The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

Leaving the Lege

By Michael King, December 12, 2003, News

Dallas state Rep. Steve Wolens and Amarillo state Sen. Teel Bivins joined the list of those leaving the Legislature last week. Bivins, tapped by President Bush to be ambassador to Sweden, resigned effective Jan. 12, writing to Gov. Perry, "In 1995, I sponsored a constitutional amendment that would have limited terms in the Texas Senate to no more than 14 years. Now that I have served for 15 years, I know that my tenure has been long enough." Perry announced a special election to fill the District 31 seat on Jan. 20, the same day already declared to fill the District 1 seat resigned by Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant.

Democrat Wolens (spouse of Dallas Mayor Laura Miller) was first elected in 1980 and has served 12 legislative terms. He's a partner in the Dallas law firm of Baron & Budd, and said that after 23 years in the Lege, "This is a good time for me to focus on my family, the private sector, and the policy agenda I can continue to advance as a citizen of our great state." In a prepared statement, Wolens said he will not run for re-election, and pointed with pride to his role in passing legislation on ethics and election reform, clean-air regulation, utility deregulation, and a constitutional amendment on home equity lending.

Wolens joins House Democratic colleagues Barry Telford of DeKalb and Robby Cook of Eagle Lake among the "WD-40s" (white Democrats over 40) who have decided to leave the Lege in the wake of the bitter and divisively partisan battle over congressional redistricting. (Cook said that he had been wooed by Gov. Perry to switch parties, but decided to step down instead.) Wolens represents a now heavily Hispanic urban district, and The Dallas Morning News is reporting that former state Rep. Domingo Garcia, Dallas ISD trustee Rafael Anchia, and former City Council Member Chris Luna are each considering a run to replace him.

A handful of Panhandle area businessmen and politicians are jockeying for Bivins' seat, and as expected, former Democratic state Rep. Paul Sadler has filed to succeed Ratliff, as has current Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview.

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