As it was in 2013, so it shall be in 2014: There will be scant lawmaking to speak of in Congress so most of the action will be at the state legislative level. This has been the case pretty much since the 2010 midterm elections that ushered in a wave of Tea Party candidates determined to reduce the role of government by any means necessary. It will be abundantly true in this year’s midterms as well. So you’ll want to pay close attention to state-level representatives and senators, especially in the southern states where African-American political representation and power is in decline, mostly because of gerrymandering. With that in mind, gold star for reporter Louis Jacobson, who compiled for Governing magazine a list of 12 state legislators to watch this year that doesn’t wash only in hot water — meaning it’s not all white, as these watch lists often are.
Some gems from that list:
- Rep. Marcus Brandon, Democrat; North Carolina — A gay, African-American serving in a state that has banned same-sex marriage while making it harder for people of color to vote. If he survives this, he may have a future in D.C.
- Rep. Marilinda Garcia, Republican; New Hampshire — If Congress can’t move the needle on immigration reform, then perhaps politicians like Garcia can help come up with a bipartisan solution. She is running for Congress this year.
- Rep. Cyrus Habib, Democrat; Washington — “Believed to be the country’s first and only Iranian-American state legislator,” is how Jacobson worded it. Hopefully, he won’t remain that one-and-only for long.
- Rep. T. W. Shannon, Republican; Oklahoma — He’s from an African-American and Chickasaw Nation family and is the first black Republican state House speaker in the nation since Reconstruction. Perhaps he’ll join the group looking to change the public face and perception of the GOP.
- Sen. Elbert Guillory, Republican; Louisiana — We saw him celebrate when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, and he’s been hard to watch ever since. After abandoning the Democratic Party he served for years, he’s taken a hard right turn. Whether that brand of conservatism will still be in style in 2014 and beyond is a huge question mark.
Read the rest of the list for more interesting state legislators to look out for this year.