Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gold Star Texan: Mario Gallegos

In addition to awarding our Texan of the Year (coming on Friday, December 14), the Texas Progressive Alliance recognizes others who have contributed to Texas politics and the progressive cause during 2007. Leading up to tomorrow's TOY announcement, we have named our TPA Gold Stars (one each day through today). Wednesday, we feted Molly Ivins. Tuesday, we recognized Denise Davis. Monday, it was Rick & Melissa Noriega. The Silver Stars, announced last week, may be found here.

State Sen. Mario Gallegos

We all like to think that when our beliefs and principles are truly put to the test, that we will answer the call; that we will stand up for the things we hold dear even if it means putting our own well-being at risk. Most of us never find ourselves in that position, and it's often just as well, for as the apostle Peter might say, 'easier said than done'. But when the courageous deed is done, it serves as an inspiration for us all.

State Sen. Mario Gallegos was in that position this spring. Having undergone a liver transplant shortly after the legislative session began, he spent most of the rest of it in Houston recuperating. His absence meant that the Democratic Senate caucus had only ten members, which was not enough to block a divisive partisan bill such as those that were filed to restrict voting rights by requiring photo ID. Sen. Gallegos asked Lt. Gov. Dewhurst to give him notice if a voter ID bill was going to be on the docket, so he could do his duty and prevent it from passing. Dewhurst made a one-time-only guarantee, so against the advice of his doctor, Gallegos arrived in Austin and vowed to stay there until sine die to protect all voters' rights. And it was a good thing he did, as events proved Dewhurst's willingness to pass such a bill by any means necessary. His health was weak but his will was strong, and the battle was at a standstill.

Just as victory seemed assured, his fragile recovery worsened, sending him back to Houston, and it looked as if Dewhurst would finally get his chance. And then, when everyone least expected it, Gallegos returned to the Capitol, leaving no doubt as to the force of his resolve:

Ailing state Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, has a hospital bed set up in the sergeant's office -- about a 100 feet (sic) from Gallegos' Senate chamber desk, Monday so that he could help block a contentious voter ID bill from debate.

"I'm hurting. I'm hurting," Gallegos said a few minutes ago as the Senate went into session.


In the meantime, Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, is monitoring Gallegos' health. Deuell is a physician.

In the face of such powerful will, Dewhurst capitulated, promising no voter ID legislation would be considered, allowing Gallegos to return home and get the treatment he needed. The ailing senator left the chamber to a standing ovation from both his peers and the assembled gallery, as well as the lasting gratitude of all Texans who cherish the unfettered right to vote.

For literally putting his life on the line in order to protect democratic principles, State Sen. Mario Gallegos is a deserving winner of a Gold Star from the Texas Progressive Alliance.

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