The summer is supposedly a slow time for political news. So I figured by this time I’d just be sitting by the pool, getting calls from Editor Moser. “Why haven’t you written anything in weeks?” he’d ask me as I sipped from some appropriately girlie alcoholic beverage. “Sorry Bob,” I’d say. “There’s just nothing to report, I’m afraid.” It was a lovely dream.
Alas. Instead it’s been one bit of madness after another. Speakers races, delegates in custody, blah blah blah. Here’s a run-down of news from the past three days—there may be a few observations mixed in.
• Ethical dilemmas? Democratic Rep. Tara Rios Ybarra, who works as a dentist when she isn’t representing South Padre Island, went into federal custody this morning after she got charged in a Medicaid fraud round-up. She’s accused of taking money to refer Medicaid recipients to a McAllen oral surgeon. (Incidentally, Rios Ybarra’s practice is in Brownsville. Going to an oral surgeon is bad enough—driving an hour home after a visit sounds like torture. Trust me, I have terrible teeth.) Rios Ybarra already lost her seat back in the March Democratic primaries to J.M. Lozano, and there’s no Republican challenger. The biggest loss comes to TV viewers, who may miss out on Rios Ybarra’s planned weekly show.
But still it’s not what you’d call good publicity for the Democrats—and it’s not the only instance of Dem reps in trouble with the law. Just yesterday, former Dallas Democratic Rep. Terri Hodge began her year-long term in a federal prison for tax fraud. The Republicans happen to have noticed—they sent out a release this morning, before the Rios Ybarra excitement, noting that Hodge was now in prison and another former Democratic rep, Kino Flores, is under indictment for failing to disclose $800,000 in income.
• The race is over. Money isn’t everything. And apparently neither is name recognition or past experience. Just ask David Sibley, the former senator for Senate District 22 who tried—and failed—to win a second bout in the state Senate. State Sen. Kip Averitt, a Sibley protege, stepped down for health reasons, and this race determined who would fill the remaining six months of Averitt’s term.
While he had stepped down, Averitt had not taken his name off the ballot for the November election, meaning that while last night’s winner would get six months with a new title, Averitt could return for next session. (No Democrats were running.) For a brief period on Tuesday, rumors abounded that should Birdwell win, Averitt would return to the Senate in January. But apparently our moms were right about gossip. Averitt has announced he’ll take his name off, giving both the district’s parties both a chance to name new candidates. The Rs will likely select Birdwell. After all, all’s well that’s Birdwell.