Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Capitol Annex: "Pena Deserves, and Has Earned, Another Term"


State Rep. Aaron Pena (D-Edinburg) is preparing for a vigorous campaign season following the Labor Day holiday, he notes over at his blog:

With each session the voice of this community grows and yet the best is yet to come. I committed myself years ago to the service of this community. And although others may seek to cloud my intentions, make no mistake I am seeking re-election to the Texas House of Representatives.

I hope this post makes matters clear. I welcome all challengers.

Some of the clouding Pena’s referring to probably stems from some talk late in the session that he might decide to retire. However, almost right after that came out and he acknowledged he had considered it, he announced he’d seek another term.

As far as challengers go, we’ve heard a couple of rumors here and there. Pena’s vote to support House Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland) is probably what is drawing the challengers out.

But, as we’ve said time and time again, primary challenges to some of the so-called “Craddick Democrats” should be considered carefully; that a Democrat voted for Craddick (as much as we certainly don’t like Speaker Craddick’s tactics) at the start of the 80th Session should by no means be the sole factor upon which a challenge hinges on. Indeed, it is a narrow tightrope to navigate.

Pena, in particular, is a very effective legislator for his district. Search around his blog and you can see some of the improvements he’s helped bring to the Rio Grande Valley. Other Democrats who cast votes for Craddick are criticized for a variety of reasons like inaccessibility, being inactive in their communities, and ineffectiveness. Pena’s none of those.

Too, these Valley districts aren’t like a San Antonio or Dallas or Houston district. The Valley, while still predominantly Latino and Democratic, is more conservative in its voting than it used to be. In particular, in the last generation there has been a major rise of an “upper middle class” and “middle class” in a region that was once predominantly two economic classes: rich and poor (with far more people in the latter than the former).

Pena, by far, is the best situated legislator among the “Craddick D’s” to withstand a primary challenger. Aside from the vote on the speaker’s race, his voting record is very much in line with the beliefs of his constituents. While we may not agree with every vote, it’s probably safe to say that his voting record is very much in harmony with that of his constituents’ beliefs.

There are a number of the “Craddick D’s” we could support a challenger for, should credible challengers emerge. However, Pena’s not one of them.

It’s no secret that we here at Capitol Annex are progressive, liberal, and left leaning in all respects with regard to our politics.

However, we’re also realists. In districts that are “centrist,” running out elected officials who are not as liberal as we may be simply isn’t a good strategy for Democrats right now. Now, in districts where a less-than-liberal or “centrist” Representative is clearly not reflective of his or her constituents beliefs, that’s another matter.

Furthermore, Pena has carried some pretty progressive legislation: voter verified paper trail bills, the Shield Law, legislation to strengthen the requirements for attorneys in capital cases, legislation that does more to ensure that the mentally incompetent are treated fairly in capital cases, and exemption of college textbooks from sales tax. And that’s only in the session just completed.

We’ve said it time and time again, and we’ll say it again: not every so-called “Craddick D” needs to be or should be “primaried.” In some instances, the “eating our own” strategy will backfire.

Pena deserves, and has earned, another term in the Legislature.

Written by Vince Leibowitz
Capitol Annex

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