Saturday, December 11, 2010

Aaron Peña and the Politics of Being Irrelevant

With the current head count in the Texas State House, currently at 99 Republicans to 51 Democrats, now we have one of those 51 Democrats seriously considering switching parties in order to regain relevance.

From the Texas Tribune:
Peña  explains that with a near-two-thirds majority, how does the Democratic Party function in the State House without being irrelevant? By joining the majority, he hopes, he can better serve his constituents.
“Speculation is growing that state Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, will soon switch parties, giving the Republicans the supermajority they were barely denied on Election Night. Paul Burka blogged about the possibility earlier this week, pulled the post and then put up something tonight after Peña called him from out of town to say that he was indeed contemplating his options.”

Peña  is no stranger to serving himself and his constituents over serving his party’s interests. As one of the Craddick Democrats in the 80th Legislature, Aaron Peña  was able to secure for himself a seat on the House Ways and Means Committee as well as being appointed by the Speaker to the chairmanship of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee all because he threw his support to conservative Republican Tom Craddick to serve another term as House Speaker. It will be well-remembered that this particular legislature nearly dissolved in open revolt as it wound to a close in May 2007.

But this kind of thing, Peña  must think, is not in the cards this time. Democrats will not be able to have that much effect in the politics of legislating this year. Not with Republicans occupying nearly 2 out of 3 House seats. So rather than pondering how to stay relevant in the face of two to one odds, Peña  is simply considering ratting out on his own party.


So this comes as not much of a shock to me, nor should anyone else be very surprised.

The surprise, you could say, will be if Pena’s constituents will send him back to Austin in 2012, should he run for re-election – as a Republican. Hidalgo County, you see, has never elected a Republican to any office. Peña  has always run unopposed on the general election ballot, but has had primary opponents in the “two Eddies,” Eddie Saenz (twice) and Eddy Gonzalez (once).

If either or both of these Eddies don’t see an opportunity here, now that would surprise me.

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