April 12, 2012
By Tim Eaton
Last month at the Austin headquarters of the Republican Party of Texas, a nervous-looking state Rep. J.M. Lozano of Kingsville stood with his young family beside some the state's most prominent Republican figures. Lozano announced he was joining their team, becoming a Republican. At that very point, the reigning party in Texas reached its high-water mark in the Texas House with 102 members in the 150-person chamber.
But, by most accounts, the party won't enjoy the atmospherically high numbers very long. Most everyone agrees that Republicans will lose seats in the November election, although the smaller majority could end up being more conservative than ever. And at the same time, thanks to numerous retirements and a large turnover in 2010, the chamber could be the least experienced in decades.
Chris Elam, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Texas, said he expects Republicans to number in the mid-90s. The Texas Democratic Party sees 84 Republicans and 66 Democrats.
Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, splits the difference, projecting a Republican count closer to 90. He said Republicans were not able to protect all their seats during the redistricting process, which led to the creation of more minority districts that tend to vote Democratic. (Unlike Congress, new legislative seats are not added as the state's population increases.)
"The pendulum just went as far as it can go," Jillson said.
Some people predict that — even in diminished numbers — the Republican-led House could take an ideological turn to the political right with more hard-line conservative members in the chamber, compared to past sessions.
"I would expect that the Republican Caucus in the House will be as conservative — maybe more conservative — in 2012," Jillson said....