House GOPs Jump Ship; Another Crosses Over

Kirk England gets some sense, announces switch to Democratic party; other changes afoot as well

By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Sept. 28, 2007

Even though the House election isn't until next year, its membership is already shifting. First, in a surprise move, Rep. Kirk England, R-Grand Prairie, announced on Aug. 19 that, after a falling out with the House Republican leadership, he would be joining the Democrats. In addition, two ranking Republican state reps confirmed they will not be seeking re-election next November.

On the same day as England's announcement, Rep. Dianne White Delisi, R-Temple, said she'll be standing down at the end of her current term. Long regarded as one of Speaker Tom Craddick's most loyal allies, the chair of the House Public Health Committee will not idly run out the electoral clock. Following her announcement, Craddick confirmed she will be one of four state reps on the newly formed Medicaid Reform Legislative Oversight Committee.

But the most senior retiree was Rep. Fred Hill, R-Richard­son, whose staff confirmed his intention not to run again on Thursday. Last session, the 10-term GOPer and chair of the Local Government Ways and Means Committee fell out with the speaker: It was Hill who, on May 25, authored the motion to vacate the speaker's chair that Craddick refused to hear, thus starting the still-unresolved power struggle. His retirement decision was a surprise, as he had filed papers with the Texas Ethics Commission to run for speaker next session.

Not every departure is a lifetime legislator. On Aug. 28, freshman Rep. Mike O'Day, R-Pearland, announced he would stand down at the end of his term. He only entered the House in a special election in January after the death of incumbent Glenda Dawson, who died before last November's election but whose name remained on the ballot.

House Chief Clerk Robert Haney says that while his office tracks retirement announcements, there's no formal list yet. "The only person who has informed us they have resigned is [Rep.] Anna Mowery," Haney said. The long-serving Fort Worth Republican quit her seat in August, and Gov. Rick Perry called a special election to be held on Nov. 6 to replace her.

On the Democrat side, there are no resignations yet. But with Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, hoping to become the Democrat challenger to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, his seat may become vacant. The full list of returnees and retirees will become clearer on Dec. 3, when filing for next November's election begins, and will be confirmed when filing ends on Jan. 2. "That's when we'll officially know who's coming back and who's not," Haney said.

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