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One Senate Election, and Perhaps Another, Are on the Horizon

One effect of the high turnover in the Senate is that the experienced hands are on the Democratic side of the aisle.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio (center) on the House floor on Feb. 8, 2011.

All eyes remain locked on the Senate, with possibly a couple of special elections looming in the not too distant future.

The first one has been long anticipated, the Senate District 18 election that would find a successor to newly elected state Comptroller Glenn Hegar. The other one, in Leticia Van de Putte's Senate District 26, had been the subject of speculation but appeared to take a step closer to reality this week.

On the heels of the decision this week by state Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, to forgo his seat in the new Legislature in favor of a campaign for mayor of his hometown, Van de Putte released a statement acknowledging that people have approached her to run for mayor.

She didn't commit to the race, simply saying that she was "praying for guidance." Van de Putte lost in her bid to become lieutenant governor earlier this month, leaving her to choose between returning to serve out her term in office or run for something else.

There have already been two other special elections for Senate seats this year, both won by Tea Party-aligned state representatives. Brandon Creighton was elected to take the vacant Senate seat that had been held by Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams. And Charles Perry took the seat surrendered by State Affairs Chairman Robert Duncan.

This electoral activity is part of a larger trend of wholesale turnover in the Senate, with activity focused in the Republican caucus and the effect of making that group more conservative. Five new Republicans — Charles Schwertner (SD-5), Ken Paxton (SD-8), Kelly Hancock (SD-9), Larry Taylor (SD-11) and Donna Campbell (SD-25) — took office in 2013.

Another six — Bob Hall (SD-2), Creighton (SD-4), Paul Bettencourt (SD-7), Van Taylor (SD-8), Don Huffines (SD-16) and Perry (SD-28) — are already set to join the chamber in January, having won elections in Republican-friendly districts. A seventh, Konni Burton, won the swing SD-10 seat vacated by losing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis.

By contrast, the Democratic caucus has been the picture of stability. Among the seats drawn to favor a Democratic candidate, a total of two have seen a change in representation over the past four election cycles. They are Senate District 29, where José Rodríguez was chosen to succeed Eliot Shapleigh in 2011, and Senate District 6, where Sylvia Garcia was elected to fill the seat of the late Mario Gallegos Jr. during the 2013 session.

The upshot here is that the experienced Senate hands are all in the Democratic caucus now. Incoming Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick could well be thinking now of ways to keep the hands of those experienced parliamentary tacticians busy lest they make mischief otherwise.

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