Thursday, October 18, 2012

Services for Sen. Gallegos, and speculation on successors *update*

The late state Sen. Mario Gallegos Jr. will be memorialized both in Austin, where he spent more than two decades in the state Legislature, and in his Houston hometown.

Gallegos, 62, died on Tuesday at The Methodist Hospital from complications of liver disease.
A family spokesman on Wednesday released details of the memorials, adding they are subject to change.

On Friday, Gallegos' body will lie in state in the Senate Chamber in the state Capitol beginning at 2 p.m.

A celebration of his life will begin at 3 p.m. in the Senate Chamber. A reception will follow at the Austin office of the Texas AFL-CIO, 1106 Lavaca.

On Sunday, visitation will begin at 4 p.m. at the University of Houston's Cullen Performance Hall. Rosary begins at 6:30 p.m.

On Monday, the funeral is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at the downtown Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 1701 San Jacinto. A reception will follow at the Communications Workers of America union hall, 1730 Jefferson.

I hope to be able to attend one of the local services. Meanwhile...

It's the AP, so it is probably in some Texas newspapers this morning. This report comes from the one in Columbus, IN (thanks to Martha for the link).

Political campaigns can be relentless and are rarely known for civility, but nothing is more awkward than the death of a candidate in the final weeks of an election.

Politicians of all stripes issued condolences when state Sen. Mario Gallegos Jr. died Tuesday. But on Wednesday, the buzz centered on what happens next, since it's too late to replace his name on the ballot.

Republicans are on the cusp of gaining a two-thirds majority in the Texas Senate, so Democrats need people to vote for Gallegos in November, forcing a special election they can win with a new candidate. The current balance of power in the Senate is 19 Republicans to 12 Democrats, one of whom is in a tough race in Fort Worth. If Republicans can get to 21 seats, they can pass any legislation they want out of the Senate.

Gallegos' campaign consultant was having none of the punditry Wednesday, refusing to comment while the family was still planning the funeral.

"I have no intention of discussing politics today," Harold Cook said. "This is a week during which Senator Gallegos' legacy will be recognized and honored, whether or not it meets with the needs of inquisitorial reporters."

My apologies to Harold, the Gallegos family, friends, and supporters for the timing of my inquisitiveness (sentiments intended sincerely).

Here is what Senate District 6 looks like. It is majority minority and more than likely to elect a Democrat.

There are, from my vantage point -- and also from Harvey Kronberg's -- two major players and one power couple who could be either king or queen or king/queen maker. That's just from the Latino community.

-- Carol Alvarado and Sylvia Garcia -- not necessarily in that order -- seem to be separating themselves from the pack already. Alvarado had an outstanding session last, has groomed a successor of sorts in Councilman James Rodriguez, and has a nice little political machine in the East End. Garcia has been collecting IOUs from every single Democrat running in the 2012 cycle, hosting fundraisers every weekend, the JRR, and the like. Speculation has been rife ever since she was voted off of Commissioner's Court in 2010 that she would run for something again, sooner than later.

-- One of the Noreigas, Melissa and Rick, are probably willing to serve but may prefer to advocate instead.

-- The A-A community is capable of supplying a strong challenger. QR mentions all of the state representatives with some of the senate district in their statehouse boundaries, but I think the field is realistically thinner than that. It seems from this faction that if Senfronia Thompson wants the job, it's all hers. Or likewise Garnet Coleman. These two, by their stature, clear the field for the most part. If neither seeks a promotion, then Jarvis Johnson probably runs (and may run anyway). I view him as a 'B' challenger to a Latino/a candidate. That is not the case with Thompson or Coleman, who would be quite formidable. In fact, a powerful black candidate can probably draw support from the SJL/Rodney Ellis machine, and IMHO can win the seat based on bloc turnout. This premise might not include Johnson, who challenged Jackson-Lee in a Congressional primary two years ago.

Finally, the timing of this special election leaves a lengthy vacancy in the Senate during and perhaps throughout the 2013 legislative session, an option the governor is likely to use to his party's advantage. The announcement of Gallego's passing, linked in this post, initially mentioned May 11; that election date would be scheduled right as the six-month term convening the Lege would be drawing to a close. That's when all the heavy lifting, i.e. crafting bills, whipping votes, deal-making, etc. is happening. Is it poor form for a House member to have to spend most of the session campaigning for a Senate seat he or she may not be sworn in for until after it concludes?

If it is, then I read that as giving the advantage to someone not currently serving; ie Garcia or a Noriega or possibly Johnson.

I'm certain Marc Campos has been waking up at 3 a.m. and moving his little chess pieces around for a couple of weeks now. Maybe months. Maybe even years.

I'll save more handicapping for later, but add yours in the comments if you like.

Update: Charles Kuffner has a good deal more.

Update II: While the final decision on the timing of a special election rests with Governor Perry -- in consultation with Secretary of State Hope Andrade -- here's what we know so far, from Mike Morris at the Chron...

The normal route, according to Assistant County Attorney Doug Ray, is to hold an election May 11. That would leave the district without a voice during the upcoming Legislative session, which starts in January.

The other route would be for Gov. Rick Perry to declare an emergency, paving the way for an election that would be held on a Tuesday or Saturday between 36 and 50 days after he made the emergency declaration, Ray said. (Other reports put that time frame at 21 to 45 days). The governor would need to wait until after the election results are canvassed — which can occur anywhere from Nov. 21 to Dec. 6 — before declaring the emergency.

Put all this together, and Josh Havens, a spokesman for Perry’s office, confirms the emergency election likely would be held in late December or early January (Emphasis mine). Havens said it’s too early to say whether the governor would indeed declare an emergency in the event of a Gallegos victory.
A special election runoff, if necessary, would need to be held on a Tuesday or Saturday between 12 and 25 days after it is called, Havens said, adding that the timing of calling the runoff is not clear. The runoff results also would need to be canvassed.

By my back-of-the-napkin calculation, then, that would seem to put the debut of the new senator in January, toward the start of the session, or in late March to early April, near the end.


Greg said...

All of this assumes, of course, that voters decide don't decide to vote for the live candidate -- you know, if they prefer to have a state senator for the entire legislative session.

PDiddie said...

A safe assumption, considering the demographics and the voting history of SD 6 -- of which I feel certain you are already aware.

Greg said...

Given that I work in that district, yeah. But one never knows -- common sense sometimes happens in the voting booth.