After two decades in the Texas Senate, Plano Republican Florence Shapiro said this afternoon that she won't seek re-election.

"I'm just ready for a new challenge," she said in an interview. Shapiro, 63, has been in public office at the city or state level since 1979. "I have an old friend — a former mayor of Fort Worth — who always asks me, 'When are you going to grow up?' I guess I'm ready to grow up." She said she's in final negotiations for a job with an education company; she won't name the firm but said she won't be working on its Texas business.

State Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, who sought to topple House Speaker Joe Straus at the start of the 2011 legislative session, starts as a strong replacement candidate, though the field could quickly expand for a seat in the Senate; turnover there is low, and these don't come up that often. He wasn't immediately available for comment. Shapiro said she expects several candidates to get into the race. She's not endorsing anyone right now.

Shapiro, a former mayor and city council member in Plano and head of the Texas Municipal League, came to the Senate in 1993, defeating incumbent Democrat Ted Lyon of Mesquite. She chairs the Senate Education committee, is a longtime member of the budget-writing Senate Finance Committee, and also chaired the State Affairs committee earlier in her tenure.

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Here's her official announcement:

Austin, Texas - District 8 State Senator Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) announced today that she will not seek re-election in 2012. Shapiro will complete her current term that runs through the beginning of January 2013.

"It has been my honor to serve the State of Texas and all the citizens of the many communities I have represented for almost two decades," said Shapiro. "I am excited about the future and will continue with my passion for improving our state's public schools, community colleges and universities."

In 1992, Shapiro made her first bid for the State Senate and won election to a rural-suburban district stretching from Collin County to Smith County in East Texas. Over the past two decades, her district was consolidated to the fast growth suburbs in Collin and north Dallas counties.

Her distinguished leadership in the Texas Senate is highlighted by her current posts as Chairman of the Senate's Committee on Education, and as a member of the Senate's Finance and Transportation & Homeland Security Committees. She has also served as Senator Pro-Tem and as interim "Texas Governor for a Day."

Among her many pieces of authored and passed landmark legislation are the nationally acclaimed Ashley's Laws that help protect children from sexual predators, the Texas Mobility Fund, and the state's Emerging Technology Fund.

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A former teacher, Senator Shapiro's passion for educating all Texas students lead to passage of House Bill 1 in 2003, significantly lowering property taxes, while providing more money for classroom excellence and teacher pay raises. She also authored and passed educational reforms calling for college and career readiness, ending the TAKS test and replacing it with End-of-Course exams, and school accountability standards.

"My parent's came to the United States in search of the American dream, and I lived it. I entered public service as a Plano City Council member, then Mayor. I entered the Texas Senate, with a desire to promote opportunity and to make a difference in the lives of everyday people. It has been humbling to serve in the state legislature with so many outstanding men and women from all across our great state. I am leaving public service, knowing that I have given my best to hopefully make Texas better."

Update (5:17 p.m.):
Former USAF pilot Scott O'Grady, who had announced a race for the Texas House, became the first candidate to get into the race to succeed Shapiro. O'Grady was shot down in Bosnia in 1995 and evaded capture for six days before the Marines rescued him; he's now an author and lecturer.
Update (8:18 p.m.):
Paxton weighed in, halfway. Here's his statement:


I want to congratulate Senator Florence Shapiro on her many years of service to fellow Texans. Angela and I extend our appreciation for the sacrifice she has made as a public servant, and we both wish her the very best in her future plans.

It is an honor to serve the citizens of Collin County as their conservative voice in the Texas Legislature. This afternoon, I have already received many calls of support, and I will soon be making a formal announcement concerning my plans to continue serving
North Texas.

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