the interim. What choice do you think he’ll make?

I know it’s distasteful to talk about this while we’re all still grieving the loss of Sen. Gallegos, but I know I’m not saying anything out loud that isn’t being said in private. We may as well be prepared for what is to come.

In the meantime, here are some more tributes to Sen. Gallegos, from Marc Campos, Stace Medellin, State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Lone Star Project, and beneath the fold from SEIU Local 1.

UPDATE: Here’s information on the memorial services in Austin and Houston for Sen. Gallegos.

UPDATE: I clearly misread that Postcards story when I first saw it, and as such it renders my speculation moot. The election will take place earlier than May in the event Sen. Gallegos wins, and that’s what matters. All Democrats in SD06 need to remember that they must still vote for Sen. Gallegos so that they can then choose a proper successor. I apologize for the confusion.

SEIU Local 1 members and staff would like to extend their deepest condolences to State Senator Mario Gallegos’ family during this difficult time. As a state legislator for 22 years, Senator Gallegos stood up for the voiceless and most vulnerable in our communities. During the Houston janitors’ strike this past summer, Senator Gallegos walked side by side with janitors and their families in support of good jobs for our state’s most under-served neighborhoods.

“In addition to being a great man, Senator Mario Gallegos was a tireless champion for the Hispanic community. Even in declining health, Senator Gallegos worked to block discriminatory anti-immigrant policies that sought to further divide our communities. His contributions to our great state cannot be overstated and will never be forgotten,” said Elsa Caballero, State Director for SEIU Local 1 Texas.

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2 Comments

  1. Mark P. Jones says:

    While Gov. Perry cannot delay the new SD-6 senator’s arrival until after the 2013 regular session has ended, he does have enough discretion, should he wish to take advantage of it, to insure, assuming a runoff is required, that Sen. Gallegos’ successor is not sworn in until mid-April.

    Further, in the event the victor in the SD-6 race is a state representative, Gov. Perry has the power, should be wish to exercise it, even if no runoff is required, to insure that their successor would not arrive in Austin prior to the end of the regular session. In sum, there could be one fewer Democrat in the Senate for the first three months and possibly also one fewer Democrat in the House for the final two months of the regular session.

    Of course, as the expedited election process following the passing of Glenda Dawson in 2006 demonstrates, Gov. Perry could (even in the case of a runoff in SD-6) also move the process along at a faster clip and insure that Sen. Gallegos’ successor is sworn in before the end of January and, in the event a current House member is elected as senator, that their successor is on the floor voting in the Capitol’s West Wing by early April (no runoff required) or the end of April (runoff required).

  2. Mainstream says:

    My memory is that when a legislative seat has become vacant during a session, that the tradition has been to expedite the special election to insure representation during the session, and I would anticipate Gov. Perry would make every effort to fill any vacancies quickly. Tony Sirvello would probably recall details offhand. The examples which vaguely come to mind are Charlie Hartland filing a vacancy about 1990, and perhaps the Garnet Coleman special election about 1991.

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