When Taylor’s new state representative was sworn in Tuesday by outgoing Speaker of the House Joe Strauss (R-San Antonio), he channeled John Steinbeck.
“Texas is a state of mind,” Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) told the packed chamber at the Texas House of Representatives. “The spirit of Texas lives in all of us.”
Talarico defeated Republican Cynthia Flores Nov. 6 for the right to represent House District 52 in Austin. The seat was one of 12 Texas Democrats flipped during the General Election.
And, because Gov. Abbot added a special election to that ballot to replace retiring State Rep. Larry Gonzales, Talarico was sworn in early, earning the youngest member of the Texas House a bit of seniority over the rest of the incoming freshman class.
“The current political landscape is too small for Texas. Our politics are narrow minded and short sited,” he said in an aspirational speech from the House floor. “With every border wall or bathroom bill, we degrade our reputation and dishonor our legacy. Texas is so much bigger than bigotry and so much bigger than corruption and so much bigger than division.”
Jim Rigby of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Austin and Talarico’s pastor, gave the invocation. But he spoke directly to the young official.
“When you were thinking about running for office, you came to the church and asked if I thought you could be a politician and still keep your principles,” he said. “I wish all Texas could have been a fly on the wall to witness your integrity. The sad reality is that, while you are in political office, you will probably never get to choose between pure good and pure evil. Politics is almost always about choosing the greater good, or the lesser evil. And, in entering the Texas legislature, you are entering into a very foggy terrain indeed.”
Straus called Talarico a "political talent" and said he is optimistic about the future of the legislature.
"I think the best laws are passed when everybody has a say and where there's a sense of pragmatism and compromise," said Straus. "And so … I feel like heading into this next session, I won't be here, but I believe that will to reach across the aisle will continue and that'll be good for the State of Texas."
Talarico echoed that sentiment.
“This next session should be about the Democratic Party. It shouldn’t be about the Republican party,” he said. “It should be about chasing a vision of what this state could be. We’re bigger than partisanship, we’re bigger than ignorance bigger than intolerance.’
Then he returned to Steinbeck.
“Texas is bigger than all of those things,” he said. “It’s not just a state, it’s a state of mind. It’s an obsession.”