Sunday, February 03, 2008

Janek Exit Makes For Interesting Politics and Speculation

I have been a little remiss in withholding comment on the recent exit of Texas State Senator Kyle Janek (R - Houston) of SD-17, from his senate seat. An exit that takes place a mere two years into his four-year term. I would much more prefer that my own state senator make a similar announcement, but alas.

SD 17 takes in parts of Fort Bend, Brazoria and Harris County, and is considered a “safe” Republican district. You’ll get no argument from me on the Fort Bend part. In Fort Bend, SD 17 includes a small ‘neck’ of real estate covering most of Sugar Land, but excludes less conservative neighborhoods like those in East Fort Bend County.

The thought was originally that Janek was looking for greener pastures, as in a statewide race later on, but his recent statements gave lie to those original reports, and now it looks like he just wants to spend more time with his family.

Is it just me or is everyone getting tired of hearing the same old tired saw that a Republican office holder simply wants to quit for more family time? Could it be that Republicans are starting to pay attention to the vibrations that are beginning to look and feel like a Democratic ground swell? Do these people just not want to be in office when, after years of coasting downhill on the Republican wave, it is suddenly going to get too hard?

Janek was unopposed by a Democrat in 2006, and handily beat his Libertarian opponent by over 40 points. In 2002, when the Buster Brown’s retirement made SD 17 an open seat, Janek defeated Ronnie Ellen Harrison by a 61.42% to 38.57% margin to gain the office, moving up from his HD-134 lower house seat.

So now we have another open seat. And now, by virtue of the fact that Janek isn’t going to make his resignation effective until June 2nd, despite early reports that he would make it as early as March 10th, it looks like SD-17 residents will be without a state senator for nearly half a year. Had he stayed with the original script, with a March 10th vacancy, the seat could easily have been filled in the next regularly scheduled election day, on May 10th 2008. But now, residents will have to wait until November 2nd . . . unless . . . unless Governor Rick Perry decides to call a special election to replace State Sen. Janek.

Now this makes for some interesting possibilities.

It has been long-rumored that State Rep Charlie Howard, of HD 26 has been having a . . . well let’s just call it a strong yearning . . . for Janek’s seat. Now what would happen if Governor Perry decides to wait to fill the seat at the November general election? Well, according to what I have read at the Texas Election Code website, Howard has a choice of either running for his current seat with no opposition from the Democrats, or running for Janek’s seat. He can’t make both. It’s here:
§ 141.033. FILING APPLICATIONS FOR MORE THAN ONE OFFICE PROHIBITED. (a) A candidate may not file applications for a place on the ballot for two or more offices that: (1) are not permitted by law to be held by the same person; and (2) are to be voted on at one or more elections held on the same day. (b) If a person files more than one application for a place on a ballot in violation of this section, each application filed subsequent to the first one filed is invalid. (c) This section does not apply to candidacy for the office of president or vice-president of the United States and another office.

I think this pretty much keeps Charlie Howard off of the special election ballot in November, because if he is successful in both the general and the special, it gets him elected to two concurrent office terms, which is prohibited.

Or . . . OR, Governor Perry can call for a special election. This election can occur at a time between May 10th and November 2nd. This will allow Howard to continue his primary campaign (with two challengers) and then later file for the special election for senate seat even if he is victorious in the primary.

Now should Perry call for a special election before November, this will also allow another state representative, State Rep. Scott Hochberg (D - Houston) to try for the seat. The upside for calling a special election, from Perry’s point of view, is that special elections favor Republicans as they have had historically better turn-outs for these. The downside is that because it is a special election, no one may run under a party banner (although that didn’t stop Shelley Sekula Gibbs when she ran in the special election in 2006).

But then, we have recent Democratic victories in two recent special elections that I am reminded of, the one that saw the election of democrat Dan Barret in HD-97, and the one that elected Melissa Noriega to the Houston City Council.

So there is that worm-turning aspect that should be considered.

All in all, a fairly interesting game of chess.

Bringing me to the other affected race in all of this in the Republican primary: the HD 26 race which has two primary challenges to Charlie Howard in Paula Stansell and Norman Ley. As previously mentioned, there will be no Democratic challenger in this race in November, so Howard, in having two primary challengers, stands a chance of getting knocked out of the state house in March.

Wouldn’t that be a treat?

Of the two partisan challengers, I can find out absolutely nothing about Norman Ley. Given the geography and local memory for previous scandals, I’d say that the only thing Norman has going for himself is that his surname is spelled slightly differently than Enron CEO Ken Lay spelled his.

Bringing me to Paula Stansell. Now, despite the fact that the woman asserts an allegiance to “The Dark Side”, given the choice between retaining Charlie Howard in the state house, and replacing him with this challenger, I think that Republican voters could do far worse than to cast their votes for Paula Stansell. She has a good record of community service and has some very good ideas with regard to education.

If anyone on “The Dark Side” ever listened to, as Liz Mitton calls me, “an Ultra-Liberal Democrat”, I would hope that they would make a great amount of hay on the issue that Howard is not in this for his constituency, but is using his office as just another stepping stone to higher places. That no one can be a serious Republican candidate for HD 26 when he has his eyes set on a bigger prize that is in the offing only months away.

I can only hope.

No comments: