Monday, June 04, 2007

Breakfast with Burnham Update

I wanted to give you an update on the Breakfast with Lon Burnham event from Saturday, and I'll need to start off with an apology. I don't have my notes with me so I'll have to do this off the top of my head.

I joked with my wife before I left that I was going to have breakfast with the three other liberals in Fort Worth, but actually, the turnout was about fifty people -- many of the them the usual suspects (Democratic Party faithful, activists, labor organizers). When I met Lon on the way in, I thanked him for his efforts to prevent further infrigements on civil liberties in the state. I also thanked him for his work in a hostile environment. "It wasn't hard at all," he said. "In fact, it's a lot of fun."

He then went on to answer my burning question coming in to the breakfast was this: how can you hope to get anything done for your district when you probably the least favorite House member of the autocratic Speaker, Tom Craddick?

Lon has long since accepted life in the wilderness. If Tom Craddick could "disappear" one person in the House, it would probably be Lon. So Lon has gotten used to life wearing a bull's eye. His bills will rarely -- if ever -- get out of committee. His life is one of not so much trying to get bills passed to help his constituents as it is trying to stop legislation that would hurt those in his district. And there is plenty of bad legislation to deflect. He used a point of order to derail a bill allowing the state broad use of wiretapping. He also help defeat the Voter ID law -- a 21st Century version of the poll tax -- that would have successfully disenfranchised many poor and minority (read Democratic) voters.

But his work wasn't all defensive. He managed to get the state to divest from companies doing business in Sudan and pass a law approving a sales tax holiday on environmentally friendly household items like longer-life light bulbs and insulation.

But he was most upbeat about the possibilities of having a new speaker in the House. Craddick's act has worn thin with Republicans. Lon hinted that the Craddick D's -- the House Democrats that have sold out to Craddick -- will all face tough primary fights in the next election. The foundations that Craddick has built his leadership on are looking a little thin.

And there was even strong evidence of bi-partisanship with Lon having more than a few positive comments about a couple of House Republicans from Fort Worth -- Todd Smith and Charlie Geren.

I really left with a sense that there is some sunshine in Texas for those of us on the left side of the political spectrum. Sure, this is still the reddest of the red states. But if we engage and get involved in this next election cycle, maybe we can begin to turn some things around here in the Lone Star State.

No comments: