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“A Texas Treasure: A.R. 'Babe' Schwartz” on Display at LRL

"Failure to have the views of the minority represented is failure to have a democracy.  The minority side of the house is seldom comfortable. You can become unpopular by just jogging people's conscience. If you keep telling them they know what is right, but aren't doing it, then you get to be a thorn under their saddle." – Babe Schwartz  

 

Sen. Babe Schwartz fought for what mattered to him throughout his career, and what a career it has been! You can learn more about Sen. Schwartz’s life and contributions in our exhibit, “A Texas Treasure: A.R. 'Babe' Schwartz.”

 

Born in 1926 to Russian immigrant parents, Aaron Robert “Babe” Schwartz grew up as a self-described “beach bum” on Galveston Island. After graduating from Ball High School, he proudly served in the U.S. Navy from 1944–1946, and then in the U.S. Air Force Reserve from 1948–1953. Schwartz graduated from Texas A&M in 1948 and earned his law degree at the University of Texas in 1951. Later that year, he married wife Marilyn; they went on to have four sons and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

 

While in law school, Schwartz worked for the chief clerk's office in the Texas House of Representatives and in the Texas Legislative Council. He returned to his hometown to serve as a prosecutor in the Galveston County attorney’s office for a few years, but he was eager to run for office. Schwartz served as a representative from 1955–1959, and then as a senator from 1960–1981.

 

"I always felt it necessary to be a little better educated, a little better prepared, a little better briefed than my opposition." – Babe Schwartz

 

A thread that runs throughout Sen. Schwartz’s life is his affinity for the Texas coast. One of his first jobs—at age 11—was on the beach, renting beach chairs, umbrellas, and other shoreline gear. While serving in the legislature, he was instrumental in the creation of the 1959 Open Beaches Act and the passage of the Coastal Public Lands Management Act of 1973. He chaired multiple committees, many relating to beaches and the coast. After his terms in the legislature, Schwartz went on to serve as a lobbyist, often for environmental causes, and he taught law school courses including Ocean and Coastal Law. In honor of these contributions, "Babe's Beach," a stretch of shoreline west of 61st Street in Galveston, was dedicated in May 2016.

 
As his quotations above suggest, Sen. Schwartz also made quite a name for himself as a fighter who was willing and prepared to go nose-to-nose in the chambers. He participated in at least seven filibusters. Lt. Governor Bill Hobby even gave Schwartz a pair of boxing gloves after one of his debates.

 

"There are few people in recent Texas politics who have had as much impact as Babe has. He has provided a rallying post on bill after bill. He has been the real conscience of the Senate on any number of bad appointments over the years. He's experienced and perceptive and he can frequently catch a bad bill no one else sees. He has no reluctance to stand up and take on any issue that he perceives to be adverse to the public interest. His departure leaves a great void that will be difficult to fill." – U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who served in the 63rd, 64th, and 65th Texas Legislatures with Schwartz

 

Visit the LRL to see some of Sen. Schwartz’s memorabilia and to learn more about his life and career.

 

Sen. Schwartz passed away on August 10, 2018, at age 92. We will miss you, Babe!

Updated: Members Not Returning, 86th Legislature

In January, we compiled a list of members not returning to the 86th Texas Legislature. An updated list that includes the results of the recent primary runoffs is provided below. 21 members of the Texas House and 2 members of the Texas Senate will not return in 2019. To see a full list of members of the 85th Texas Legislature (2017), please go here. Note that regardless of election outcomes, all of these legislators will keep their respective seats until January 2019, unless they resign earlier.

