Paul Sadler, a lawyer and a former state representative from Henderson, is the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Until February 2012, Sadler was executive director of the Wind Coalition, a “nonprofit association formed to encourage the development of the vast wind energy resources of the south central United States.” He is a paid consultant to the Texas Association of School Boards. Sadler and his wife, Sherri, live in Henderson. They have five children.
Sadler was born in Freer, Texas, on April 29, 1955. He earned his undergraduate degree in 1977 and his law degree in 1979, both from Baylor University. Upon graduation from law school, he entered private law practice.
In 1990, he ran successfully for state representative in District 9 and in 1992 won election to District 8, representing Rusk, Harrison and Panola counties in East Texas. He continued to win re-election by large margins until he stepped down from the state House in 2003. While serving in the House, Sadler quickly rose to prominence, winning multiple “best legislator” awards from Texas Monthly and The Dallas Morning News. In 1999 and 2001, Sadler served as chairman for two separate committees, a rare occurrence. His work in the state House was marked by several achievements: The Ratliff-Sadler Act, a comprehensive rewrite of the state’s education code; approval of teacher raises in three consecutive sessions; lowering of property taxes; and providing public school employees with health insurance.
In 2001, Sadler’s 10-year-old son was in a car accident that left him briefly in a coma and with lingering complications; Sadler has cited this as his reason for stepping down from the Legislature. In 2004, he ran for state Senate in District 1 in a special election to replace Republican Bill Ratliff, who co-sponsored the education code overhaul with Sadler. Sadler lost the election, 52 percent to 48 percent, to former Tyler Mayor Kevin Eltife, who still represents District 1.
After leaving politics, Sadler returned to private law practice, specializing in representing plaintiffs in asbestos litigation. In 2008 he joined the Wind Coalition, serving as executive director, before stepping down in February 2012 for his Senate campaign. He has also served on the Governors Advisory Energy Panel for Oklahoma.
Sadler’s Republican opponent, Ted Cruz, is heavily favored to win election to the U.S. Senate. Cruz has raised millions to Sadler’s thousands of dollars, but most observers doubt that financial parity would make a decisive difference in GOP-dominated Texas. The once-prominent legislator, long absent from politics, lost any name recognition he might’ve enjoyed: Grady Yarbough, his little-known opponent in the Democratic primary, forced him into a runoff, with some suggesting name association with famed Texas Democrat Ralph Yarbrough as a possible factor.