Chairmen at Risk
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Back in March—what seems like a lifetime ago—the House chairman of the Redistricting Committee lost his seat in the Republican primary. It was quite an upset; Tea Party-er Charles Perry came out of nowhere to best state Rep. Delwin Jones, a moderate with one of the most powerful committee assignments in the House.
Tonight we might see a lot more House leaders go down. Many of the competitive races feature chairs and vice-chairs of important committees—Democrats with plum positions to help craft policy. Take, for example, state Rep. Jim McReynolds, the chair of the Corrections Committee. He’s played a major role in trying to reform state prisons and beef up mental health services and drug therapy for offenders. His opponent, James White is a Tea Party Republican gaining on McReynolds. In the last week, White got $83,000 from the conservative Texas for Lawsuit Reform. Should McReynolds lose, we could see the Corrections Committee going in a whole new direction.
Now Paul Burka has posted a memo that shows state Rep. Scott Hochberg in trouble. A Hochberg loss would be devastating to Democrats next session. As chair of the Appropriations Sub-Committee on Education, he has been a loud voice on school funding reform—in fact I’ve heard people speculate he’s one of the only members who even understand the complex system. He also serves as vice-chair on the Education Committee, and along with Chair Rob Eissler, he’s tried to bring in new ideas like open-source learning materials and more digital textbooks. Hochberg’s race hasn’t been on the many radar screens, and he’s still likely to win. In their last ethics reports, he’d outspent his opponent, Sylvia Spivey, eight to one. But it’s an unpredictable year and if the numbers Burka posted are accurate, we could be looking at a very different climate for education going into the session.
Here’s a list of other chairs and vice-chairs who are probably sweating tonight.
Mark Homer: Chair of Culture, Recreation and Tourism
Allen Vaught: Vice Chair of Defense and Veterans Affairs
Patrick Rose: Chair of Human Services
Stephen Frost: Vice Chair of Public Safety
Jim McReynolds: Chair of Corrections