STATE LEGISLATURES MAGAZINE
TEXAS IS THE FIRST STATE TO HOLD PRIMARY ELECTIONS IN 2014. When the results were tabulated, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst (R), who has held the post for 12 years and presides over the Senate, came in a distant second behind Senator Dan Patrick (R), a tea party candidate. Dewhurst won 28 percent of the GOP vote to Patrick’s 41 percent. Since Patrick didn’t win more than half the vote, he faces Dewhurst in a runoff May 27. Democrat Senator Wendy Davis, who gained fame last year for a nearly 13 hour filibuster of a bill limiting abortion access, skated to victory in her primary for governor, beating her opponent by nearly 60 percent. She is the first woman nominated for governor since Ann Richards 25 years ago. She will face off against Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott. And Senator Leticia Van de Putte, former president of NCSL, ran unopposed for lieutenant governor and will know in May who her GOP opponent is.
TWELVE-YEAR INCUMBENT AND NCSL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBER REPRESENTATIVE LINDA HARPER BROWN (R) LOST HER TEXAS PRIMARY to former Representative Rodney Anderson (R), a tea party candidate who had a single term in the House before his district was merged with Harper Brown’s, setting up this year’s face-off.
NORTH CAROLINA SENATOR MARTIN NESBITT, A VETERAN LAWMAKER WHO RAN FOR OFFICE TO FILL THE SEAT OF HIS LATE MOTHER and served 11 terms in the House and five in the Senate, died in March of stomach cancer. He was 67. Respected on both sides of the aisle, Nesbitt became Senate majority leader in 2009 and became minority leader when the GOP won control two years later. “He was a giant figure,” said Senator Dan Blue, who got to know Nesbitt in the House when Blue was speaker and replaces Nesbitt as the Senate Democratic leader. “He had a sense of mountain populism … and he sensed his major charge was to look out for the average, everyday person.” Nesbitt died 10 days after he received his diagnosis and four days after he stepped down from his post as minority leader. Nesbitt returned home from the hospital the day before his death to a hero’s welcome. Riding in an ambulance escorted by sheriff’s deputies, he watched well wishers line the road with signs and flags, and in tribute to his love of stock car racing, others drove race cars. “Senator Nesbitt cared deeply about people and spent a lifetime fighting for what he believed would make North Carolina a better place,” said Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. State flags flew at half mast.
WISCONSIN ASSEMBLY REPUBLICANS VOTED UNANIMOUSLY TO OUST BILL KRAMER as majority leader following accusations that he sexually harassed a female lobbyist and groped a legislative aide during a trip to Washington, D.C., in February. The caucus met in closed session for 90 minutes before taking the vote. Kramer, a four-term lawmaker who was elected to the post in September, was not present for the vote, and has checked himself into a treatment program, according to his aides. Speaker Robin Vos, who did not support Kramer’s election to the majority leader post, said, “By the unanimous vote that we saw today, I think our colleagues were definitely convinced that the actions were reprehensible and should not have ever occurred, and certainly something he should be embarrassed about.” The GOP caucus selected Representative Pat Strachota as its first-ever female majority leader. She is retiring at the end of the year.
“INSIDE THE NEW MEXICO SENATE: BOOTS, SUITS AND CITIZENS,” by former Senator DeDe Feldman, who served in the Senate from 1997 to 2012, is “insightful and compelling” and a “unique history” written by “a passionate legislator,” according to its reviewers. The 254-page book, published by the University of New Mexico Press, is divided into six parts: La Vida Politica in the New Mexico Senate; Boots, Suits, Leaders and Lobbyists; Dances with Wolves: New Mexico Advocates Take On the Big Boys; Patients and Patience: Turning Around the Battleship; By Grit and Grace; and Good People Trapped in a Flawed System: Ethics, Campaign Finance and Transparency.
NCSL SENIOR FELLOW JACK TWEEDIE, ONE OF THE NATION’S LEADING EXPERTS ON WELFARE REFORM, DIED in January after a long battle with cancer. Jack came to NCSL in 1995 to work on welfare and social services policy from the University of Denver, where he was a lecturer and visiting scholar in the political science department. He received both his law degree and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and had authored a major study on racial and sexual discrimination in the construction industry for the governor of New York. When states pioneered welfare reform in the 1990s, and Congress later followed their lead, Jack crisscrossed the country hundreds of times, testifying before legislatures, helping them craft legislation. He ultimately became director of NCSL’s children and families program. “Jack’s knowledge, commitment and energy helped shape policy across the nation. He made NCSL a leader in one of the most important domestic issues of our time, and he was widely recognized for his intellect and dedication. We and the lawmakers who knew and worked with him are grateful for his contributions,” said William Pound, NCSL executive director.