One thing's for sure: the next State Senator from District 6 will be a Democratic Hispanic female. The only question remains whether that Senator will be State Representative Carol Alvarado or former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia.
The sad passing of Senator Mario Gallegos this past fall — and his subsequent post-humous re-election on November 6th — triggered a special election that Governor Perry has set for Saturday, January 26th. The filing deadline is set for December 27, and early voting will run January 9-22. The special election will be a “jungle style” race with all candidates — and their party affiliation — on the ballot. If no candidate reaches 50%, there will be a run-off.
Gallegos' death wasn't a surprise, nor was the quick entry of Garcia and Alvarado into the race once Gallegos was re-elected. (Had Republican candidate R.W. Bray been elected, it would have been moot because he'd be the new SD-6 Senator. He lost, 71%-29%, to Gallegos. He's now running in the special to fill the seat.) So far, no other heavyweights have entered the race. Former State Representative and US Senate candidate Rick Noriega released a statement that he is not getting in the race, though he did not endorse Garcia or Alvarado.
Beyond the election, the most pressing issue is whether the empty Democratic seat will factor into any rule changes in the Senate when the session begins January 8. (It's worth noting that Rick Perry could have called this special election earlier, however it's likely that the race will go to a run-off given the three candidates announced so far, so it's not entirely clear if the seat could have realistically been filled by mid-January.)
We'll enter the session with 19 Republicans and 11 Democrats in the upper chamber, still enough for the Blue team to block bad bills using the two-thirds rule, which requires consent of 21 Senators to bring something to the floor for a vote. The big question remains whether Republicans will try to change the rules of the Senate to require a simple majority, which will render Democrats irrelevant but might seriously rankle senators in both parties who don't like dispatching with procedural tradition for the sake of expediting extreme partisan legislation. Granted, this session's Senate will be far more ideologically conservative, owing to several Republican retirements and replacements.
In any case, we've got an election set for January 26, and we'll be covering it here on BOR over the next six weeks. Statements from Alvarado and Garcia on the election date are below the jump, as well as Noriega's statement that he is not running. Statement from Rep. Carol Alvarado:
“I am pleased Governor Perry has called a prompt election on January 26th to succeed Senator Mario Gallegos. In just a few weeks, the Texas Legislature will convene with serious issues facing our state – restoring funding to our public schools, creating good jobs and economic opportunity, making college affordable, and protecting our senior citizens. The people of Senate District 6 need and deserve representation on these and all issues, and a January 26th election will give them a Senator sooner rather than later.”
Statement from Hon. Sylvia Garcia:
“Governor Perry's decision to call the special election for Senate District 6 is bittersweet. Our campaign and our supporters are thrilled that the election date has been set. We are knocking on nearly 10,000 doors per week, identifying thousands of supporters, and working hard to earn the votes of working families in this district.
But make no mistake, this session will begin with an empty seat for Senate District 6 at a time when we will see battles over our children's education, expanding Medicaid to bring quality healthcare to our families, and fighting for good jobs in the Houston area. Governor Perry's delay in his decision means our communities will have no voice in Austin for nearly 10 percent of the 2013 session.
That is why it is so important that we elect a Senator with the courage and integrity to fight for schools, fight for our health care, fight for our jobs, and to stand up to Rick Perry. That is why I am running for the Texas Senate, and it is why I believe we will win.”
Excerpt of Statement from Hon. Rick Noriega:
The time is not right to take on this race, and the fundraising needed, for the Noriega family. We are dedicated to public service, and tell you this with much regret-this seat is a true opportunity for leadership, one with which great things could be accomplished.
I would encourage you, and all those interested in this race, to demand the very best Texas has to offer. There is too much at stake here, for the region and the state.
Read his full letter at Off the Kuff.