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Texas Rep Wolens declines another run

By Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter

Dallas, TX – Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter: Representative Wolens' announcement came almost two weeks to the day after veteran Republican Senator Bill Ratliff made the same decision. Ratliff spoke of burnout, but stopped short of blaming an increasingly partisan legislature for his departure. Wolens was equally diplomatic.

Steve Wolens, State Representative, Dallas: I don't want to judge anyone in one session. It's not the same as it was when George Bush was governor. He worked with everyone all the time and gave credit to everyone. It was a transition time and my instinct tells me it'll be smoother sailing next time the legislature meets in 2005, but that remains to be seen. And hopefully we'll get back to being more civilized.

Zeeble: Wolens was one of the Democrats who fled to Oklahoma last spring to prevent a vote on redistricting. He doesn't object to the rough and tumble of politics, but was primarily interested in crafting legislation.

Wolens: Even when I lose, I enjoy the experience. Be it working on home equity, working on crime issues, neighborhood issues, consumer issues. It's all exciting and challenging.

Zeeble: If it's so challenging, then why not keep doing it, or try to keep doing it?

Wolens: After 24 years, in many walks of life you want to try different things. When I first got elected, I was single. I have a wonderful wife, three great kids, do a lot of traveling. I love my law practice; that's all fine and good. I'm just going to pass on this round and try something different.

Wayne Slater, Dallas Morning News State House Reporter: He's an institution in the legislature. And he's been a crucial player, but two things have happened.

Zeeble: Wayne Slater, who covers the State House for the Dallas Morning News, believes there's more behind the Wolens decision.

Slater: One, the Republicans are clearly in charge; and the other thing is, he's tired of this.

Zeeble: Wolens began serving in the legislature in 1980. He's been named one of the Ten Best Legislators by Texas Monthly magazine half a dozen times, and has also been praised by a number of groups, from Texas Business Magazine to Common Cause. Slater says Wolens' legislative experience will be missed. So will his skill at defeating what he considered bad legislation.

Slater: You know, the little items sneaked into the 523rd line, he'd find them and have those bills killed.

Zeeble: Slater thinks another Democrat will likely replace Wolens, since it's a fairly safe seat for the party. But Dallas Republican Party Chairman Nate Crain believes Democrats will be hurt by Wolens' retirement, and the opening is another opportunity for the GOP.

Nate Crain, Dallas County Republican Party Chairman: It's a clear statement that the Republican Party is the party of the present and the future. The Democratic Party is the party of the past. Texas is clearly a conservative state. With the resignation of Senator Ratliffe and Representative Wolens, we'll be able to implement those conservative principles.

Zeeble: Steve Wolens acknowledges that may be true, for now, but thinks the Democratic party will rebound.

Wolens: I serve with people who care a lot. You'll see that, over time, there'll be competitive races for offices in the state, more than we've seen in the past. Based on the pendulum swinging. Things change and when they get to be excessive in one direction, they start to swing back in the other direction.

Zeeble: In the meantime, Wolens says he eventually wants to get back into politics, but it's too soon to say when, or for what office, he'd run. For KERA 90.1, I'm Bill Zeeble.

Email Bill Zeeble about this story.