HLRGazette Archives

Relive some of our best stories.

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Political Report

E-mail Print PDF
The Legislative Report
The Gazette Staff
Victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan.
One Texas Democrat, and possibly two, is jumping to the GOP. On December 11th, State Rep. Allan Ritter of Nederland said he will leave the Democratic Party and become a Republican. This will likely give the Republicans a two-thirds majority in the Texas House.
However, Rep, Aaron Pena of Edinburg has also hinted that he may also make the switch to the GOP.
The final numbers are still somewhat in flux. Ritter will put the GOP total at 99. However, Rep. Edmund Kuempel of Seguin died last month and his seat is very likely to stay in Republican hands. So the final total could end up at 100 or even 101. This means the Republicans would be able to do such things as pass a constitutional amendment without any Democratic votes.
Ritter was re-elected without a GOP challenger in November. Most pundits believe he might have lost his seat if there had been a challenger. Ritter said he was changing his affiliation to best reflect the view of the people in his district.
The year has been a disaster for Texas Democrats. They held 74 House seats in the previous Legislature, only two less than the Republicans.
If Pena switches, that will be yet one more blow to the Democrats. Pena is known to be a conservative Democrat. It should also be noted that he has been a supporter of Speaker Joe Straus. The current speaker's race is being rather hotly contested.
Republicans will also control the all-important redistricting process that sets the tone for a decade.
Attorney General Greg Abbott has named a new Texas solicitor general. He is Jonathan Mitchell, an assistant law professor at George Mason University and an expert in habeas corpus law. The solicitor general is the state's chief appellate lawyer in the attorney general's office. Mitchell replaces James Ho, who is returning to private practice in Dallas. Mitchell's appointment is effective immediately.
Back on the political scene, Steve Munisteri, chairman of the Texas Republican Party, has announced that the party is now debt-free. When Munisteri unseated former Chair Cathie Adams last summer, the party was $700,000 in debt and set to go deeper in debt to the tune of $90,000 a month. Munisteri immediately cut the budget by $50,000 a month.
He then worked the phones, and was able to get large donors to hold several very successful fund-raisers. Other major party figures pitched in, along with grassroots donations to get the party into the black.
Munisteri said the party would have been debt free sooner, but it opted to spend $900,000 in October to support various state House races and Congressional races as well as some judicial contests.