By Marc Campos

The Leading Voice,
20 States Ago

The National Journal released a poll of 53 Democratic insiders, presumably from inside the beltway, asking "Who is currently the leading voice of the Democratic Party"? And the winner is - "No One" (20 votes), followed by Sens. Harry Reid (10 votes) and Hillary Clinton (7 votes). What do insiders know? Commentary bets that not a single one of the 20 "NO" votes has ever had a serious conversation with "No One".

In Texas, who is the leading voice of the Democratic Party? Drum roll please.

There really aren't any statewide figures to choose from. Most of the 2002 statewide candidates have been publicly silent since they were defeated. Sanchez, Sharp, Kirk, Watson - nada to say.

Former statewide office holders? White, Hobby, Richards, Mattox, Mauro. Zilch on quotes.

Current members of congress from Texas? A lot of them are doing a good job locally, but they haven't taken on the statewide stage.

Barbara Radnofsky and Chris Bell? They are just getting their campaigns off the ground. Maybe one or both will emerge as voice(s) of the Texas Democratic Party.

Big city Dem mayors in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Ft.Worth, and Austin? Nope.

Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives. They do a good job, but they are constantly getting rolled by the House GOP majority.

Drum roll please. Commentary would vote for the Dean of the Texas Senate, Houston State Senator John Whitmire. First of all, the dude was burned in effigy by Texas Democrats after his return from Albuquerque in September of 2003. Lesser public officials would have hung up their spikes, gone home, and retire from the game. Not Whitmire. Whitmire calmly explained his reasons for coming home. He bounced back. Got rid of his bodyguards. Now he heads up the last line of defense for Texas Democrats in the Texas Legislature.

This past Saturday, Senator Whitmire addressed the Young Democrats (YDs) of Texas State Convention, held in Austin. Whitmire provided an update of the current legislative session; a detailed account on the behind the scenes story of Albuquerque 2003; and what Democrats have to do to take back control in Texas. Whitmire challenged Democrats to point out where he is less than 100% on the real Democratic Party issues. Results from the YDs - a prolonged standing ovation - the only standing ovation given at the convention.

Knowing Whitmire, he didn't go looking to be the leading voice of the Texas Democratic Party. Like Commentary, dude would rather be spending his time at Minute Maid Park watching the Astros. Whitmire, however, is not one to shirk his duty - and in this case, he is leading the Democrats in the Senate in very difficult times and Texas Democrats should be grateful. Props to Whitmire.

Speaking of the lege, Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick did one of those elected officials in the classroom substitute teacher gigs last week. The speaker was asked by a seventh grader how many members were in the U.S. Congress? Said the Speaker - 400 to 454 on the House side, 60 senators. Mr. Speaker, there were 60 senators when Wisconsin became the 30th state - that was 20 states ago in 1848 - and you appointed the guy that's in charge of overhauling public education. Ouch!

April 18, 2005, 9:00AM

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