Tuesday, December 11, 2007

2007 Gold Star Texan: Denise Davis

(In addition to awarding its Texan of the Year, the Texas Progressive Alliance has chosen a number of others who have contributed to Texas politics and the progressive cause during 2007. Leading to the TOY announcement this Friday, we bring you our TPA Gold Stars, one each day through Thursday. Yesterday we recognized Rick & Melissa Noriega. Our Silver Stars, announced last week, may be found here.)

Denise Davis

Few stories this year enthralled the politically inclined among us like the ongoing turmoil in the Texas House. From the speaker's race at the onset of the 80th legislative session to Rep. Pat Haggerty's call for members who wanted to remove House Speaker Tom Craddick, to taking the keys to their voting machines and following him out of the chamber ... 2007 was a watershed moment in Texas political history. While there were many elected officials who deserve (and will receive) recognition and historical remembrance for the parts they played in the pageant of chaos that was the 80th Texas Legislature, one other individual -- who happens not to be an elected official -- also deserves to be recognized for the role she played in the unprecedented drama.

Denise Davis
, the former parliamentarian of the Texas House, was never an uncontroversial figure. Throughout her tenure -- nearly three sessions -- Democrats privately criticized Davis for some of her rulings and believed her to be an unrepentant loyalist to Craddick. That changed at a moment approaching midnight on May 25, 2007, when Davis walked out of the parliamentarian's office and into the pages of history. Around 9 p.m. that evening, after House Democratic leader Jim Dunnam brought a motion to vacate the chair, which Craddick refused to recognize. The speaker then abruptly left the dais -- and subsequently the assembly -- in chaos, 'adjourned' until 11 p.m. What transpired in the interim remains murky, although one thing is clear: Davis and deputy parliamentarian Chris Griesel resigned, leading Craddick to appoint two cronies (former state reps. Ron Wilson and Terry Keel) to replace them. Davis departed Craddick's service rather than legitimize his dictatorial hold over the Texas House. It was a move that took great courage, because the full power of the speaker's office -- in attempts to silence her about what happened in those final hours -- was brought to bear upon her.

When the history of the 80th Legislature is written, among the legislators who will occupy the pages of the texts that comprise this story, there will be one other person whose role will be noted, and that is Denise Davis -- for her principle and bravery.

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