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The Best and Worst Legislators 2009

THE WORST: Representative Richard peña Raymond

Laredo

He has spent a career on the legislative docks, waiting for his ship to come in. Sure enough, there it was on the horizon, sails set to the wind, in the form of a plum appointment as vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Eagerly, he jumped on board, took the helm—and charted a course for Davey Jones’s locker.

The problem here is the gap between ambition and talent. One is present (he ran for land commissioner against Dewhurst in 1998), and the other isn’t. Raymond has never learned how to play with others on the playground. On the budget conference committee with the Senate, he kept creating problems that colleagues had to undo, as when he told the media that he intended to close two Texas Youth Commission facilities in other members’ districts. It didn’t stand. He insisted on establishing a $5.5 million regional emergency operation center in Laredo. That didn’t stand either. But he did get a $6.9 million Department of Public Safety crime lab that the agency didn’t ask for. He wanted to be the person other members came to with their requests but wouldn’t tell his fellow conferees what the supplicants wanted, presumably because he hoped to hog the credit. He complained that his fellow House negotiators didn’t respect him while never grasping that respect must be earned.

Raymond engaged in the controversial Democratic strategy of killing voter ID by “chubbing”—House parlance for dilatory debate—other bills. But he failed to realize that most Democrats had lost their appetite for the maneuver; instead, he went rogue and forged on, a shipwreck waiting to happen.

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