by Molly Ivins
Somepeople have the nerve to claim that colorful politics in Texas are a thing of the past. Pish. Piffle. Poppycock. Consider, just for fun, the case of state Rep. Gilbert Serna, Democrat of El Paso, who is slightly beleaguered these days as a consequence of an 18-month El Paso Times investigation.
In some of the leading items of interest the paper turned up, Serna is accused of:
Of course, the El Paso Times investigation is only about new accusations against Serna; the old ones are fairly peppy, too. Here are some highlights of his lively past, compliments of the El Paso Times:
Serna says, "I spend time there with my friend. I care very much for the lady. ... She's the woman I love, and I spend some time with her there." All agree this is quite touching, and it worked for the Duke of Windsor.
Serna's district has a snappy history. Before Serna was elected in '94, it was represented by "One-Term Tony" Parra, who got elected by toting a wooden cross through the district; he was a major piece of furniture in the Texas House and lost his re-election in the '94 Democratic primary. He became a Republican and died six months later of AIDS complications. Parra's predecessor was Nick Perez, who was frequently investigated by the Austin police on charges of domestic violence, according to the El Paso Times.
This is actually not the most singular history of a Texas legislative district. Amarillo had a district in the 1970s that went from felon to felon to felon. The first murdered his wife, the second bought a pickup truck with state stamps, and the third took to writing bad checks. They can get electorally careless in Amarillo, too.
The reason we dwell on the problems of Rep. Gilbert "It's a Bunch of Lies" Serna is not only to salute the El Paso Times for its excellent work but to pause to cherish the Texas tradition of malefactors in the Legislature. Our last legislative convict, state Sen. Drew Nixon, Republican of Carthage, completed his 180-day prison sentence in January for hiring a prostitute and illegally carrying a handgun. He was allowed to serve his sentence on weekends and got credited time as well, so he actually spent only about 60 days behind bars.
Nixon plans to return to work as a "full-time legislator" and told the Associated Press that he will benefit from the time he spent in jail. "It was definitely a learning experience," he said. "I see how some of the stuff we've done in the Legislature has its application. I think it's going to help me in the next session." We are all infinitely grateful.
This Molly Ivins column first appeared Feb. 1998
December 9, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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