87th LegislatureAdvocacy, Foundations, and Elections Oversight: Here’s What’s Next for Retiring Lawmakers

There will be many new faces in the 88th Texas Legislature after more than a dozen retirements and other members running for different office.
December 26, 2022
Among the non-policy storylines of the Texas Legislature after its 87th Legislative Session and subsequent specials was the sheer number of legislators forgoing re-election. Four senators and 15 representatives opted for retirement, while a number of others sought different office — some successful and some not.

That means there will be many new faces in the Texas Legislature when the body reconvenes on January 10. But the now- or soon-to-be-former members spent years in their respective chambers, and some left positions of prominence.

Chris Paddie, who took office in East Texas’ District 9 in 2013 after knocking off current Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian in that year’s primary, is one such case.

Paddie served as House State Affairs Committee chairman during the 2021 session, one of the more prominent committees in the chamber due to the broad array of legislation through which it goes.

After first announcing he’d seek re-election and then facing opprobrium from the Harrison County GOP over several issues, Paddie announced his retirement in September last year. He resigned his post in March and had a brief stint as a registered lobbyist for Incode Technologies in May, cut short due to a 2019 law placing a two-year moratorium on former legislators registering as lobbyists.

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“As far as the future, as it has been for the last year,” Paddie told The Texan, “my time is going to be much more family focused and my future will not include any elected service. I loved public service, but those days are over for me.”

Paddie still owns a stake in the KMHT radio station based in Marshall, and that too will take up some of his time.

On top of that, last March, he started the Paddie Family Foundation. Paddie closed his campaign account and donated $450,000 to the foundation.

“The nonprofit foundation was created to be the entity that will take the funds that were previously campaign contributions and direct them to charities going forward,” he said. “Although I could have left the funds in my campaign account and made similar charitable contributions, I wanted to create a way to ensure that the funds will be exclusively used for charitable purposes.”

The foundation will have a seven-member board and no employees — and its setup prohibits Paddie or his family from benefiting personally from the organization.

Asked what charitable causes it’ll support, Paddie said it’s not defined specifically yet, but he has an eye on “education and youth-related” projects along with higher education giving. He currently serves on the board of East Texas Baptist University and “definitely plan[s] to support them.”

He also pointed to faith-based organizations in his area that try to feed the hungry along with assisting pregnancy resource centers.

“We will encourage organizations to reach out to us, if they would like to be considered for support, so there could be other worthy causes to support in the future.”

Asked if there is anything he’d like to see his former colleagues accomplish next session, Paddie said, “Nothing in particular. I am confident that my former colleagues will continue to do great things, represent their districts, and do what they feel is best for their constituents and Texas.”

After Paddie’s remarks to The Texan, a report by the Texas Observer showed that the former state representative had again registered as a lobbyist for a collection of clients including Vistra Energy and its subsidiaries Luminant and TXU Energy. He is also representing the High Roller Group, Dallas-based venture capital firm that primarily funds energy-related projects.

Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) has been in the Texas Senate for over 30 years and served two terms in the House before reaching the upper chamber.

He is a relic of a dying breed: outwardly pro-life Democrats. Lucio was the only Senate Democrat to vote for the Texas Heartbeat Act last year.

“I’m a pro-life Democrat,” Lucio told The Texan in an interview. “I’m a Catholic before I’m a Democrat. I’m a pro-person legislator before I’m a Democrat.”

Lucio will be replaced by Morgan LaMantia, the Democrat he endorsed to succeed him. LaMantia had the tightest race in the Texas Senate, fending off a formidable challenge from Republican Adam Hinojosa. Lucio expressed affinity for both candidates and said that he chose LaMantia due to her grandfather’s support of his own run for office long ago when his career first began.

“I’d like to see both sides reach across the aisle, find common ground on the negotiables,” he said. “But I also understand that you can’t compromise and negotiate on abortion.”

