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Freshmen, continued from page 7 Following His Father’s Footsteps For Roy Blake Jr., the Texas Legislature is becoming a family tradition. His father, Roy Blake, Sr., represented Nacogdoches in the Senate from 1979 to 1989, and in the House for three sessions before that. “What I got out of my father’s service is a certain amount of confidence and knowledge, and the sense of responsibility of public service,” Blake says. Unlike his father, who entered the House during the period of reform following the Sharpstown scandal of 1971-72, the junior Blake, 48, joins a chamber that last session was firmly in the hold of special interests that backed the Republican leadership. Whether that continues this session could depend on how independently Blake and fellow Republicans decide to vote. At first, Blake says, he’ll mostly try to listen and learn how the process works. “Being a freshman, I’ll certainly look to the House leadership,” he says. “I have certain skills and experiences, and I’ll leave it up to the leadership to decide how I can be helpful to the process.” While that doesn’t sound like a lawmaker ready to buck the speaker on an important vote, Blake impressed Democratic colleagues during freshman orientation sessions in December with his affable nature, interest in policy, and expressions of bipartisanship. Blake indicated he would like to work with Democrats on issues they have in common. The topics he’s most eager to address include education and access to health care in rural areas. Hailing from East Texas, Blake wants to protect the area’s timber industry and its agriculture. He also hopes to focus on job creation. Economic development was one of his top priorities during his stint as mayor of Nacogdoches. Unlike the dozens of GOP House freshman two years ago, Blake and his four fellow Republican first-termers didn’t rely heavily on leadership-affiliated corporate and PAC money to win election. That could make the House a much less predictable body this time around. Watch Vo Go If Rep. Hubert Vo is intimidated by the responsibility of being the first Vietnamese Texas legislator or the scrutiny that comes with having his election victory challenged, he shows no sign of it. Vo carries himself with the assurance of someone who knows that all is possible if one simply works hard enough. His can-do attitude propelled him from a poor teen-age immigrant to the welleducated successful businessman, and now public official, he is today. \(See, “Just Say Vo,” Few gave Vo much of a chance at unseating Republican Talmadge Heflin. After all, Heflin was a 20-year incumbent and the chairman of House Appropriations. Yet Vo started campaigning early and never let up. His tenacity, coupled with an unprecedented registration drive in his multi-ethnic district \(more than 32 percent are foreign-born and 44 percent speak a 33-vote upset. Now Vo is eager to get to work. He hopes to introduce three bills or amendments this session to improve education, increase access to health care for working families, and to help promote small businesses. When asked if Heflin’s election challenge before the House \(still unresolved as the Observer distraction, Vo replied, “I’m certain this will be behind me soon.” wrrre DIaLOGlie The Texas Observer 307 W. 7th St. Austin, TX 78701 [email protected] rver. org V 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER .1/21/05