With very little fanfare, Texans will today have a markedly more ethical, and a significantly more conservative, state House. Two new members of the legislature are being sworn in, filling vacancies and improving the body. One is a Democrat with a working ethical compass, the other is a Republican who will legislate with his principles. In all, a good day for Texans.
Eric Johnson will be the new state representative from Dallas County’s House District 100. He replaces Democrat Terri Hodge, who pled guilty earlier this year to charges stemming from a federal corruption investigation.
She resigned in disgrace as part of her plea arrangement, but her name remained on the March Democratic Primary ballot. Mr. Johnson won that race, meaning he will be the party nominee in November, and was then the only candidate to file for an April special election to complete the current term.
Mr. Johnson will be sworn in at the Capital this afternoon. Mr. Johnson will have no shortage of new friends. Or, at least, folks seeking to make amends. The Democratic Party machine stood resolutely beside the disgraced and ethically impaired Hodge to the bitter end, including State Sen. Royce West and State Rep. Rafael Anchia, among many others.
Meanwhile, Van Taylor will be sworn in at a ceremony in Plano’s city hall. He is taking over the House District 66 seat vacated by Brian McCall, who resigned to take over as chancellor at Texas State University.
Mr. McCall announced his retirement late last summer, and the three-way open-seat primary saw Mr. Taylor emerge victorious in last week’s run-off election — easily dispatching the Republican establishment’s squishy choice.
Along the way, Mr. McCall was offered the Texas State job, which required him to actual resign from office, forcing a special election to fill the unexpired term.
While Mr. McCall has always been complete gentleman, he wasn’t a reliable conservative — often at the bottom of ratings by right-leaning organizations. In Mr. Taylor, Texans now have a much stronger conservative, who can be expected to legislate from a base of commonsense principles.
It’s worth noting that in the last 24 hours of the recent run-off election, a pro-gambling PAC associated with House Speaker Joe Straus dumped $10,000 into the race – opposing Mr. Taylor. This PAC is officed next door to Straus’ top advisor, Gordon Johnson — who lobbies for gambling interests and owns a portion of a Houston race track. Johnson also lobbies on behalf of taxing entities, like the City of Houston. (Straus’ family has very strong ties to the gambling industry; Straus’ father has been a generous donor to the PAC.)
In addition, Straus’ top lieutenants in the House fought strongly against the conservative Taylor in the primary and run-off.
They’ll have to get used to him. Not only did he win primary and grab the unexpired term by acclamation, he doesn’t have an opponent in November.
That he chose to take the oath of office in Plano, where the grassroots activists who fueled his campaign can attend, speaks volumes about just how strong he’ll be going into the legislature.
That’s the kind of House improvement we need to see more of in November.