As for his time after office, Lucio said he intends to write a book about his years as a legislator and teacher. He’s also going to consult for local organizations, specifically with the goal of feeding hungry families and other charitable causes.

“I remember the joy I felt seeing my dad’s face twinkle when he fed people, and I want to carry that along,” Lucio said. “I’m stepping down but I’m not stepping out.”

“I want to thank you, thank you, and thank you a third time to everyone who worked with me,” Lucio concluded. “And please forgive me if I ever hurt anyone’s feelings for some decision I made.”

State Rep. Jeff Cason (R-Bedford) was a victim of redistricting, an odd position to be in for a member of the party drawing the maps. Of those retiring, he will have the shortest stint in the Texas Legislature, spending only one session in the body.

Cason’s very first vote was against now-Speaker Dade Phelan’s (R-Beaumont) candidacy to hold the gavel. According to Cason, he was deliberately drawn into a heavily Democratic district at the behest of two of his Tarrant County GOP delegation colleagues.

Upon retirement, Cason said his focus will turn to family before anything else along with camping, fishing, and riding his motorcycle.

Since January, Cason has hosted a podcast titled “Back Room Access” in which he discusses his time in the Legislature and the behind-the-scenes discussions that occurred. Retired, Cason said his political focus has moved from writing and proposing legislation to “keeping up with the grassroots to help others be informed, empowered, and engaged.”

He added that he’s been and will continue to be among those calling for the removal of explicit materials found in school libraries.

“We’re aiming to put pressure on these school boards and with the help of these new conservative school board members, it’s starting to work,” he said. “We won’t give up and we can’t throw in because the bad guys are going to keep coming on things like porn in schools and gender modification.”

Asked if he believes his colleagues will pass legislation on those issues, Cason said he doesn’t think so: “It remains to be seen but I wouldn’t bet on it.”

State Rep. John Turner (D-Dallas) was among the first retiring House members to announce he’d forgo re-election in 2022. Son of former Congressman Jim Turner, he served two terms in the House and was among those most frequently seen at the Back Mic probing GOP bills and their authors for vulnerabilities.

After leaving office, he’ll return to his day job at regular hours doing business litigation at Haynes and Boone in Dallas. But his main priority will be spending time with family, especially his two teenage sons: “It’s not a matter of doing certain activities with them, just being around and spending as much time as possible with them.”

“Legislative service can be really meaningful,” he told The Texan, reflecting on his two terms, “whether it’s being a part of something or preventing something unjust from happening.”

“I’m just really grateful to have been a part of it.”

Asked what he thinks the Legislature should tackle this coming session, Turner said he wants the body to “focus on governing, doing the basic business of the state.”

“Getting flashy takes away from the nuts and bolts of the job responsibilities.”

On a future return to political office, Turner said, “I don’t want to close the door on it down the road, but now isn’t the time for it.”

Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) has probably the most exciting “retirement” from the Legislature: she’s the next Texas Secretary of State.

Nelson was appointed to the position by Gov. Greg Abbott on December 6 and will assume office after the New Year. There, she’ll take up what has been a tumultuous position rife with turnover. Abbott hasn’t had a secretary of state nominee confirmed by the Texas Senate since 2017 — but if anyone can jump that hurdle, it’s Nelson, who’s coming off 30 years in the body.

Her last big act in the Legislature was presiding over and driving the 2022-23 budget discussions during the 2021 session.

While Nelson couldn’t be reached for a full interview, she told The Texan, “I won’t be taking up knitting or buying a rocking chair anytime soon.”

“I’m so excited to start this new chapter!”

Going forward, Nelson will now oversee the state’s elections, including the randomized audit of the 2022 election for Harris, Guadalupe, Eastland, and Cameron counties.

There are many, many years of experience in the Texas Capitol leaving office at the end of this term in January. Like others before them, some plan on staying busy with other projects and endeavors, or just enjoying life out from under the pink dome.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.