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The Emptying Senate

Two big GOP committee chairs leaving Texas upper chamber

By Richard Whittaker, 11:15AM, Tue. Sep. 20, 2011

Wanted: One budget writer. Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, leaving the Senate
Wanted: One budget writer. Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, leaving the Senate
Photo by Richard Whittaker

Two major announcements have ensured dramatic changes in the future leadership of the Texas Senate. Senate Education Committee Chair Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, and Senate Finance Committee Chair Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, have both announced that they will not run for re-election.

This adds to the growing list of state reps and senators quitting state politics. However, these two exits may have the biggest impact to date. Popular speculation had Ogden as the real president of the Senate last session, while Shapiro was key in orchestrating the hybrid school finance plan under which students and educators now toil.

The fight to replace Shapiro is already on: Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, may seem like the natural successor, but he is being challenged by former USAF pilot Scott O’Grady, on whom the film On Deadly Ground is based. O'Grady, who attended theological college after leaving the military, had been eying a run at the newly redrawn House District 33.

Ogden issued a statement this morning saying how proud he was of having authored the last four state budgets. However he added that "the 5th Senatorial District includes a large number of state employees. I have always tried to represent them well and champion their interests." Considering the swinging cuts to public sector pay and jobs during his tenure, have fun squaring that circle.

No word on who might replace Ogden yet, but it is a certainty that there will be a long line of ready contenders. After all, it is not like no-one saw this coming. Ogden originally planned to stand down after the 2009 session, but caused some ructions when he decided to stay (there was some speculation that the only reason he came back was because no-one else wanted to write the 2012-13 state budget.) Back in the 2010 election cycle, then-Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, was his heir apparent, and even stood down from the House to make his run: Then Ogden stayed, and Gattis was left without a seat. However, Ogden retained one primary challenger: Home and Land Owners Associa­tion of Texas founder Ben Bius. Do not be too surprised to see either name on a GOP primary ballot next spring.

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