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Turner prepares his exit from the Lege

Looks like we’ll have at least one more legislative special election this year.

Rep. Sylvester Turner

Rep. Sylvester Turner

In 2003, state Rep. Sylvester Turner of Houston made the most definitive decision of his political career.

Turner had arrived in the Texas House 14 years earlier, when he and his fellow Democrats outnumbered Republicans 91 to 59, Gib Lewis was speaker and Democrats still ran the show. But by 2003, the tide hadn’t just turned against Democrats — it was running away without them.

Republicans took the chamber’s majority for the first time in more than a century, Democrat Pete Laney, the previous session’s speaker, was about to become just another member, and Tom Craddick was poised to take the top post.

Reading the political winds, Turner led a group of Democrats who became known as the “Craddick D’s” who cast their support behind the Midland conservative in hopes of salvaging some level of access and influence.

It was a pivotal moment for Turner, and some in his party were not at all happy with him.

But as Turner prepares to leave the House after more than a quarter century, that decision captures the politician’s essence — a savvy personability that allowed him to emerge as a Democratic pillar in the Republican-controlled House.

The 60-year-old Harvard Law School graduate will give up his seat in a few weeks to run for mayor of his hometown, a post he’s unsuccessfully sought before. His departure will leave a gaping hole that House Democrats will be hard-pressed to fill.

[…]

Turner, whose influence is seldom hobbled by showmanship, deflects the significance of his departure.

“The Texas House, the Texas Senate and the Legislature was in existence way before I came, and it’ll be in existence a long time after I’m gone,” he said during a recent interview in his Capitol office.

Turner attributed his success to becoming fluent in House rules, learning the ins and outs of the legislative process and making himself valuable to leadership.

“Because even when you find yourself in the minority — numerically speaking — the process sometimes becomes the equalizer,” he said.

Rep. Turner has certainly made a mark, and his session in 2013 was especially good, but he’s right: No one is irreplaceable. His departure will change things for the Democratic caucus, and the dynamics of the 2017 session will necessarily be different from this one, but his leaving is an opportunity for others to step up and show what they can do. That’s the way of the world, and it happens every time someone of Rep. Turner’s experience and ability leaves the Lege.

I’m a little surprised to hear that he’s stepping down and not waiting to see how the Mayoral race plays out, which is what happened in 2003. He may just be ready for a change, and for what it’s worth I’d heard that he’d been thinking about calling it a career before now. There ought to be quite the scramble to fill his seat when it comes up, with a second shot at it in the March primary. If Allen Fletcher gets appointed Sheriff that will make two legislative specials, presumably on the November ballot. Never a dull moment, that’s for sure. I thank Rep. Turner for his service in the Lege and look forward to seeing him more regularly on the campaign trail here.

UPDATE: The following has been appended to that Trib story:

*Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect that the timeline for Rep. Sylvester Turner’s departure from the House has not been set.

They appear to have edited out a quote from statement attributed to Turner in which he insisted he’d be stepping down regardless of the result of the Mayor’s race. So it looks like we’ll be waiting to see what Turner does.

UPDATE: Sorry, that wasn’t a direct quote that I remember, but something that the story said Turner had said.

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3 Comments

  1. Mainstream says:

    A competitive contest in his Acres Homes district on the same day as the Mayor’s contest would amplify black turnout and help Turner in his mayoral contest. When the special election to replace Mickey Leland was held on the same day as a city election, Sheila Jackson Lee unexpectedly won an at-large city council seat over former Controller Leonel Castillo, if I recall correctly.

  2. Sue Davis says:

    Rep. Turner will NOT be resigning after the legislative session. Texas Tribune had it wrong and has corrected their story.

  3. Sue Davis says:

    There was never a quote from Turner to edit out. I spoke to the Trib reporter. She made an assumption that was wrong.

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