My daughter Alena was born on July 20, and I am lucky I was there. I'm a Democratic Texas state senator from Houston. Things started heating up in Austin early on in my wife Licia's pregnancy, but by her ninth month, they had reached a boiling point. In the Texas Senate, you need two-thirds of the members to agree to bring up a bill. Ten Democrats and one Republican voted to not bring up redistricting. That should have ended it -- until our lieutenant governor changed the two-thirds rule. The House members had broken quorum in May by fleeing Texas, so my fellow Democratic senators and I decided to follow suit.
I just hoped we wouldn't go before the birth of my fourth child. My wife and I have a 4-year-old son, Leland, and each of us has a daughter from a prior marriage. Nicole is 15 and Maria is 9. I started hinting to my wife that I might have to leave. While she has always been supportive of my work, this time she was, shall we say, chilly. On Friday, July 18, Licia went into the hospital, and I rushed home from Austin to be with her. It was a false alarm. Then a few days later, sure enough, the baby was born. Still, I had come home that weekend knowing I needed to pack my bag. I wasn't sure when exactly or for how long I'd be gone. My wife understood. She is Jesse Jackson Jr.'s former chief of staff, and her father was the head of the N.A.A.C.P. in Cincinnati. Once in a while in politics, you have to believe in something strongly enough that you're willing to make sacrifices.
By July 28, the Texas Eleven, as we came to be called, were on a plane to Albuquerque. Our first week, we were virtually under hotel arrest. There were protests, and some fool was dressed like a chicken, bawking away. I started getting phone calls from right-wing radio-show hosts and their listeners. I've had people use the N-word, and they are not referring to New Mexico. When a man called one night, I said, ''Is this being recorded?'' He said, ''No,'' and I commenced to cuss him out. I also received a box addressed to me, and I got panicky. I had no idea what it was. A bomb? Anthrax? I started hitting it with a fork and realized how ridiculous I was being. At an early press conference, I had mentioned that I forgot my cuff links. I pride myself on being a snazzy dresser. A letter and four pairs of cuff links were in the box. I wore one pair, though I must admit they were rather Santa Fe-ish; I don't like the cowboy look.
When the rumors started about bounty hunters coming to get us, I was actually afraid to go out alone. I'm not a Texan who carries a gun. One morning, I invited Senator Eliot Shapleigh from El Paso to go bike riding with me, and these labor guys who had come to talk to us earlier that week came along to make sure we got back to the hotel all right.
Back home, the Republicans kept trying to drum it up as if we were on vacation. I spent those weeks on the phone with my staff in Houston, working. And while the Pyramid Marriott is very nice, it's not a resort. The rooms cost $75 online, and that's still a challenge for some senators. This is a $600-a-month job. They had a common room where everyone did laundry, but I cheated. I took my clothes to a friend's house. Other folks got real acquainted with ironing boards.
Being away has not been easy for any of us, but there are no words to describe how disappointed I was to find out that Senator John Whitmire decided to go back to Texas. He gave me no indication he was about to bail. All of us senators think we are God's gift, but we put our egotistical selves in check and our disagreements aside to do this in solidarity.
Since I left, my daughter Alena has gained three pounds. Leland started preschool, so I missed his first day, but my 83-year-old daddy, who is battling prostate cancer, went with him to father's night. My son could not start Boy Scouts, because if he has a father at home, the father is supposed to go to the first meeting, and it would be a little hard to explain that his daddy is on the run. Almost as hard as explaining to Leland and Maria that their father is ''in exile'' as opposed to being a convict.
There have been times when I've broken down. Leland and Maria came to visit me in New Mexico, and it turned into a press event. This is not their fight, yet they were in the middle of it. I sauntered over to the restroom because we macho men from Texas don't want to be caught crying. But the hardest thing for me is Alena. I hope 30 years from now, when she's checking me into a convalescent home, I'll be able to explain why I left eight days after she was born. I do believe I'm doing it for her in the end. What's at stake is much bigger than my career or our family's sacrifices. It's about who controls the United States Congress. In the meantime, I have to deal with the fact that my newborn had no earthly idea who I was when I held her in Atlanta, where my family and I spent Labor Day. Babies adjust to voices and smells. I was a stranger, which made it hard to stop her from crying.
A Democrat puff piece, in the New York Times!? Shocking.
I like how the most important thing in his life is "who controls congress." More important to him than his "career and [his] family's sacrifices." Man... what a tool. He's so bloody partisan he ranks the Democratic party over his own family.
Yeah, I notice that too. I was thinking after all that of trying to get people to feel sorry for you, you don't say that you are doing this for fairness, you don't say that you are doing this for the good of all Texans, you say you are doing this for who controls the U.S. Congress?
Though I agree with Grimis anyway, it's not like I'm going to feel sorry for a guy who is doing this to himself. Sure, if he feels that strongly about it, I guess he can take this action (though I'm surprised there is not a provision in the Texas Constitution that prevents this sort of action from actually working). But it is an action he is CHOOSING to make, no one is forcing him. He's not in exile like he claims, he can go home anytime he wants.
I'm also not going to feel sorry for him for choosing to stay at a Marriott (yeah, what a slum! Nothing less than a resort will do!). And I also have my doubts that they are really having trouble meeting the bill. But if they are, perhaps they could choose to stay somewhere cheaper. It can be done you know.
Then the exaggerations start. Nothing prevents his son from being a Boy Scout, despite his claims.
He criticizes John Whitmire for leaving, without knowing his reasons. Maybe he just finally realized that there just may be more important things at home than American politics.
Everything that is wrong in this world can be blamed on Freddie Prinze Jr.
It's telling that you would consider such a thumpin' (which is a registered trademark of George W. Bush, circa the 2006 midterms) as "breaking even." Even W knew when his side got thumped, and wasn't afraid to say so.