"I'm one fellow that was racially discriminated against. See back in the 70s I was on the first team in basketball at high school my sophomore and junior years. We integrated my senior year and I rode the bench because I couldn't play as good as they did."
-Wayne Christian (R-Center)
Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Center) has drawn an opponent in next spring's Republican Primary. Christian (who LQ ranked as one of the ten worst Texas house members on LGBT issues
), has served as the Representative from House District 9 since 1997 (with a brief break in 05-06 to pursue a fruitless bid for Congress). Christian has historically performed well in general elections (in 2010 more people in District 9 voted for him than for Gov. Perry or Lt. Gov. Dewhurst) and handily won contested primaries in '06, '08 and '10.
His newly declared challenger in the Republican primary, Chris Paddie, is a relative political newcomer. The general manager of Marshall, TX radio station KMHT, Paddie was elected to the Marshall
city council in 2010 and currently serves as Marshall's mayor. 'Mayor' is, perhaps, a bit of a misnomer however. Marshal elects its city council members from eight single-member districts. Each member serves for two years with half of the members up for re-election each year. The council then elects, from among its members, a mayor who presides over city council meetings. The day-to-day business of the city of Marshall is handled by a City Manager who answers to the council. So Paddie's previous election experience is running for city council in a small slice of a small town, a far cry from running in the six county District nine.
District nine is strongly Republican, and the winner of the Republican primary is all but certain to win the seat. So the primary race should be looked at the same way a general race would be considered in a competitive district. Burka
has posted information from the Paddie campaign suggesting that the district, under its newly drawn lines may be primed for a challenge to continued Christian incumbency.
If anyone needs to be reminded why LQ ranked Wayne Christian one of the worst members of the Texas House on LGBT issues the quote at the top of the page should serve as a reminder. Christian was the driving force behind efforts during the 82nd regular and special sessions to defund or ban from state college campuses resource centers that serve LGBT college students (the blindly racist quote was his response to charges that his legislation was discriminatory). Christian's seniority also provides him with an entrenched seat on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, the committee through which any effort to repeal Texas' unconstitutional law against "homosexual conduct" must pass. Christian, along with freshman Rep. Jose Aliseda (R-Beeville) (who recently announced he would not seek re-election
) were, thanks to their possitions on the committee, the most effective opponents of repeal in the 82nd legislature. Both of these members being absent from the committee next session would dramatically improve the chances of repeal.
What of Paddie? Is there anything to indicate that he would be any more supportive of the LGBT community than Christian? It's difficult when dealing with such a political neophyte to draw conclusions. Paddie describes himself as a "social conservative
," which does not bode well. His daily radio talk show backs up that assertion, although reviewing hours of tape from the show has yet to turn up anything overtly trans/homophobic.
The Texas House has an extremely steep learning curve. Most freshman find themselves overwhelmed by the byzantine process and breakneck speed. It often takes new members four to six years in office before they are able to effectively navigate the system and successfully pursue their policy initiatives. Additionally seniority is incredibly important in the House, determining things as insignificant as seating arrangements in the chamber and as important as committee assignments. Even if Paddie is just as maleficent in his approach to LGBT issues as Christian (and it's hard to imagine anyone being more so) his inexperience and lack of seniority would make him a less effective foe than his predecessor.
Christian's departure from the legislature can only be a good thing for queer Texans. This may be the one situation where the devil you don't
know is better than the devil you do.