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Agenda Texas: Campbell Reflects on Session So Far

On the latest Agenda Texas, from KUT News and the Tribune: What's it like being a freshman lawmaker in the Texas Legislature? We talked to state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, about her first session under the dome.

Freshman Sen. Donna Campbell, R-San Antonio, listens to Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston on January 9, 2013.

Have you ever watched a debate at the Texas Capitol? It’s not always the easiest thing to follow. With all the speakers and amendments and votes that it takes for just one bill to pass, it’s not hard to get lost.

But what if you were one of the lawmakers, trying to navigate these legislative waters for the first time? That’s what life’s been like for Sen. Donna Campbell. The New Braunfels Republican is one of six freshmen in the Senate.

Early in the session, she would often refer to the learning curve at the Capitol as "drinking from a fire hose." Now that she's past the halfway point of the session, how's she doing?

"There is still a growth process, getting now more into the details of the process. It's not drinking from the fire hose in the same way," she said. "Now it's going to be ramping up the pace for things I've learned now and still trying to get into the details about things before we pass them."

She said the biggest transition for her has been from the way she works in an emergency room. At work, she gets a problem, usually an emergency, decides on a solution and gets to work.

"In the Senate you can see a problem. Your common sense and your principles say, this is a problem, here's the solution. Let's do it. And you stop because your one vote doesn't count as 21," she said.

Because of redistricting and the need for staggered terms in the Senate, all senators had to draw straws for either a two-year or four-year term. Campbell, who was sworn in Jan. 8, ended up with a two-year term, meaning she must run again in 2014. She doesn't think that's bad at all.

"You know really, truly, I'm already used to campaigning. I already have momentum where people are getting to know me, they're excited to meet me. And it's an honor for me to be in this position," she said. "And I don't care how long I've been here or going to be here, it's still an honor and I am still blessed to be here."

It’s a good thing she’s ready to run again in 2014, because she could have some competition in the Republican primary. Her surprise victory last fall and her Tea Party status has increased talk of a more moderate, establishment-backed candidate entering the ring.

Democrats have even shown some interest in her right-leaning district. They’re trying to gauge whether her political views may be too conservative for the district. Which could make her vulnerable in the general election.

You can listen to the full interview with Sen. Campbell here.

Have a question about the session, or just want to let us know how we’re doing? Email us at agendatexas@kut.org, and follow us on Twitter: @AgendaTexas.

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