DeSoto Democrat Helen Giddings won't seek re-election to Texas House, will retire after 26 years
- Written by Gromer Jeffers Jr. Gromer Jeffers Jr.
- Published: 29 November 2017 29 November 2017
DeSoto, TX - After more than two decades of serving her southern Dallas County district, Helen Giddings is retiring from the Texas House. The Democrat made her final decision Tuesday.
"After much prayer, combined with careful and thoughtful deliberation with my family, I have decided not to seek re-election. This is obviously a difficult decision and one that tugs at my heart," Giddings said in a prepared statement. "I deeply appreciate the respect shown to me by elected officials, community leaders and friends in asking me to reconsider my decision. Although extremely difficult, respectfully, my decision remains the same."
Giddings' term ends in January of 2019. It will complete 26 years as representative of House District 109.
"I will serve every day as if it was my first," she told The Dallas Morning News.
Giddings is a business-minded Democrat with deep ties to the Dallas-area community, including its churches and civic organizations.
She's known in the Legislature as a consensus builder who focuses on issues instead of petty politics.
"Helen has been a partner for many years. We're done a lot together," said state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas. "She is a coalition builder who focuses on policy, not skin color or political parties."
West said Giddings helped him with the legislation that brought the University of North Texas law school to Dallas, and many other funding issues involving public education.
Among her many roles, the lawmaker served as co-chairwoman of the Dallas-area delegation to the Legislature and most recently chairman of the Legislature's Black Caucus.
During the last legislative session, she clashed with members of the House Freedom Caucus over their resistance to legislation that would prevent students from being embarrassed when their lunch accounts run out of money. Her speech on the House floor regarding the lunch shaming issue galvanized Democrats and exposed the petty politics that often highlight the Legislature.
"She will be missed," West said. "I'm kind of sick about it."
Giddings enjoyed years in the majority party for a decade, until Republicans in 2003 took control of the House for the first time since Reconstruction.
Instead of embracing tactics of other Dallas Democrats, Giddings worked with Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick at the time, emerging as chairman of the Business and Industry Committee.
Her position as a so-called Craddick D irked some Democrats, but most of her constituents paid closer attention to the results.
"Her body of work, both in the district and at the capitol, will never be seen again," said former DeSoto Mayor Carl Sherman. "She's going to be missed, particularly in this era we're in now. She's a centrist that works across the aisle to get things done."
Giddings is also a pioneering business woman. She is president of Multiplex Inc., a specialty concessions company that she founded in 1989.
And she's ubiquitous in the area's art community. She's served on boards including the African American Museum, Dallas Symphony, Dallas Summer Musicals, Dallas Historical Society and the Dallas Theater Center. Organizers of the African American Museum erected the Helen Giddings Solarium in her honor.
Through the years Giddings has also been passionate about South Africa, traveling to the county many times to meet with officials and enjoy the culture.
On Tuesday night, she is hosting a delegation of South Africans at the African American Museum.
Giddings' departure will create a scramble for the seat. The filing period is set to end Dec. 11.
Sherman, the former DeSoto mayor; DeSoto ISD board vice president Aubrey Hooper; and DeSoto lawyer Taj Clayton are being mentioned as potential contenders, but other candidates are certain to emerge.
Source: Dallas Morning News