 

Table: Members not returning to the 86th Texas Legislature

Rep. Roberto Alonzo Defeated in Democratic primary election, 3/6/2018
Rep. Diana Arévalo Defeated in Democratic primary election, 3/6/2018
Rep. Cindy Burkett Defeated in Republican primary election for Texas Senate, 3/6/2018
Rep. Byron Cook Retiring
Rep. Scott Cosper Defeated in Republican primary runoff election, 5/22/2018
Rep. Dawnna Dukes Defeated in Democratic primary election, 3/6/2018
Sen. Craig Estes Defeated in Republican primary election, 3/6/2018
Rep. Wayne Faircloth Defeated in Republican primary election, 3/6/2018
Rep. Pat Fallon Won Republican primary for Texas Senate, 3/6/2018
Rep. Helen Giddings Retiring
Rep. Larry Gonzales Resigned effective 6/7/2018
Rep. Lance Gooden Won Republican primary runoff for U.S. House of Representatives, 5/22/2018
Rep. Jason Isaac Defeated in Republican primary election for U.S. House of Representatives, 3/6/2018
Rep. Mark Keough Won Republican primary election for Montgomery County judge, 3/6/2018
Rep. Jodie Laubenberg Retiring
Rep. René Oliveira Defeated in Democratic primary runoff election, 5/22/2018
Rep. Larry Phillips Resigned effective 4/30/2018
Rep. Kevin Roberts Defeated in Republican primary runoff election for U.S. House of Representatives, 5/22/2018
Rep. Leighton Schubert Resigned effective 2/4/2018
Rep. Joe Straus Retiring
Sen. Van Taylor Won Republican primary election for U.S. House of Representatives, 3/6/2018
Rep. Tomas Uresti Defeated in Democratic primary election, 3/6/2018
Rep. Jason Villalba Defeated in Republican primary election, 3/6/2018

 

 

May 22, 2018 Primary Runoff Election Results

Peruse the results of the May 22, 2018, primary runoff election for the Texas Legislature in our charts below (runoff results bolded), and see who will be on the ballot for the midterm election on November 6, 2018.

 

Senate

Democrat
Republican
2
Kendall Scudder
Bob Hall
3
Shirley Layton
Robert Nichols
5
Meg Walsh
Charles Schwertner
7
David Romero
Paul Bettencourt
8
Mark Phariss
Angela Paxton
9
Gwenn Burud
Kelly Hancock
10
Beverly Powell
Konni Burton
14
Kirk Watson
George W. Hindman
15
John Whitmire
Randy Orr
16
Nathan Johnson
Don Huffines
17
Rita Lucido
Joan Huffman
23
Royce West
---
25
Steven Kling
Donna Campbell
30
Kevin Lopez
Pat Fallon
31
---
Kel Seliger

 

House of Representatives

Democrat
Republican
1
---
Gary VanDeaver
2
Bill Brannon
Dan Flynn
3
Lisa Seger
Cecil Bell Jr
4
Eston Williams
Keith Bell
5
Bill Liebbe
Cole Hefner
6
---
Matt Schaefer
7
---
Jay Dean
8
Wesley D. Ratcliff
Cody Harris
9
---
Chris Paddie
10
Kimberly Emery
John Wray
11
Alec Johnson
Travis Clardy
12
Marianne Arnold
Kyle Kacal
13
Cecil Ray Webster, Sr.
Ben Leman
14
Josh Wilkinson
John Raney
15
Lorena Perez McGill
Steve Toth
16
Mike Midler
Will Metcalf
17
Michelle Ryan
John P. Cyrier
18
Fred Lemond
Ernest Bailes
19
Sherry Williams
James White
20
Stephen M. Wyman
Terry M. Wilson
21
---
Dade Phelan
22
Joe Deshotel
---
23
Amanda Jamrok
Mayes Middleton
24
John Y. Phelps
Greg Bonnen
25
---
Dennis Bonnen
26
L. Sarah DeMerchant
D.F. "Rick" Miller
27
Ron Reynolds
---
28
Meghan Scoggins
John Zerwas
29
James Presley
Ed Thompson
30
Robin Hayter
Geanie W. Morrison
31
Ryan Guillen
---
32
---
Todd Hunter
33
Laura Gunn
Justin Holland
34
Abel Herrero
Chris Hale
35
Oscar Longoria
---
36
Sergio Muñoz, Jr.
---
37
Alex Dominguez
---
38
Eddie Lucio III
---
39
Armando "Mando" Martínez
---
40
Terry Canales
---
41
Bobby Guerra
Hilda Garza DeShazo
42
Richard Peña Raymond
Luis De La Garza
43
Dee Ann Torres Miller
J.M. Lozano
44
John D. Rodgers
John Kuempel
45
Erin Zwiener
Ken Strange
46
Sheryl Cole
Gabriel Nila
47
Vikki Goodwin
Paul D. Workman
48
Donna Howard
---
49
Gina Hinojosa
Kyle Austin
50
Celia Israel
---
51
Eddie Rodriguez
---
52
James Talarico
Cynthia Flores
53
Stephanie Lochte Ertel
Andrew S. Murr
54
Kathy Richerson
Brad Buckley
55
---
Hugh D. Shine
56
Katherine Turner-Pearson
Charles "Doc" Anderson
57
Jason Rogers
Trent Ashby
58
---
DeWayne Burns
59
---
J.D. Sheffield
60
---
Mike Lang
61
---
Phil King
62
Valerie N. Hefner
Reggie Smith
63
Laura Haines
Tan Parker
64
Andrew Morris
Lynn Stucky
65
Michelle Beckley
Ron Simmons
66
Sharon Hirsch
Matt Shaheen
67
Sarah Depew
Jeff Leach
68
---
Drew Springer
69
---
James Frank
70
Julie Luton
Scott Sanford
71
Sam Hatton
Stan Lambert
72
---
Drew Darby
73
Stephanie Phillips
Kyle Biedermann
74
Poncho Nevárez
---
75
Mary E. Gonzalez
---
76
Cesar J. Blanco
---
77
Evelina "Lina" Ortega
---
78
Joe Moody
Jeffrey Lane
79
Joe C. Pickett
---
80
Tracy King
---
81
Armando Gamboa
Brooks Landgraf
82
Spencer Bounds
Tom Craddick
83
Drew Landry
Dustin Burrows
84
Samantha Carrillo Fields
John Frullo
85
Jennifer Cantu
Phil Stephenson
86
Mike Purcell
John Smithee
87
---
Four Price
88
Ezekiel Barron
Ken King
89
Ray Ash
Candy Noble
90
Ramon Romero Jr.
---
91
Jeromey Sims
Stephanie Klick
92
Steve Riddell
Jonathan Stickland
93
Nancy Bean
Matt Krause
94
Finnigan Jones
Tony Tinderholt
95
Nicole Collier
Stephen A. West
96
Ryan E. Ray
Bill Zedler
97
Beth Llewellyn McLaughlin
Craig Goldman
98
Mica J. Ringo
Giovanni Capriglione
99
Michael Stackhouse
Charlie Geren
100
Eric Johnson
---
101
Chris Turner
---
102
Ana-Maria Ramos
Linda Koop
103
Rafael M. Anchia
Jerry Fortenberry
104
Jessica Gonzalez
---
105
Thresa "Terry" Meza
Rodney Anderson
106
Ramona Thompson
Jared Patterson
107
Victoria Neave
Deanna Maria Metzger
108
Joanna Cattanach
Morgan Meyer
109
Carl Sherman
---
110
Toni Rose
---
111
Yvonne Davis
---
112
Brandy K. Chambers
Angie Chen Button
113
Rhetta Andrews Bowers
Jonathan Boos
114
John Turner
Lisa Luby Ryan
115
Julie Johnson
Matt Rinaldi
116
Trey Martinez Fischer
Fernando Padron
117
Philip Cortez
Michael Berlanga
118
Leo Pacheco
John Lujan
119
Roland Gutierrez
---
120
Barbara Gervin-Hawkins
Ronald Payne
121
Celina D. Montoya
Steve Allison
122
Claire Barnett
Lyle Larson
123
Diego Bernal
---
124
Ina Minjarez
Johnny S. Arredondo
125
Justin Rodriguez
---
126
Natali Hurtado
E. Sam Harless
127
---
Dan Huberty
128
---
Briscoe Cain
129
Alexander Jonathan Karjeker
Dennis Paul
130
Fred Infortunio
Tom Oliverson
131
Alma A. Allen
Syed S. Ali
132
Gina Calanni
Mike Schofield
133
Marty Schexnayder
Jim Murphy
134
Allison Lami Sawyer
Sarah Davis
135
Jon E. Rosenthal
Gary Elkins
136
John H. Bucy III
Tony Dale
137
Gene Wu
---
138
Adam Milasincic
Dwayne Bohac
139
Jarvis D. Johnson
---
140
Armando Lucio Walle
---
141
Senfronia Thompson
---
142
Harold V. Dutton Jr.
---
143
Ana Hernandez
---
144
Mary Ann Perez
Ruben Villarreal
145
Carol Alvarado
---
146
Shawn Nicole Thierry
---
147
Garnet F. Coleman
Thomas Wang
148
Jessica Cristina Farrar
Ryan T. McConnico
149
Hubert Vo
---
150
Michael Shawn Kelly
Valoree Swanson

