End of an era

David Swinford makes it official on Tuesday. He won’t seek re-election to the Texas House of Representatives. It marks the end of quite an era in Panhandle politics.

I’ve called our Panhandle legislative delegation The Three Amigos for some time now. Swinford, along with fellow Republicans John Smithee and Warren Chisum comprised quite a troika for the Panhandle in the House. During the 2007 session, all three filled key committee chairmanships, courtesy of the generosity of the Man of the House, then-Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland, who took good care of his three on the High Plains. Craddick was replaced in the 2009 session by San Antonio Rep. Joe Straus, who removed Chisum and Swinford from the Appropriations and State Affairs committee chairs, respectively. Smithee kept his Insurance panel chairmanship.

Prior to Craddick’s tenure as speaker, the three of them buddied up to Pete Laney of Hale Center, Craddick’s predecessor in the speaker’s office. Even though Laney was a Democrat, he took care of his Republican pals, believing that the Panhandle deserved to have a seat at the grownups’ table. He, too, worked with them on key legislation.

The Three Amigos almost always announced their re-election campaigns together. They virtually campaigned together and, for the most part, managed to scare off credible challengers.

Swinford now plans to spend more time with his children, grandchildren and his wife, Joyce. Good for him. He’s earned a break from the legislative donnybrooks. He plans to remain in office until the end of his term, at the end of 2010.

I knew Swinford only by reputation prior to 1995. I have gotten to know him pretty well since my arrival in the Panhandle in January of that year. It’s just going to seem strange to witness a legislative session without The Three Amigos locking arms and standing up for the Panhandle.

No doubt about it. An era is coming to an end.

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