Wedding bells, jail cells mark end of session for some Texas lawmakers

The 85th legislative session ended May 29.
The 85th legislative session ended May 29. atinsley@star-telegram.com

Longtime state Rep. Charlie Geren found a new way to ring out this year’s legislative session — with wedding bells.

A few days after the 85th legislative session ended on Memorial Day, Geren headed back to the Texas Capitol with his longtime girlfriend, self-employed lobbyist Mindy Ellmer, who counts AT&T among her clients.

The two stood in the elegant Capitol Rotunda before a small group that included House Speaker Joe Straus and his wife, Julie, and exchanged vows.

“It just seemed to be the thing to do,” said Geren, a 67-year-old Fort Worth Republican, who noted they had been dating for about a dozen years. “We planned it for a little while, but we didn’t want to do it during the session.”

As for why the ceremony was at the Capitol, Geren said: “It’s where she chose to do it.”

After the June 1 wedding, the two headed off to a party where they announced their news to a crowd that included Ellmer’s parents. Soon, they made their way to Fort Worth to tell even more friends.

“We are very happy. We are very excited,” Geren said. “We’ve had a very [out in the] open relationship for quite some time. The only difference now is that instead of living together, we’re married.”

This is Geren’s third marriage.

Not much has changed, he said. After spending the weekend together, Ellmer was at the beach with friends and he was at his ranch. But both of their phones have been lighting up, he said.

“We’ve been getting a lot of texts,” Geren said. “We’re very blessed to have all the friends we have.”

After the session

The week after the session ended, state Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, was arrested for driving while intoxicated in Dallas.

Neave — who drew statewide media coverage for fasting in protest of the “sanctuary cities” bill during the session — was arrested after hitting a tree.

She posted an apology on her Facebook page.

“Last night, I disappointed my family, my constituents and my supporters. I disappointed myself,” she posted. “I am so grateful that no one was hurt. I am deeply sorry, and will accept the consequences of my actions, and will work to make this right.”

Neave was named freshman of the year by the Texas House Democratic Caucus as the session ended.

Seeking re-election

State Sen. Konni Burton announced Tuesday that she plans to run for another term and two Democratic challengers say they will be in the race as well.

The Colleyville Republican was first elected in 2014 after winning a multimillion-dollar race to represent District 10 — long described as a key political battleground because it’s neither solidly Republican nor Democratic — in what was one of the most-watched races in the state.

She defeated Democrat Libby Willis for a seat that previously had been held by then Fort Worth Democrat Wendy Davis.

“I am extremely proud of the work our team has done on behalf of the people of Senate District 10 and am excited to ask for their support again,” Burton, who has Tea Party ties, said in a written statement. “I ran on a platform of limited government, personal liberty, and the free market system, and my record over the last two sessions reflects a deep commitment to these principles.”

The district includes Fort Worth, Arlington, Mansfield and Colleyville.

At least two Democrats already have announced their intention to seek Burton’s seat.

Allison Campolo, a research scientist and teaching assistant at Oklahoma State University who lives in Euless, announced her campaign on Facebook, saying “this is going to be a long and hard and expensive fight but every sacrifice will be worth it if we can put another progressive in the State Legislature to fight for Texans.”

Beverly Powell, a Fort Worth woman who serves on the Burleson school board and is Burleson Mayor Ken Shetter’s mother, also intends to run. Powell criticized Burton’s ardent partisanship that she said sometimes runs counter to the needs of her district. “It’s time for new leadership that cares more about families here in Tarrant County than about narrow ideology or endless division and I will work to provide it.”

Fort Worth attorney Jeff Whitfield is considering a bid for the office as well.

The first day to file to be on the 2018 ballot is Nov. 11.

A high-caliber welcome

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Vice President Mike Pence recently welcomed in a new astronaut candidate class at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“It was an honor to join Vice President Pence in announcing the next astronaut class who will lead the world in space exploration,” Abbott said in a written statement June 7. “Texas has long been at the forefront of innovation and exploration, and the brave men and women at NASA’s Johnson Space Center are a true testament to this.

“Texas wishes all the candidates well in their future work and I congratulate them on this tremendous accomplishment.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley