An amazing development. Gattis has spoken openly of his desire to be president of the United States some day. Now he is out of politics, not even running for reelection to the House. It’s a double whammy, a talented member gone and the dreadful Milton Rister as a possible successor. This is more fallout from Hutchison’s decision not to resign her Senate seat. It is safe to conclude that Ogden would not run for the Senate again if he were not confident of retaining the chairmanship of Senate Finance. He can have that confidence only he knows that Dewhurst will remain as lite gov and not run for Hutchison’s seat if and when she were to resign. Indeed, the purveyors of the conventional wisdom around the Capitol believe that she will serve out her term to the bitter end, December 31, 2012. So why did Gattis decide to drop out? This is one case when the “need to earn a living” and “spend more time with my family” is for real. Gattis was telling colleagues that the campaign had hurt his law practice. The district is huge, going all the way into upper East Texas. Gattis had a very active opponent in Ben Bius, of Walker County (Huntsville). The Bius camp contends that the real reason Gattis dropped out was that the race was not going well for him, that they had knocked on 15,000 doors in Williamson County, that they had been running radio spots for several weeks, that Gattis was having trouble raising money from business interests that didn’t like his support for legislation backed by trial lawyers. They were getting ready to send out a mailer slamming Gattis for offering what they claim is a state “public option” for health insurance, HB 2470, which established the Texas Mutual Health Benefit Plan Company. The company’s board of directors would be comprised of the Executive Director of the Employees Retirement System (ERS), the Executive Director of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS), and seven members appointed by the Governor. The Executive Directors of ERS and TRS would be co-presiding officers of the board. Quoting from the fiscal note: The bill would require ERS to apply to the company for the provision of health benefit plan coverage for some or all individuals covered by the Group Benefits Plan (GBP) under Chapter 1551. The bill authorizes other entities, such as TRS, the Texas A&M University System, and The University of Texas System, to apply for coverage by the company. The bill died in the insurance committee without a vote. Bius had run previously for the House and had not carried his home county, so I’m not sure how much of a threat he posed to Gattis. But he could self-finance his race, and Gattis couldn’t, and that put Gattis at risk. I’m sorry to see Gattis go. He is smart and talented and independent, a rare trio in the House. Some of his Republican colleagues who lacked those attributes were jealous of him. He might not be gone for long. Ogden will serve for only two years before the districts are redrawn, and if he decides to retire (again), which seems likely, the Senate seat will be open in 2012.
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