Political And Other Miscellany From A Stout Democrat In Dallas Texas.
"Politics is the only game for adults." --from Robert A. Heinlein's Double Star

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


(These were made as the keynote remarks at the swearing-in and celebration of the newly elected officials, mostly Judges, in Dallas County on January 1, 2007. Chapman was the last Democrat who won election county-wide in Dallas for an entire decade before the party began its local comeback in 2002. The incoming judicial candidates had requested having him there to speak.)

The first thing I wanna know is what took you guys and gals so long to get here? I've been waiting….

When our Party Chair first told me that I would have the honor to make a few remarks to our new officeholders, I immediately began placing two restrictions upon myself. First, I would not make the remarks gloating and partisan. Second, I would not "preach" to our newly elected officials. That's probably the last thing they want to hear after undergoing two months of telephone calls from folks seeking either employment for themselves or their cousin or their brother-in-law, or telling them how to do their jobs.

However, after a week of sitting at a computer trying to create a speech with such restrictions, particularly after a glorious Election Night in November like we Democrats hadn't seen in Dallas County in at least 20 years, I decided "To Hell with it – it simply can't be done." But even when my remarks turn partisan, they apply equally to Republican or Democratic officeholders.

Those of us who serve in elected public office in Texas, particularly judges, find ourselves dealing with the peculiar anomaly of having to be elected on a partisan basis while performing duties that demand an independent, non-partisan philosophy and practice. One of my favorite personal experiences is of the attorney who was walking through the courtroom of the court over which I was presiding, only to stop in mid-stride and say "Judge, are you a Republican or a Democrat. I can't remember." My response to that was "Thank you, I take that as a compliment." And I DID! I considered it a compliment then as much as I do today.

If you are so fortunate as to provoke a similar reaction or comment from those who are the users of your office – if your office is so "user friendly" as to make the issue of your political affiliation a non-issue, then you are obviously doing a good job – the job you were elected to do. You will soon find that you have now become a charter member of a very small fraternity and sorority – one that constantly strives for that unique blend of self-sacrifice and altruism that we require of our public servants in Texas. The PEOPLE of Dallas County elected you and it is those PEOPLE to whom you owe your first allegiance.

The same applies to how you refer to your office. It is not YOUR court or YOUR clerk's office – it is the court or office of the PEOPLE – whether it's the District Clerk's office or the 44th District Court of the County Court at Law Number One or Criminal District Court Number Five or the 302nd Family District Court or Probate Court Number Three, or any of the other courts and offices of our county.

I was asked to tell y'all a little bit about what to expect as officeholders. Let me just say that you're now literally living in a fishbowl – your every action, including your telephone records, your calendar, and what time you enter or leave your parking space, are now "public record". I probably could serve you best by telling you about some of the many mistakes I've made over these past 28 years, but that would take far too long for our celebration today. I'll be glad to meet with you at a later time if you're interested in hearing about them.

Many of you will find that you want to work long hours, believing that you can "do it better" by simply working longer and harder. Let me assure you that with the caseloads and numbers that you will be dealing with, no amount of overtime will ever allow you to do more than stay even. And remember this – your staff, your deputy clerks, your court reporter, your bailiffs, ALL have private lives and responsibilities. Give them time to meet those responsibilities and live their lives.

This goes for you, too. It's not just a coincidence that the divorce rate for officeholders is higher than that of the average worker. Live your lives so that you take time to be with your family and loved ones – to be with the folks you want to be with and to do the things you like to do. Let me assure you that, whatever you might think, you did not arrive at this moment in your life alone. Not only did every one of you have friends and relatives who helped you run your race, who provided you the necessary love and physical, financial, and spiritual support you needed to be here today, there were thousands of others who also helped, many of whom are here in this room today.

Would all the current and former Precinct Chairs stand and be recognized? This is your army – these are your soldiers – these are your infantry that helped you in your fight to be here today. YOU DIDN'T DO IT ALONE!

In closing, although the names I'm about to read apply to the Democratic officeholders here today, any elected Republican would have a similar list. For the Democrats, your way was paved long ago by the loyalty and hard work of many, many plain, ordinary folks in Dallas County – folks whose efforts helped maintain a party infrastructure that, as cycles always do, swung back your way in 2006. And I want to mention just a few of them today. I thought of them often on Election Night and I'm so happy for the opportunity to list them today. Some of you will be too young to recall all of these names. Some or us "more senior" will recall them well. But rest assured, that in God's great heaven, you are being smiled upon today by folks like Millie Bruner, Al Calkin, Peggy Campbell, Bernice Conley, Juanita Craft, Jack Crout, Malcolm Dade, Frances Dirks, Anne Gresham, Preacher Hays (and his damn whistle), Bob Hickman, Oscar Mauzy, Mike McKool, Pancho Medrano, Craig Murphy, Wayne Post, Joe Pitzinger, Jackie Townsell, and, assuredly smiling down on us today, Ann Richards.

Your election has made them proud. See to it that your careers in office continue to do the same.

Madame Chair, I thank you for the opportunity to talk to this great group today.

And, for those of you in the audience, let me say, as I've said for over 28 years, thank you for being my friends.


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