Dumb and Dumber, the Sequel
Michael Galloway, Republican, The Woodlands, 32. and Drew Nixon, Republican, Carthage, 37.
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Last session, passionate debate raged through the Capitol over which of these two East Texas freshmen was the worst member of the Senate. Given a second chance, Galloway and Nixon showed that they had learned…absolutely zero.
“He doesn’t have two sessions of experience,” a Republican colleague said of Galloway. “He’s had one session twice.” A lamb in the legislative slaughterhouse, Galloway was so inept at passing laws that whenever he made the attempt, senators whispered to one another sotto voce, “First bill! First bill!”—the phrase used to alert one another that it’s time to engage in the ritual hazing of a freshman making his initial try to pass a bill. Not that they needed an excuse to ask embarrassing questions: With Galloway, any question was likely to prove embarrassing. During debate over a bill to allow Houston to build a sports arena with tax revenue, Galloway tried to restrict the use of local sales taxes. “Does this amendment have statewide applicability?” a colleague asked. Galloway didn’t have a clue. “It was not intended to do so, but it may very well” came his opaque reply.
One reason no one took him seriously was that Galloway didn’t take himself seriously. He acted like a lost frat boy from the UT campus who had strayed into the Capitol by mistake, never catching on to the fundamental rule of the clubbish Senate: The way to acceptance starts with decorum. During a somber debate over voluntary castration of sex offenders, Galloway—whose pet project for the session was to lop off Kingwood from the city of Houston—decided that it was a fine time for juvenile humor: “Would you consider this dis-annexation?” he smirked.
He did pass a bill through the Senate containing a method for disannexing Kingwood (after losing on his first try because he failed to determine if enough of his supporters were present), but when it bogged down in the House, he became increasingly frantic. Near the end of the session, he tried to strike back at Houston with an amendment to ban the city from hiring lobbyists, threatening senators who opposed him that he would block the automatic passage of their bills that were designated as uncontested. Lurching and screaming in the ensuing debate, he had to be calmed down by a colleague who stepped in like a patient father: “Slow down, now. Take a deep breath.” Then he agreed to an amendment to extend the lobbyist ban to all Texas cities, never realizing that it was a trap: Senators from cities other than Houston now had a reason to oppose him. In the end he got just 6 out of 31 votes. At the conclusion of the debate, Rodney Ellis of Houston summed up the Senate’s feelings: “I’m reminded of the old African proverb, ‘It takes an entire village to raise a child’—so we’re going to keep working with you.”
As for Nixon, the less said the better. On February 18 he was arrested by Austin police officers for solicitation of prostitution. According to the arrest report, he offered an undercover policewoman $35 for oral sex. This incident is not without precedent. In 1993, the year before he was first elected to the Senate, he was arrested in Dallas with three prostitutes in his car and charged with carrying an illegal handgun. Nixon’s court appearance will not occur until after the session is over (the joke around the Capitol is that his defense will be that his car had broken down and he asked for a tow job), but the incident devastated his fellow lawmakers, most of whom have worked diligently to bury the cartoonish image of the liquor-swilling, woman-chasing Texas legislator.
In one of the session’s rare noble moments, Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, himself a reformed alcoholic, came to Nixon’s defense, answering media demands for Nixon’s resignation with “I will not judge him, lest I be judged.” Nixon, a certified public accountant, served out the session in peace, even making some contributions to the debate over the tax bill. Congratulations. Now go away.