The Austin Chronicle

Wentworth to Stand Down?

By Richard Whittaker, July 15, 2010, 2:26pm, Newsdesk

During the flurry of Senate committee reshuffles yesterday, a new rumor flew that Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, might be stepping down. Since his district includes a slab of Travis County, this is of great local interest: Just got off the phone with his office, and his prepared statement is bound to cause a stir.

While it is premature for a formal announcement from either me or Chancellor Mike McKinney of the Texas A&M University system regarding the possibility of my joining his team, it is true that he and I are in discussions about how such an arrangement could work. All I can say is stay tuned and gig 'em.
It's no secret that Wentworth has been increasingly disaffected with Senate life. He'd already written off the next session as stillborn due to the scheduled redistricting debacle. It was recently revealed that he'd been eying the position of Texas State University chancellor and his exclusion from the new Senate redistricting committee was a final sign that something was in the air.

The dark note for Democrats is that, for all their policy disagreements, Wentworth is widely regarded as one of the best minds and honest dealers when it comes to electoral reform and redistricting.

The one positive? Wentworth was unchallenged in both this year's primary and in the upcoming general. He held the seat comfortably in 2006 with 58% of the vote (defeating a low-key challenge from Austin Democrat Kathi Thomas.)The Texas Tribune is reporting that Wentworth will stay on the ballot, then decline his seat and trigger a rapid special. If he does then it would be a sprint for Democrats and Republicans to find a decent candidate and assemble a reasonable campaign.

If that happens, the GOP will be forced to question how Republican that district really is. Thomas took in 37% of the 2006 electorate with less than $20,000 in contributions in the last six months of the election. Without Wentworth's valued incumbency and with a shifting district, this district could look more purple than solid red.

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