This will be my last session as a member of the Texas House
Before this legislative session began, Crystal and I decided that it would be my last. By the end of this term I’ll have served 10 years in the Texas House, and it’s been a truly wonderful experience, a great honor, and all that stuff. At the same time it’s been frustrating and at times disheartening, especially since the 2010 elections re-set the balance of power in the Texas Legislature in such a lopsided way.
The norm around here is that you don’t announce that you’re not coming back too early, because lame-duck status can reduce your effectiveness. See, for example, this guy.
So why am I announcing it now? The biggest reason is that there are a bunch of really talented folks interested in running to replace me, and I want them to be able to start introducing themselves to voters without having to tap dance around me.
Plus, I’ve noticed that I’m enjoying this session a lot more knowing that it’s my swan song in the Texas House - I’m enjoying my relationships with the members more, I’m enjoying studying the issues more, and I’m feeling a renewed sense of urgency to make progress on some issues I’ve been working on for several sessions. The expectation is that members will take you less seriously when you’re a lame duck, but I have a sense that it may actually lead to a deepening of the friendships I’ve formed here, which has been one of the most personally gratifying parts of this entire experience.
The floor of the Texas House has to be one of the 100 most interesting places in America. In a space the size of a basketball court, you have 150 people who are, by definition, representative of 150 distinct geographic regions of Texas. I remember being struck when I first got there how you could walk down the aisles of the Texas House and hear every single regional dialect from across the state (and a few from New York.)
If the Texas House didn’t exist for the purpose of democratic self-government, it would need to exist for the purpose of sociological research into what happens when you assemble the most diverse cast of characters imaginable, place them in a small chamber every day for long hours over a five month period, and force them to talk about all the things your grandmother taught you not to talk about in polite company - politics, religion, even sex. All in the context of a reality TV environment in which each action everyone takes has the potential to get them voted off the island. People complain about how unproductive the political system can be; the miracle is that anything ever gets done at all.
As diverse a group as it is, they all have one thing in common: they are all sufficiently sociable to have gotten themselves elected by tens of thousands of voters. There are not many places you can go where everyone greets you with (what at least seems like) genuine enthusiasm, gripping your hand, placing their left hand on your forearm, and looking straight into your eyes as if you are the most important person in the world. My first few days in the House back in 2005 I remember thinking “Holy cow, these are the nicest people in the world.” Then I realized, wait a minute, they’re just using their political mojo on me. I finally figured it out when I started recognizing some of my own BS coming back at me. The members of the Texas House have some pretty good BS.
I know you’re all assuming this means I’m running for mayor of Austin. It doesn’t. I still haven’t decided, and don’t intend to decide until after session is over. I’m very focused on getting the most out of my remaining time as a member of the House. I am thinking about running for mayor, but I’m also thinking about a lot of cool things I could do in the private sector once I’m freed up full time again. I’ve done a lot of work on renewable energy and on education technology, and both are areas where I believe I might have a greater impact through private entrepreneurship than I’m able to have in government.
In the meantime, I welcome all of your thoughts on it. And to the citizens of House District 50, thanks for the privilege of representing you; I’ll continue to do my best for you for the remainder of my term in office.