While national political observers talk about shifting demographics and political dynamics that are slowly pushing Texas closer to tossup territory, Republicans at the state level are using their waning moments of dominance to drive the state further in an arch-conservative direction.
In the span of hours, the state made headlines by executing its 500th person since resuming executions in 1982, calling a second special legislative session when the first failed to successfully subvert Senate rules, and pushing forward with a racially discriminatory voting law that would be illegal were it not for five conservatives on the Supreme Court who gutted the Voting Rights Act.
On Tuesday night, state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth), joined by a raucous crowd and wearing pink tennis shoes, a back brace and a catheter, led an 11-hour filibuster that blocked the Senate from approving a new law that would shut health care clinics across the state that provide abortion in rural areas. The special session ignored Senate rules that typically require a two-thirds vote for such bills. The first anti-abortion effort squashed by Davis, Gov. Rick Perry (R) quickly called for a second special session to convene Monday.
Perry, speaking at a pro-life conference, shot back that Davis, a teenage single mother who later went onto Harvard Law School, "hasn’t learned from her own example."
The outcry over his attempt to jam the abortion bill through proves it is a good thing, he said. "The louder they scream, the more we know that we are getting something done,” he said.
On Wednesday night, the state, which has accounted for about 40 percent of executions since the death penalty became legal again in 1976, carried out its 500th. "God is great," said Kimberly McCarthy, 52, while being put to death by lethal injection for killing her 71-year-old neighbor, Dorothy Booth. McCarthy, a former nursing home therapist who later became addicted to crack cocaine, was the first woman executed by the United States in almost three years.
"It doesn't matter if this is the 500th execution or not," said Booth's godson, Randall Browning. "We're just thinking about the justice that was promised to us by the state of Texas."
On Thursday, the Supreme Court threw out lower court rulings that said Texas' new voter ID law and redistricting plans were discriminatory, following the court's ruling Tuesday gutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
"Eric Holder can no longer deny #VoterID in #Texas after today's #SCOTUS decision," tweeted the state's attorney general, Greg Abbott, after the ruling.