Republicans' grip on Texas Legislature will slip

Posted Tuesday, Nov. 06, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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DALLAS -- Republicans are certain to maintain their majority in the Texas Legislature after Tuesday's general election. The only question is by how much.

A new political map guarantees that Democrats will win additional seats in the Texas House, and Republicans admit that they will likely lose their 102-48 supermajority.

Democrats hope to add 14 members, mostly in urban areas and South Texas, while Republicans want to limit them to six.

One interesting race came in Harris County, where Democratic voters re-elected deceased Sen. Mario Gallegos Jr., who died in the final weeks of the campaign after the county had sent out mail-in ballots.

Gallegos won by a wide margin over Republican R.W. Bray, and Gov. Rick Perry will likely call for a special election in December to fill the seat.

The seat is crucial to Democrats, who want to keep Republicans from achieving a supermajority in the Legislature's upper chamber. Republicans now hold 19 seats to the Democrats' 12.

If Republicans can reach 21 seats, they can suspend all rules and pass almost any bill they wish.

Janie Rivera, 50, a homemaker, said she knew that Gallegos had died but voted for him anyway.

She said her daughter also voted for Gallegos, as did many others from her Magnolia neighborhood east of downtown Houston.

"I had to. I hope he is not forgotten just because of his passing," Rivera said.

"He is on a lot of voters' minds today."

Republicans held a supermajority in the Texas House last year, allowing them to pass almost anything they wished.

Democrats could do little but use parliamentary procedure to slow down the conservative agenda.

More than 99 of the races are virtually uncontested, meaning a real contest exists in only 51 districts.

Of those, only 17 are considered competitive.

By whittling away at the Republican majority, Democratic leaders have said they plan to insist on more compromise.

That will be tough when 20 percent of the lawmakers will be freshmen and many of the newcomers will be Tea Party Republicans who defeated moderate Republicans in the primaries.

Associated Press writer Juan Lozano contributed to this report from Houston.

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