Election 2014 Begins as Senate Draws Lots
Term lengths allocation starts to reshape plans for higher office
By Richard Whittaker, 1:39PM, Wed. Jan. 23
Time for Travis County Senators Kirk Watson and Donna Campbell to start fundraising: After this mornings drawing of straws for Texas Senate term durations, both are running for re-election in 2014.
This morning saw one of the Senate's more baroque traditions. The upper chamber runs on four year staggered terms, with 15 of its 31 members running one election cycle, and the other 16 running two years later. But because Texas just redistricted, and everyone had to run again, then the staggered terms were busted. So after each redistricting, the staggering has to be recreated by random distribution of two and four year terms.
The process was pretty simple, and it's not technically drawing straws. Each senator draws an envelope. In the envelope, there is a number from one to 31. If it's even, you get a two year term. If it's odd, you get four. The senators go up in alphabetical order, meaning Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, went first. He automatically had a slightly better than 50-50 chance of drawing a four year term. Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, jokingly moved that they should run in reverse order, but she has little to worry about. By the time it got to Senate Finance Committee Chair Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, there were only four year terms left ("Unless I really messed up somehow," joked Secretary of the Senate Patsy Spaw).
However, the gap from B to Z was nerve wracking, as senators calculated and recalculated their odds with the precision of a sweaty card counter. A four year term doesn't just mean that you don't have to run again in 2014: It also means you can risk a statewide dash in two years, and still know you have a seat to come back to if that doesn't pan out. So that's bad news for Watson, who has been long-rumored to be eyeing either lite guv or attorney general. However, it also pulls that security blanket out from under Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who also got the two year chit.
Cue some serious speculation also in Fort Worth, where Democrat Sen. Wendy Davis has been the topic of speculation about a shot for governor in 2014. If Dems see her seat as marginal, then they will be asking tough questions about how much of that seat is about her incumbency, and who could replace her.
On the other hand, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, drew a four year term. With the GOP headed for a nasty, and quite possibly self-destructive, primary for lite guv in 2014, and Watson out of contention, will she want to turn this session's president pro tem honor into the real deal in 2016?
Behold the full list of who is running when.
2014Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels
John Carona, R-Dallas
Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth
Bob Deuell, R-Greenville
Craig Estes, R-Wichita Fallas
Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills
Joan Huffman, R-Southside Place
Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville
Dan Patrick, R-Houston
Ken Paxton, R-McKinney
Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown
Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo
Kirk Watson, D-Austin
Royce West, D-Dallas
John Whitmire, D-Houston
2016Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury
Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock
Rodney Ellis, D-Houston
Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler
Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay
Glenn Hegar, R-Katy
Chuy Hinojosa, D-McAllen
Eddie Lucio Jr, D-Brownsville
Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound
Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso
Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood
Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio
Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio
Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands
Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo
Senate District 6, Houston (vacant)