Carlos Uresti came down with a serious bout of the flu Monday, and left the Capitol after fellow senators noted how bad he looked shivering in the Senate lounge. In particular, Dr. Kyle Janek advised him to get to bed, amidst joking from others present: “What do you think is going to happen? That we’ll call up the Voter ID bill?”
It now appears that Uresti’s illness may have prompted David Dewhurst to recognize Troy Fraser on the controversial bill, which set in motion an emotional outburst midday Tuesday over Dewhurst’s refusal to count John Whitmire’s vote.
Uresti told me late today that he spent a sleepness night and felt too weak to make it to the Capitol today to help Kim Brimer with the Local and Consent Calendar and for a meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee. His office notified Brimer and Jane Nelson’s office that he was ill. Later, his office notified Secretary of the Senate, Patsy Spaw, that he would not appear on the Senate floor until noon because he felt so weak.
Ceremonial resolutions usually last at least an hour in the Senate, and yet Dewhurst picked today to recognize Troy Fraser around 11:30 on the controversial measure, which Democrats have vowed to block. “Maybe it was a coincidence,” Uresti said. “Maybe it wasn’t.”
“I didn’t have the strength to get up. I called them out of courtesy,” Uresti said.
Earlier, I reported that Leticia Van de Putte said Uresti was in his office in the Capitol building when the vote began. Uresti says that is not true, that he was at home when Fraser was recognized, and was frantically summoned by Democrats. “I put on socks that didn’t match,” he said. “I walked in just as they were calling my name (when the second vote was taken Tuesday).”
Democrats were not kept as well in the loop. When Fraser was recognized on the bill and it became apparent Uresti was missing, Chuy Hinojosa grabbed the phone at Uresti’s desk and barked orders to his staff members to get him there immediately.
After the screaming match between Dewhurst and Whitmire, Dewhurst made an awkward and ill-advised attempt to try to patch things up in front of four or five other members. According to a witness, Whitmire, still shaken from their exchange, kept asking Dewhurst to leave him alone, but Dewhurst persisted. Finally, another senator stepped between the two men to shut down the conversation. “It’s hard to imagine another lieutenant governor putting himself in that position,” the witness noted.
How damaged was Dewhurst? This was not a D versus R moment, at least not at the end: In the “scrum” at the podium before the second vote was called, Kevin Eltife and Dewhurst also had a heated exchange about Dewhurst’s decision not to count Whitmire’s vote. But several senators I spoke with today were especially stunned that Dewhurst would turn on Whitmire, a faithful lieutenant, who, afterall, suffered abuse from Democrats for his decision to return from Albequerque.
According to an observer, Whitmire told Dewhurst that being counted absent for the Voter ID bill would destroy him politically. “Forget Albuquerque,” Whitmire reportedly said. “This will kill me in my district. You were willing sacrifice me — to string me up.”
How damaged is Dewhurst?