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AUSTIN, Texas – With Congressional redistricting finalized in the state and candidate filing deadlines passed, Texas credit unions have begun to analyze how the state’s political landscape might change with this year’s elections. Re-drawn districts inevitably will promote a “musical chairs” scenario. The question is, “Who will be left without a seat?” Some races to watch: Long-time Texas Representative and credit union champion Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell) is vying for, and is expected to win, what used to be Martin Frost’s U.S. congressional seat in District 24. “On the state level, it’s sad to see Marchant leave, because he has carried a lot of legislation for us over the years,” said Buddy Gill, Texas Credit Union League SVP of Advocacy, “but it could be good news for credit unions on the national front.” Congressman Frost (D-Arlington/Dallas), one of the most powerful Democrats in the nation, saw his district redrawn to heavily favor a Republican, so he filed to run against Congressman Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) in moderately Republican District 32. The potentially heated race is of interest, because both candidates have positive relationships with credit unions. Sessions was the first Republican cosponsor of HR 1151, and Frost has been actively involved in bankruptcy reform. “In this race, credit unions win either way,” Gill said. Congressman Chris Bell (D-Houston) in District 9, who was only recently appointed to the House Financial Services Committee, faces what will likely be a close primary race with fellow Democrat Al Green, who enjoys the backing of State Rep. Ron Wilson (D-Houston). Eight or nine other congressional races are likely to be competitive, Gill said, depending on the outcome of the state’s March 9 primaries. Gill cautioned credit unions to remember that current U.S. Representatives will represent their districts through the end of 2004. This means that credit unions may be required to maintain contact with outgoing Representatives, while at the same time building relationships with individuals who will represent them in the future. Credit unions attending CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference this month will want to schedule appointments with current Representatives, as they will be the lawmakers voting on issues important to credit unions through the remainder of the year. Credit unions also can expect to see major personnel changes in the Texas Legislature on committees that address the lion’s share of credit union issues. In the Texas House, where all 150 seats are up for reelection, 12 Republicans and 19 Democrats face primary challengers. Five are members of the committees that primarily deal with credit union issues: Reps. Chuck Hopson (D-Jacksonville), Miguel Wise (D-Weslaco), and Roberto Gutierrez (D-McAllen) from the House Financial Institutions Committee and Reps. Toby Goodman (R-Arlington) and Glenn Lewis (D-Fort Worth) from the House State Affairs Committee. According to political analysis provided to Texas Credit Union League, Rep. Hopson faces a serious primary challenge from Democrat Frank Ditto of Henderson, as does Rep. Gutierrez, who faces McAllen attorneys Veronica Gonzales and Jim Selman in the primary. Rep. Glenn Lewis, member of the State Affairs Committee, faces a serious challenge from Democrat Marc Veasey, long-time aide and grassroots organizer for Congressman Martin Frost. In the Texas Senate, the only real competition will be for two open seats in Districts 1 and 31, left vacant by the departure of two of the Texas Senate’s most senior Republicans, Sen. Teel Bivins (R-Amarillo) and Sen. Bill Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant). Both districts have candidates headed for a special election runoff Feb. 24. District 1 voters will see Democrat and former State Rep. Paul Sadler pitted against Republican and former Tyler Mayor Kevin Eltife, who has the backing of Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. District 31 voters will choose between Republicans Kel Seliger of Amarillo and Kirk Edwards of Odessa. All 14 incumbent senators seeking reelection are expected to return without tough battles. -

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