Laney Won't Run in '06

Senior state Democratic rep promises to remain active in Austin's public arena after leaving office next year

Former House Speaker Pete Laney's announcement last week that he won't seek reelection in 2006 offered up yet another reminder of how bad things are now at the state House. The senior state Democratic rep from Hale Center, whose amiable, bipartisan leadership in his five terms as speaker won him routine praise from then Gov. George W. Bush, promised to remain active in the public arena in Austin after leaving office next year. In 2000, Bush called on Laney to introduce the president-elect to the nation and later hosted the former speaker and wife Nelda at the White House on several occasions. Two years later, Laney lost his leadership post to ex-friend and Midland Republican Tom Craddick, in a GOP upset that sent several Democrats packing and relegated Laney to the sidelines, along with any semblance of bipartisan good will in the House.

Laney's retirement opens the door for a Republican to succeed the West Texas cotton farmer. But Laney said he hopes that his conservative district will elect someone who is committed to work with members on both sides of the aisle. "My decision not to run again comes at a time when more than ever we as a state and as a nation need to encourage bipartisan leaders to get involved in public service," he said in a statement. "West Texas has produced some of the most influential leaders in our state's history, and I want us to continue that legacy." During one of two failed special sessions on school finance this year, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, tried to drum up support for Laney to run for governor next year by selling T-shirts with the message: "Save Texas. Laney for Gov – 06."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Pete Laney, Nelda Laney, Senfronia Thompson, George W. Bush, Tom Craddick

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