 

--- indicates that the party did not run a candidate in that district

March 6, 2018 Primary Election Results

Peruse the results of the March 6, 2018, primary election for the Texas Legislature in our charts below, and see who will be on upcoming ballots for the primary runoff on May 22, 2018 (bolded) and the midterm election on November 6, 2018.

 

Note also that, due to the vacancy left in District 13 by former Rep. Leighton Schubert's resignation, a special election will be held on May 5, 2018. See a list of the candidates on the Secretary of State's website.

 

Senate

Democrat
Republican
2
Kendall Scudder
Bob Hall
3
Shirley Layton
Robert Nichols
5
Meg Walsh
Charles Schwertner
7
David Romero
Paul Bettencourt
8
Mark Phariss
Angela Paxton
9
Gwenn Burud
Kelly Hancock
10
Beverly Powell
Konni Burton
14
Kirk Watson
George W. Hindman
15
John Whitmire
Randy Orr
16
Nathan Johnson
Don Huffines
17
Rita Lucido / Fran Watson
Joan Huffman
23
Royce West
---
25
Steven Kling
Donna Campbell
30
Kevin Lopez
Pat Fallon
31
---
Kel Seliger

 

House of Representatives

Democrat
Republican
1
---
Gary VanDeaver
2
Bill Brannon
Dan Flynn
3
Lisa Seger
Cecil Bell Jr
4
Eston Williams
Stuart Spitzer / Keith Bell
5
Bill Liebbe
Cole Hefner
6
---
Matt Schaefer
7
---
Jay Dean
8
Wesley D. Ratcliff
Cody Harris / Thomas McNutt
9
---
Chris Paddie
10
Kimberly Emery
John Wray
11
Alec Johnson
Travis Clardy
12
Marianne Arnold
Kyle Kacal
13
Cecil Ray Webster, Sr.
Jill Wolfskill / Ben Leman
14
Josh Wilkinson
John Raney
15
Lorena Perez McGill
Steve Toth
16
Mike Midler
Will Metcalf
17
Michelle Ryan
John P. Cyrier
18
Fred Lemond
Ernest Bailes
19
Sherry Williams
James White
20
Stephen M. Wyman
Terry M. Wilson
21
---
Dade Phelan
22
Joe Deshotel
---
23
Amanda Jamrok
Mayes Middleton
24
John Y. Phelps
Greg Bonnen
25
---
Dennis Bonnen
26
L. Sarah DeMerchant
D.F. "Rick" Miller
27
Ron Reynolds
---
28
Meghan Scoggins
John Zerwas
29
James Presley
Ed Thompson
30
Robin Hayter
Geanie W. Morrison
31
Ryan Guillen
---
32
---
Todd Hunter
33
Laura Gunn
Justin Holland
34
Abel Herrero
Chris Hale
35
Oscar Longoria
---
36
Sergio Muñoz, Jr.
---
37
Rene O. Oliveira / Alex Dominguez
---
38
Eddie Lucio III
---
39
Armando "Mando" Martínez
---
40
Terry Canales
---
41
Bobby Guerra
Hilda Garza DeShazo
42
Richard Peña Raymond
Luis De La Garza
43
Dee Ann Torres Miller
J.M. Lozano
44
John D. Rodgers
John Kuempel
45
Rebecca Bell-Metereau / Erin Zwiener
Ken Strange
46
Jose "Chito" Vela / Sheryl Cole
Gabriel Nila
47
Vikki Goodwin / Elaina Fowler
Paul D. Workman
48
Donna Howard
---
49
Gina Hinojosa
Kyle Austin
50
Celia Israel
---
51
Eddie Rodriguez
---
52
James Talarico
Cynthia Flores
53
Stephanie Lochte Ertel
Andrew S. Murr
54
Kathy Richerson
Scott Cosper / Brad Buckley
55
---
Hugh D. Shine
56
Katherine Turner-Pearson
Charles "Doc" Anderson
57
Jason Rogers
