Texas senators draw lots to determine how long their terms will be

Senators on Wednesday drew lots for two- and four- year terms, a procedural move done in the chamber after districts are redrawn every 10 years. (Kylie Cooper/The Texas Tribune, Kylie Cooper/The Texas Tribune)

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It was the luck of the draw for Texas senators on Wednesday as they drew lots to decide which half of them would get two-year terms and which would get four-year terms.

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The practice is outlined in Article 3, Section 3, of the Texas Constitution, which calls for “Senators elected after each apportionment [redistricting]” to be divided into two classes: one that will serve a four-year term and the other to serve a two-year term. That keeps Senate district elections staggered every two years. After that, senators serve four-year terms for the rest of the decade.

On Wednesday, each of the chamber’s 31 lawmakers walked to the front of the chamber and drew lots by picking an envelope that held a pill-shaped capsule. Inside the capsules were numbers: Even numbers meant two-year terms, and odd were for four-year terms.

“I’m sure each and every one of you are happy with what you drew, right?” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick joked.

Sixteen senators had Lady Fortune on their side and drew four-year terms, and fifteen unlucky souls will have to run for reelection in two years.

That did nothing to dampen the spirits of Sen. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, who drew a two-year term after drawing the number of his district: 30.

“It was pretty lighthearted,” said Springer, who was tracking his chances for a four-year term by using a vote sheet.

Senators drew lots in alphabetical order, and by the time it was his turn, Springer had only a 1 in 4 chance of getting a four-year-term.

Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, had better luck after drawing the number of his district, 9, for a four-year term.

“Kinda cool,” he tweeted. “Odd numbers mean a 4-year term. Honored to serve!”

Sen. César Blanco, D-El Paso, was among the first to draw and ended up with a two-year term.

“As a former House member I’m used to this, so it’s no big deal,” said Blanco, who served in the House, where state representatives are up for reelection every two years, from 2015-21. “It’s always healthy for us to reach out and listen to voters and get their sense of what’s important to them. It is what it is, and I’ll continue to campaign until 2024.”

On the chamber floor, the mood was light and jovial during the drawing, with senators exchanging jokes. After a fellow lawmaker drew a two-year term, Blanco quipped, “It’s a tough pill to swallow, isn’t it?” in reference to the capsule’s shape.

Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, who also drew a two-year term joked, “Well, I have happy political consultants.”

All eyes were on Sen. John Whitmire, a longtime Democrat who has announced plans to leave the chamber to run for Houston mayor after the session, and Judith Zaffirini, a Laredo Democrat who is second in seniority to Whitmire.

Whitmire drew a two-year term, and Zaffirni drew a four-year term.

Three freshmen senators drew two-year terms, including Democrat Morgan LaMantia of South Padre Island, who was in the tightest race in the Senate last year. The two other freshmen, Republicans Kevin Sparks of Midland and Mayes Middleton of Galveston, both drew four-year terms.

Springer said the two-year term would not change how he approaches his job and could have its advantages.

“The advantage of the two years is while you turn around and run again, you just won in a brand new district map, what’s the odds that in one session folks are gonna turn around and want to vote you out?” he said. “Most of the maps are pretty solid Republican or Democrat.”

If senators with two-year terms win their next election, Springer said, they have the option to run for a higher office without giving up their Senate seat in the next statewide election cycle in 2026.

Springer added that senators do not expect to have to draw lots again in 2025 after the chamber voted Wednesday to take up redistricting again to make sure the process complied with Texas law requiring lawmakers to redraw the state’s political maps in the first regular session after the decennial census results are published.

He said that Sen. Joan Huffman, a Houston Republican who will lead the redistricting committee, told Republican lawmakers that if the map’s lines are not changed, there should be no need for senators to redraw lots next session. (Huffman drew a two-year term.)

Here is a full list of the two- and four-year terms:

Two-year terms

Carol Alvarado

Paul Bettencourt

César Blanco

Donna Cambpell

Sarah Eckhardt

Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa

Joan Huffman

Nathan Johnson

Phil King

Morgan LaMantia

Tan Parker

Angela Paxton

Drew Springer

Royce West

John Whitmire

Four-year terms

Brian Birdwell

Brandon Creighton

Pete Flores

Roland Gutierrez

Bob Hall

Kelly Hancock

Bryan Hughes

Lois Kolkhorst

José Menéndez

Mayes Middleton

Borris L. Miles

Robert Nichols

Charles Perry

Charles Schwertner

Kevin Sparks

Judith Zaffirini

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