At TCU symposium, Tarrant leaders lament partisan rancor

Posted Friday, Feb. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- Stubborn partisanship is preventing national and state leaders from solving urgent problems, a bipartisan panel of three Tarrant County leaders said Friday.

U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, state Sen. Wendy Davis and former U.S. Rep. Pete Geren all began their political careers in Fort Worth -- where, they said, leaders are known for working to find common ground.

The current political atmosphere in Washington and Austin is far from where they began, they said.

"What's happening today is tearing at the social and political fabric of this country," said Geren, president of the Sid W. Richardson Foundation in Fort Worth and a former Democratic U.S. representative and secretary of the Army. "The ideological divide is greater than ever.

"I have always been a political optimist, but I'm concerned that the opportunity to find common ground with the current makeup" of officials is waning.

Geren, Granger and Davis spoke to more than 200 people gathered Friday for the Jim Wright Symposium, moderated by political science professor Jim Riddlesperger at TCU's Dee Kelly Alumni Center.

Granger, R-Fort Worth, won the District 12 congressional seat in 1996 after Geren retired and has won re-election since.

She said the political climate at the U.S. Capitol is "every bit" as bad as it seems to most constituents.

"It's a sad thing when you have people elected to find solutions and instead are finding someone to blame," she said.

That's a far cry from the environment in Fort Worth, where she was mayor from 1991 to 1995. Elected officials worked to live up to the expectations of others, she said, and people worked together to address problems.

Now, in Congress, "instead of finding solutions, it's 'don't blame us,'" Granger said.

Davis, D-Fort Worth, said it's no better at the state Capitol, where she is in her third term.

"It's an evolution of what has happened through redistricting, on both sides of the aisle," she said.

"We have created these very partisan districts ... and we lost the ability to have a conversation in the middle -- where most people are."

Davis said she has seen a shift in Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's approach this legislative session after he lost his U.S. Senate bid last year.

"Unfortunately, I believe the lieutenant governor thinks maybe folks in Texas don't think he's conservative enough," Davis said. "I see him trying to move more that way."

But she remains optimistic about bipartisanship because of state leaders such as House Speaker Joe Straus and state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, Pete Geren's brother.

"I do still have some hope," she said.

She said she is trying to partner with Republican House members on bills and to find GOP legislation in the Senate that she can support.

Granger said there's "some hope" that members of Congress will work together on issues such as immigration reform.

"Both parties believe it's important to address this," she said.

"The last time, the extremes took over."

But now, with a bill in the Senate and a working version of a bill in the House, Granger said, she finds "some differences [between the versions] but not big differences."

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

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