State Sen. Steve Ogden, who said earlier this year he would leave the Legislature after his current term, will seek another two years in office after all. And he may have drawn the first primary opponent of his political career.
Ogden announced in September he would retire after this term. Rep. Dan Gattis of Georgetown and another Republican, Ben Bius of Walker County both started campaigns. But Gattis dropped his bid over the weekend, saying he had talked to Ogden and that Ogden was willing to come back. That turns out to be true, but Ogden has been silent for several days and during that time, Bius apparently decided to forge ahead.
Unless one of them changes his mind, Bius — who's lost three previous bids for office — will face Ogden, who hasn't lost one yet.
Bius filed for the race this morning at state GOP headquarters and in an interview, didn't sound like a man who will stand down. Ogden, who's never had a contested primary, is resigned to that: "I have no one to blame but myself."
Ogden, a Bryan Republican who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, says the next budget is going to be a mess and that he felt he could do more about it from his spot in the Texas Senate than from any other perch. He admits he considered running for Congress against U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, but says he wouldn't have enough political power as a freshman Republican in Congress to have an immediate impact on the federal deficit, health care, and other problems.
Ogden's take on state finance is that the recession, the federal government's deficit, and the developing health care bill in Washington will all hit the state budget, and in a bad way. "This will be the most difficult budget session since 2003," he predicts.
That was all apparent, for the most part, when he announced in September that he wouldn't seek another term. But sales tax drops have been much worse than expected. And Gattis got out of the race. "I basically felt I should offer myself in service," he says.
Ogden got no promise that he'd be the Finance chairman if he comes back. He held that spot for three legislative sessions — six years — but committee assignments are up to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Ogden is operating on what he calls "a presumption," but says he doesn't have any assurance from Dewhurst.