Beverly Woolley, Republican, Houston, 63
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She was Madame Defarge, knitting the names of future victims into the quilt of her memory. Beverly Woolley personified the worst aspect of the new Republican majority in the House: its insatiable appetite for payback against Democrats. And what had the Democrats done, really, except run the state for 130 years—and pretty damn well too—while helping a Republican governor become the president of the United States?
As chair of the calendars committee, Woolley was perfectly situated to be an avenging angel. Her committee guarded the tollgate through which all bills of any import had to pass before reaching the House floor. Let us not be Claude Rains here. We’re not shocked—shocked!—that Woolley used her position to help the Craddick team and its allies advance their bills. Calendars chairs have been doing that for the leadership since the position was invented. What was shocking was that she ran over people publicly. You’re not supposed to leave fingerprints, much less tread marks. But one particularly contentious day during the particularly contentious tort-reform debate, Democrats wanted to appeal a ruling by Speaker Craddick. The motion required no signatures or votes, just an informal show of hands—ten, to be exact. An infuriated Woolley raced to the microphone to say that she wanted a list of the offenders’ names . . . “Now!”
Equally wild and Woolley was her effort to limit amendments to the congressional-redistricting plan. Debate was scheduled for Monday, May 12; on the previous Friday evening, she asked the House to adopt a calendars committee rule requiring amendments to be in by Sunday at noon. Democrats pointed out that a huge calendar of bills was set to be debated on Saturday, and Sunday was Mother’s Day, so when were they supposed to draft their amendments? And what about the state employees who had to prepare the technical data? Might they want to spend some time with their mothers? “Sometimes those sacrifices are necessary,” said Woolley, who claimed that the Democrats were being given one more day than the Democratic House had allowed two years ago in a similar situation. It wasn’t true. Democrats looked it up; they had allowed four days for amendments, not less than a day and a half. All we can say is, If you’d been there, you’d have gone to Ardmore too.