Trent Ashby
58
---
DeWayne Burns
59
---
J.D. Sheffield
60
---
Mike Lang
61
---
Phil King
62
Valerie N. Hefner
Reggie Smith / Brent Lawson
63
Laura Haines
Tan Parker
64
Mat Pruneda / Andrew Morris
Lynn Stucky
65
Michelle Beckley
Ron Simmons
66
Sharon Hirsch
Matt Shaheen
67
Sarah Depew
Jeff Leach
68
---
Drew Springer
69
---
James Frank
70
Julie Luton
Scott Sanford
71
Sam Hatton
Stan Lambert
72
---
Drew Darby
73
Stephanie Phillips
Kyle Biedermann
74
Poncho Nevárez
---
75
Mary E. Gonzalez
---
76
Cesar J. Blanco
---
77
Evelina "Lina" Ortega
---
78
Joe Moody
Jeffrey Lane
79
Joe C. Pickett
---
80
Tracy King
---
81
Armando Gamboa
Brooks Landgraf
82
Spencer Bounds
Tom Craddick
83
Drew Landry
Dustin Burrows
84
Samantha Carrillo Fields
John Frullo
85
Jennifer Cantu
Phil Stephenson
86
Mike Purcell
John Smithee
87
---
Four Price
88
Ezekiel Barron
Ken King
89
Ray Ash
Candy Noble
90
Ramon Romero Jr.
---
91
Jeromey Sims
Stephanie Klick
92
Steve Riddell
Jonathan Stickland
93
Nancy Bean
Matt Krause
94
Finnigan Jones
Tony Tinderholt
95
Nicole Collier
Stephen A. West
96
Ryan E. Ray
Bill Zedler
97
Beth Llewellyn McLaughlin
Craig Goldman
98
Mica J. Ringo
Giovanni Capriglione
99
Michael Stackhouse
Charlie Geren
100
Eric Johnson
---
101
Chris Turner
---
102
Ana-Maria Ramos
Linda Koop
103
Rafael M. Anchia
Jerry Fortenberry
104
Jessica Gonzalez
---
105
Thresa "Terry" Meza
Rodney Anderson
106
Ramona Thompson
Jared Patterson
107
Victoria Neave
Deanna Maria Metzger / Joe Ruzicka
108
Joanna Cattanach
Morgan Meyer
109
Deshaundra Lockhart Jones / Carl Sherman
---
110
Toni Rose
---
111
Yvonne Davis
---
112
Brandy K. Chambers
Angie Chen Button
113
Rhetta Andrews Bowers
Jonathan Boos
114
John Turner
Lisa Luby Ryan
115
Julie Johnson
Matt Rinaldi
116
Trey Martinez Fischer
Fernando Padron
117
Philip Cortez
Michael Berlanga
118
Leo Pacheco
John Lujan
119
Roland Gutierrez
---
120
Barbara Gervin-Hawkins
Ronald Payne
121
Celina D. Montoya
Matt Beebe / Steve Allison
122
Claire Barnett
Lyle Larson
123
Diego Bernal
---
124
Ina Minjarez
Johnny S. Arredondo
125
Justin Rodriguez
---
126
Natali Hurtado
E. Sam Harless
127
---
Dan Huberty
128
---
Briscoe Cain
129
Alexander Jonathan Karjeker
Dennis Paul
130
Fred Infortunio
Tom Oliverson
131
Alma A. Allen
Syed S. Ali
132
Gina Calanni
Mike Schofield
133
Sandra G. Moore / Marty Schexnayder
Jim Murphy
134
Allison Lami Sawyer
Sarah Davis
135
Jon E. Rosenthal
Gary Elkins
136
John H. Bucy III
Tony Dale
137
Gene Wu
---
138
Adam Milasincic
Dwayne Bohac
139
Jarvis D. Johnson
---
140
Armando Lucio Walle
---
141
Senfronia Thompson
---
142
Harold V. Dutton Jr.
---
143
Ana Hernandez
---
144
Mary Ann Perez
Ruben Villarreal
145
Carol Alvarado
---
146
Shawn Nicole Thierry
---
147
Garnet F. Coleman
Thomas Wang
148
Jessica Cristina Farrar
Ryan T. McConnico
149
Hubert Vo
---
150
Michael Shawn Kelly
Valoree Swanson

