Vol 29, Issue 11 Print Issue

The Freshman 30

The House chamber below a mostly empty gallery during the final days of the special session on June 27, 2011.
The House chamber below a mostly empty gallery during the final days of the special session on June 27, 2011.

No matter how the elections swing, one thing is certain about the 83rd legislative session: There will be a lot of new faces.

A fifth of the House — 30 members — is retiring or running for another office. Add to that another 30 who will only be serving their second year and you have a lower chamber — without even counting the possible incumbents who will be defeated in primary or general elections — in which at least 40 percent will be freshman or sophomore legislators.

The crop of retiring lawmakers means a void of leadership on key committees in the House. At least six will be looking for new chairmen: Criminal Jurisprudence (Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, is running for Congress), Judiciary (Rep. Jim Jackson, R-Dallas, is stepping down), Redistricting (Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, is stepping down), Elections (Rep. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, is running for state Senate), Agriculture (Rep. Rick Hardcastle, R-Vernon, is stepping down) and Corrections (Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Plano, is stepping down). Two key vice chairmen are looking for new jobs — on Education, Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, who is regarded by both parties as an expert on school finance, and Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, who quickly established himself as an important voice on higher education.

In the upper chamber, four senators aren't coming back. Each of them is a committee chair: Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, on Education; Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, on Finance; Chris Harris, R-Arlington, on Jurisprudence; and Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, on Economic Development.

Two regional delegations — El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley — will also have mostly fresh blood.

 

Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, will be the elder statesman of a five-member delegation that will return at least two sophomores and at least one freshman. In her third term, Rep. Marisa Marquez could rank in seniority behind Pickett if she outlasts her primary challenger Aaron Barraza.

Rep. InocenteChenteQuintanilla, who has held his seat since 2003, is seeking a post as county commissioner. After ousting long-time member Norman Chavez in 2010, freshman Rep. Naomi Gonzalez, 33, is unopposed for her second term. Former Rep. Joe Moody hopes to return as the delegation’s second sophomore, challenging Rep. Dee Margo, the group’s only Republican, who beat Moody in a close race in 2010. If Margo is successful, he will be the group’s other sophomore.

The Rio Grande Valley delegation will also likely send several new representatives to Austin — Reps. Veronica Gonzales, D-McAllen, and Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg have decided they had enough. If he can withstand challenger Alex Dominguez, longtime member Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, will remain the delegation’s senior member.

Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-San Benito, is unopposed as he seeks his fourth term, while freshman lawmaker Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Palmview, who replaced longtime member IsmaelKino” Flores in 2010, is unopposed and will return as a sophomore.

Freshman lawmaker J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, made headlines earlier this month when he switched over to the Republican Party. But after being celebrated for the move by the state’s leadership, Lozano quickly drew two primary opponents, Bill T. Wilson and former Ingleside Mayor Willie Vaden.

If he can withstand that challenge, he also faces a tough general election battle. Former Rep. Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles, D-Alice, decided to run the day after Lozano announced his switch.