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Texas Senate Loses Yet Another Moderate

by Published on
Robert Duncan
State Sen. Robert Duncan, (R-Lubbock)

The Texas Tribune’s Reeve Hamilton broke word this morning that state Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) is stepping down to become the next chancellor of the Texas Tech University System. A special election will be called to fill out Duncan’s term, which ends in 2016.

Duncan, a veteran of the Texas Senate, was no liberal. But he was more moderate than many of his colleagues in the Senate GOP caucus, and he was seen as a force for stability by Senate watchers. In 2013, Texas Monthly named him one of the session’s best legislators—the sixth time it had done so. The magazine raved about his “credibility, calm, and collegiality.” In 2009, it stipulated that “there was hardly an issue—the budget, eminent domain, health care reform, college tuition—that wasn’t improved by his intellectual rigor and deft touch as a mediator.”

Now he’s leaving—and if current trends hold, he may well be replaced by a tea party fire-breather for a 2015 session that will be seriously deficient in “credibility, calm, and collegiality.” Here’s another way to think about that: The Rice University political scientist Mark P. Jones created an ideological pecking order of the Texas Senate after last session. He compared votes and identified the most liberal (relatively speaking) and conservative senators.

There were 19 GOP senators last session. Of the six most moderate, only three will be left next session. It’s possible that there will be only two. Duncan is leaving, and state Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) already left, each to take a university job. State Sen. John Carona, the most moderate according to Jones’ standard, lost a re-election bid.

State Sen. Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) faces a surprisingly competitive primary runoff against a challenger with an extremely problematic personal history; that contest will be resolved May 27. That leaves only state Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), who squeaked past a surprisingly competitive primary challenge of his own, and state Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler).

If he wins next week’s lieutenant governor runoff, Dan Patrick has talked about ending the senate’s two-thirds rule and stripping all committee chairmanships from Democrats, which would turn the chamber, effectively, into his own private club. As if that weren’t enough, the bottom third of Jones’ chart—the small group of plugged-in, moderate Republicans—is fading away. In 2011, Texas Monthly wrote that “legislatures can’t function without members like Robert Duncan.” It looks like we’ll soon find out if that’s true.

  • 5topAmnesty

    None of this CRYING when the Dems through out the filibuster rule in the US Senate, so why the big deal now.

    Anyway, the article is correct, Dan Patrick will soon be leading a VERY CONSERVATIVE Senate, and the Republican Establishment will have to look elsewhere to advance their gay marriage and open borders agenda.

    • 1bimbo

      dewhurst 2014!!

      • 5topAmnesty

        Sorry, you about to lose, and LOSE BIG.

        • 1bimbo

          patrick doesn’t have the mental strength to be lite guv, did you see julian castro tear into him? and he’s a democrat!!

          • 5topAmnesty

            Well, I guess you’re going to find out soon enough. His only mistake was seeking help. I’ve had tough times, but I was never STUPID ENOUGH to get near that system, for exactly the same reasons Patrick is now learning. I got over it. His mistake was simply thinking these idiots would help him.

  • John Prospero

    ” tea party fire-breather for a 2015 session that will be seriously deficient in “credibility, calm, and collegiality.”

    Leave it to a leftist “Journalist” like the good Mr. Brooks here to come up with this biased garbage.

    You do realize the guy you put in the white house two times over is seriously deficient in “credibility, calm, and collegiality.”
    So whats the issue?

  • stormkite

    The last moderate, stable Republican in Texas was probably Eisenhower. What’s left is looney tunes sociopaths.

    • TravisJSays

      lol. The last moderate, stable Republican in Texas was probably … Lt gov Dewhurst, comptroller Susan Combs, Speaker Straus, many of the Texas Judges … who are there right now.

      Certainly the conservatives have been winning GOP primaries in ’14, but the moderates do have a friend in the Speaker Straus, the 2nd/3rd most powerful man in texas politics – is Joe Straus a ‘looney tunes sociopath’? Then a few years back you had the unstable moderate Republican Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who turned independent in 2006. Before that, Even G W Bush who worked with Democrat Bob Bullock (one of the last non-leftist Democrats) was in the moderate and stable category as Governor …

      More to the point of the article, although the Republicans have a far more overwhelming majority in the Texas Senate than Democrats have in the US Senate. Dewhurst has placed/allowed numerous Democrats to chair committees, and rules have allowed Democrats to stop cosnervative bills (not all but many) from getting through. “Private club”? Yeah, just look at how Harry Reid is running the US Senate for how that is working. No complaints from Democrats when Reid gutted 200 years of tradition when he gutted the filibuster for nominations … so it seems the complaints about where the Texas Senate is going is just partisan whining. Lt Gov Dan Patrick will simply be working to have the Texas Senate work its majority will a bit more, a majority that happens to tilt conservative just like the state of Texas voters.

      So the label “looney tunes sociopaths” is so off-base and juvenile it deserves the “I’m rubber and your glue” schoolyard response. Because these leders represent the people and you are really calling the voters looney tunes.

  • Intrepid

    You liberals have brought this on yourselves. Your far left tactics have put the entire economy in the dumpster. Your president is an incompetent embarrassment and his signature legislation is an unworkable joke. None of your candidates are viable where there is even a slight chance of a decent GOP candidate. Your hard left practice has left you high and dry. The country has rejected you.