 

--- indicates that the party did not run a candidate in that district

Members Not Returning, 86th Legislature

Below is a list of members (as of January 23, 2018) not returning to the 86th Texas Legislature in their current offices. Note that regardless of election outcomes, all of these legislators will keep their respective seats until January 2019, unless they resign earlier.

 

To learn more about who will be on the primary ballots, information about candidates by county is available on the Texas Secretary of State's filings by county page.

 

 

Rep. Cindy Burkett Running for Texas Senate
Rep. Byron Cook Retiring
Rep. Pat Fallon Running for Texas Senate
Rep. Helen Giddings Retiring
Rep. Larry Gonzales Retiring
Rep. Lance Gooden Running for U.S. Congress
Rep. Jason Isaac Running for U.S. Congress
Rep. Mark Keough Running for Montgomery County judge
Rep. Jodie Laubenberg Retiring
Rep. Larry Phillips Retiring
Rep. Kevin Roberts Running for U.S. Congress
Rep. Leighton Schubert Resigned effective 2/4/2018
Rep. Joe Straus Retiring
Sen. Van Taylor Running for U.S. Congress

Legislative Scorecards, 85th Legislature

Following each legislative session in Texas, some organizations create scorecards "grading" the performance of legislators. Scorecards typically focus on bills significant to a particular viewpoint or subject area.

 

The LRL tracks legislative scorecards as we find them to be a helpful research tool. Listed below are the 85th Legislature scorecards we have found thus far. 

 

Conservative Round Table of Texas

 

Empower Texans

 

Environment Texas

 

Equality Texas

 

Sierra Club – Lone Star Chapter

 

Texas Association of Business

 

Texas Right to Life

 

Texas Uniting for Reform & Freedom (TURF)

 

Texas Values Action

 

Young Conservatives of Texas

 

Cover image by Flickr user Jon Wiley / CC BY-NC 2.0.

Research Minute: Legislators and Leaders Resources

Seeking information about Texas’ elected leadership? The Legislators and Leaders section of our website compiles myriad resources to aid your research. You can…

 

Freshmen in the Texas Legislature

Every few years, we update our comparison across Legislatures of the percent of freshmen at the beginning of each regular session. Here's our first post from 2012 on the topic (which explains some of the reasons for unusually high numbers), and here is the 2014 update.

 

Below you can see the graph with the addition of the 84th and 85th Legislatures. Please note that we defined freshmen as new legislators sworn in during the first day or week of the regular session. Members who first served during a called session of a legislature are counted as freshmen members of that legislature. Excluded are members who were elected to a legislature but never sworn in due to death, resignation, or other factors.

 

You can see these and other figures on our member statistics page. Exact percentage of freshmen each session can be found here.

 

 

Percentage of freshmen in the Texas Legislature

Members Reunion Day, 2017

The large tent that appears on the south lawn of the Capitol near the end of every session is as reliable a marker of Spring as the arrival of the bluebonnets. The white canopy serves as the customary venue for the Members Reunion Day luncheon, part of a perennial celebration of House service that takes place this week on April 28.

 

All current and former House members are invited to the event, which begins with breakfast in the Capitol and concludes with barbecue under the big top. In between, current members will take a pause from their legislative duties to pay tribute to previous members and Speakers.

 

 

Setting aside time to honor the leadership is a long-standing tradition in the House of Representatives. With a few exceptions, Speaker's Day—as it was originally known—has been held every session since 1876.

 

For much of its history, Speaker’s Day was a congratulatory observance with a solitary focus. Common features of the early days included poetry, public tributes, and other forms of high praise. The popular “presentation of gifts” consisted of traditional keepsakes, such as watches, Bibles, cuff-buttons, and tea services.

