Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Keffer, Harless join Straus loyalists going out

The Speaker is going to have a difficult time getting re-elected, and if he does, then another dirty job maintaining discipline in the next legislative session (January 2017).

State Rep. Jim Keffer, an Eastland Republican who was one of the earliest supporters of House Speaker Joe Straus, has decided not to seek re-election next year...

First elected in 1996, Keffer is finishing his 10th term in the Texas House. He chairs the Natural Resources Committee and previously led the committees on Energy Resources, Ways and Means, Property Tax Relief and Economic Development.

His departure leaves only three members of the original Polo Road Gang — the 11 Republicans who met privately at state Rep. Byron Cook’s house on Polo Road in Austin before the 2009 legislative session to decide who they would unite behind in the race for speaker of the House. The 2008 elections left the House split almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats, destabilizing then-Speaker Tom Craddick’s coalition and setting the stage for a change in leadership. The 11 Republicans chose Straus, picked up some other Republicans and a majority of Democrats, and elected him that January.

Now, only Straus, Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, and Cook remain in office.

Greg and Charles and also I have covered some of the bailouts already.  I never thought I would ever say that losing Patty Harless was big.  But it is.  (This is how far right we have moved in Texas over a short period of time.  And 2016 isn't going to slow it down very much.)

Harless said she has become frustrated with infighting among Republicans in the Legislature and hopes to stay involved in GOP politics and campaigns after her term ends at the end of 2016. "I'm just really disappointed in the way the Republicans act in the Texas House," she said. "People need to know that consensus and moderation and working across the aisle is not a bad thing.

"Some Republicans cater to the 4 or 5 percent who vote in the Republican primaries," she said. "That's not who we represent; we represent everybody in our districts."

Harless is one of House Speaker Joe Straus' stalwarts and serves on three powerful House committees: Calendars, State Affairs and Transportation. She said she thought about leaving after her fourth term: "I stayed last time for Straus. I'm leaving this time for me."

Pond scum about to float away aside, the House is going to harden a little, much like the Senate did this year.  That's a bad thing if you're not wealthy, not a white male who owns guns, and especially bad news if you're a woman who wants a choice about whether to give birth or not.   The tie that binds all of these disparate winners and losers here is voting.  Mad-dog Republicans do so and everybody else does not.  Not for lack of trying in some cases.  But far too many who could close the gap, or even the score a bit, simply cannot tear themselves away from 'Real Housewives'.

With Houston municipal elections coming up quickly, we'll see another record low before the high tide comes in 2016, when some of these Lege retirees get replaced.  And we can only hope their replacements aren't too kooky (an early bet I would not take).

Update (barely related): Harold Cook pre-writes the statements of legislators who will be receiving Texas Monthly's "Best" and "Worst" awards, due today.  A post on that announcement will follow here in short order.

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