Out of Control

Democratic lieutenant governor Bob Bullock’s immense power over the Texas Senate has vanished almost overnight. The Republican majority, which everyone said wouldn’t make any difference in how the Senate functions, made a difference after all. When Florence Shapiro of Plano successfully challenged Buster Brown of Lake Jackson, a Bullock ally, for chair of the GOP caucus, it was as if the light suddenly dawned and the Republicans realized that they could act independently of Bullock—and there wasn’t anything he could do about it. The seventeen GOP senators haven’t taken away his formal powers to appoint committees and choose who speaks on the Senate floor, but they are acting on their own without asking permission. Bullock still has respect—he knows everything about the big issues, he is driven by what’s best for Texas, and he has the ear of the press corps—but he no longer inspires the fear that was a crucial element of his power. The situation is probably irreversible, and that raises two key questions: Will Bullock run again in 1998? And will future lieutenant governors ever have the power that their predecessors have had?

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