 

In later years, popular music and good-natured satire accompanied the lofty language used in earlier celebrations. By the 1940s, lauding the Speaker with polished prose was out of fashion, and more colorful forms of expression made their way into the mix.

 

In 1943, for example, Representative Will Smith enchanted House members with his own clever couplet:

If I've grown old and there's silver in my hair.
Speaker Price Daniel put it there.

A choral club from Dallas regaled Speaker William Otey Reed in 1947 with a tender rendition of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes."

 

 

Although the focus and name of the day have changed, Members Reunion Day perpetuates the same celebratory spirit and sense of common purpose as the earliest commemorations. A similar motivation is reflected in the Senate, which has its own tradition dating back to 2003.

 

 

This week the Senate will also take a break from the rigors of the legislative session to celebrate the service of former senators. Former Members Day, as it is called in the Senate, begins with a dinner on Wednesday, April 26. A ceremony honoring living and deceased former members will take place in the Senate chamber following breakfast on Thursday. Senators who served in the military will receive special recognition this session.

 

During the ceremony, former senators will be seated within the rail of the Senate, and the names of senators who have died since the last official gathering will be read. As a lasting tribute, copies of the Senate's biennial publication, A State of Remembrance, will be distributed to members.

Playing to Win with Rep. Bob Davis

This is the third installment in our occasional series, "Texas Treasures," highlighting some of the men and women who have served in the Texas Legislature. In previous posts, we featured Rep. Frank Calhoun and Sen. A.R. "Babe" Schwartz.

 

A lot of strong words have been used to describe former Rep. Bob Davis—intense, shrewd, wily, riveting. And with good reason. Words applied to lawmakers with ordinary resolve and conventional political skills are too meager for a man Texas Monthly once called: "beyond moderation . . . beyond classification . . . a player so avid he raises political gamesmanship to the intensity of a force of nature."1

 

Robert Eugene "Bob" Davis represented Dallas County in the House of Representatives from 1973-1983. During his tenure he served on the body's most powerful committees including: Calendars; Ways and Means, which he presided over for two sessions; and Regions, Compacts, and Districts, currently known as Redistricting. Davis was also a member of the House Insurance committee for three sessions, serving as chairman during the 65th Legislature.

 

Following his freshman session, Davis was a delegate to the Texas Constitutional Convention and a member of the Citizens' Conference on State Legislatures, a precursor to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

 

The power of Davis' political resolve was untested when he entered the race for a House seat in 1972. He was young, inexperienced, and virtually unknown to the voters of his district when he signed on as a last-minute recruit in a landmark election season.

 

"I was 30 years old at the time of filing. My wife was pregnant with our third child, and it wasn't a good time," Davis explained. "A lawyer I knew called me in June and told me the Republican candidate had to drop out. He said: 'We have called 39 people, and no one wants to run. Are you interested?' I said yes and became a replacement candidate."2

 

It didn't take long for Davis to prove himself a worthy replacement. His affinity for hard work and his status as a Republican worked to his advantage during the campaign—as did his lack of political experience. "I never really thought I would lose," Davis told the Irving Daily News after his stunning victory.3

 

The political odds were definitely in Davis' favor that year. Outrage over the Sharpstown Stock Fraud Scandal set the stage for a watershed election in 1972. And a court-ordered redistricting plan that required Dallas County to shift to single-member districts had provided a promising opening for a Republican candidate.4

 

Once committed, Davis seized the opportunity. In the notorious "year they threw the rascals out," he trounced a well-known incumbent and joined a corps of reform-minded freshmen who were sent to Austin to shake things up.

 

When the 63rd Legislature convened in 1973, almost half of the House members were first-time lawmakers, and "none were greener than I," Davis remarked.5

 

After taking office, Davis' knack for the political craft made it clear he was uniquely qualified to shake things up. Green or not, he was definitely a player.

 

Davis was featured in Texas Monthly's biennial assessment of best and worst lawmakers three times during his legislative career. Reflecting on his well-known status as a political heavyweight, Davis recalled two skills that were emphasized during freshman orientation: knowledge of the rules and personal relationships.

