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Do we let Joe Nixon and his ilk decide what 20 minutes in an enclosed elevator with a bloody severed head is worth? How about the effect it has on the family of the victim? For the males amongst us still debating whether to invest the time to vote, we offer a cautionary tale by way of the Associated Press. When Hurshell Ralls, a mechanic from Wichita Falls, went under the surgeon’s knife in 1999, he was hopeful doctors would remove the cancer in his bladder. Unbeknownst to the anesthetized Ralls, the two surgeons decided that the cancer had spread to his penis. The offending member had to go. According to the complaint, the surgeons opted not to wait the 30 minutes to an hour it would take for a laboratory test to confirm their diagnosis. So one snip and it was gone. It’s no doubt a small consolation to Ralls that a doctor looking at cell slides later determined the penis was cancer free. This past August, Ralls reached an undisclosed out-of-court settlement after little more than a day of testimony. That’s what happens when the uncertainty of a verdict by an impar tial jury of your peers looms in a defendant’s future. Or then again, you could just let someone like Joe Nixon determine how much your penis is worth. Eating their Own As a freshman House member in the minority party, Rio Grande Valley attorney Aaron Pena had a noteworthy session last spring. He repeatedly attacked the Republican leadership, and even a few Democrats. He bolted to Ardmore, Oklahoma, with 50 of his colleagues, and he never split with the caucus on a key vote. With that record, Pefia’s seat, in a solidly Democratic district, would seemingly be safe. But while state party leaders may have liked Peria’s performance, not everyone in his district was so thrilled. On Aug. 28, well-known businessman Eddie Saenz made official what had been rumored for monthsthat he will challenge Pena for the Edinburg-based District 40 seat in the Democratic primary next March. Since no Republican can win the districtPena ran unopposed in the 2002 general electionthe victor of what promises to be a costly race will head to Austin. That Pena need worry about a possible primary defeat speaks volumes about the state of the Democratic Party. A Republican freshman in good standing with GOP leaders can likely expect huge backing from his or her own party. Still, Pena will not be easy to beat. His vocal, unequivocal stance on key Democratic issues has won him strong grassroots support in the district. Like most Dems, Pena saw many of his bills crushed by a hardright Republican majority. Pena will portray himself as fighting the good fight. During the session, he even publicly lambasted Rep. Kino Flores Republicans. Flores, chairman of the Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee, was one of 14 House Dems who broke ranks to cast decisive votes for the tort reform constitutional amendment known on the Sept. 13 ballot as Prop. 12. Backed by chamber of commerce connections, Saenz has money to burn. His engineering company, J.E. Saenz & Associates, has been a key player in the Valley’s recent construction boom. As an Edinburg Chamber board member, Saenz can expect substantial support from the business community and some local officials who feel Pefia didn’t work hard enough to funnel legislative pork to the district. Saenz is painting himself as the pro-business, consensus-building moderate who, following a Flores-like approach, says he will work with the leadership to bring money to the district. “There needs to be more than just filing legislation and letting it sit there Saenz said by phone from Edinburg. “I’m going to work with all the personalities that are up there Saenz, like Flores, has come out in favor of Prop. 12. Pena will try to label Saenz as a closet Republican who will work too closely with the leadership to the 12 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9/12/03