 

"My ideas were set when I first arrived. The exercise of power is really just an appreciation of knowledge—like the rules and the process—and personalities. There is nothing magical about it . . . I always had an affinity for the Rules of Procedure. My mastery of them helped me become a formidable opponent . . . It was also important to learn what was going on in the basement. I thought what we were doing was important, so I played hard, and I played to win."6

 

Davis authored over 150 pieces of legislation during his 10-year career, many of which dealt with complex aspects of insurance and tax law. Of particular significance were bills passed in 1977 and 1979 related to taxation of intangible property and valuation of agricultural land.7

 

At issue, particularly in cities like Irving which Davis represented, was whether large tracts of undeveloped land should be taxed based on productivity rather than fair market value. Davis argued in favor of switching to an "ag-use" valuation that would reduce the tax burden on farmers who were in danger of being forced to sell their land.

 

Opponents of the legislation were concerned the ultimate beneficiaries would be real estate developers and that cities would make up for lost revenue by raising taxes on homeowners. Acknowledging his bill drew no distinction between corporate and individual landowners, Davis made the case that promoting agricultural production was a worthy goal regardless of ownership.8 Davis and others successfully addressed homeowners' concerns in a constitutional amendment authored by Tim Von Dohlen. Considered together, the legislation provided a balanced solution to an acute problem and included tax relief for homeowners as well as farmers.

 

Altering tax policy is among the most contentious tasks a lawmaker can take on, and not every member is up to the challenge. In this case, Davis and his colleagues negotiated a tradeoff between urban and rural interests that saved cities from a huge tax increase and allowed agricultural land to remain in production.9

 

As a result of his efforts, Davis was named one of Texas Monthly's "ten best" and one of Texas Business magazine's "five best" legislators in 1979. It also burnished his credentials as a "peerless strategist" and a "genius" at the legislative process.10

 

Davis' expertise in addressing complex issues earned him several positions in state government after leaving the legislature in 1983. Three years after returning to his private law practice, Davis became director of budget and planning for Gov. Bill Clements, an experience he said was "fun and difficult."11 He also served on Governor Clements' taxation committee and was a member of the General Services Commission from 1989 to 1995.12

 

Davis practiced law for several years after completing his service in state government. Eventually, he eased out of litigation and focused on wills, estates, and regulatory matters. Davis is now enjoying what he calls "a comfortable period of doing a whole lotta nuthin'." 13

 

Looking back on his legislative service, Davis recalls: "The Legislature was a fascinating place for me . . . I didn't want to give up doing the job of a member, but I absolutely became tired of the process of getting elected." 14

 

Davis says he is not political now. He leaves that work to his son, Doug, and his daughter-in-law, Karina.

 

When we spoke in October, Davis and his wife were preparing for a trip to the Pacific Northwest. "We will be enjoying ourselves and following the trail of Lewis and Clark"15—a fitting journey of discovery for a "force of nature."

 

A collection of Representative Davis' legislative memorabilia is on display in the Legislative Reference Library.

 

1 Burka, Paul. "The Ten Best and the Ten Worst Legislators," Texas Monthly, July 1981, p. 108.

2 Davis, Bob, interview by Nancy Watson and Lindsay Wickham, 10/14/2016.

3 Wilson, Doris E. "Bob Davis: New State Rep Champing at the Bit to Start," Irving Daily News, 11/26/1972, p. 1.

4 Deaton, Charles. The Year They Threw the Rascals Out, Austin, TX: Shoal Creek Publishers, 1973, p. 151, 153.

5 Davis, Bob, 10/14/2016.

6 Ibid.

7 Legislative Reference Library, Legislative Archive System, accessed 1/16/2017.

8 McDaniel, Ann. "The 'Ag-Use' Tax: Does it Spell Relief?" Dallas Times-Herald, 5/6/1979.

9 Davis, Bob, 10/14/2016.

10 Burka, Paul, "The Ten Best and the Ten Worst Legislators," Texas Monthly, July 1979, p. 95.

11 Davis, Bob, 10/14/2016.

12 Legislative Reference Library, Texas Appointment System, accessed 1/17/2017.

13 Davis, Bob, 10/14/2016.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid.

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