Posted: Dec. 15, 2010 


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There but for about 6,000 votes, Colin Bonini was nearly a Republican hero. He came frustratingly close in the treasurer's race, almost the first newcomer elected by his party to statewide office in 16 long-suffering years.

Never mind. Done in by a single vote he cast himself, Bonini morphed into a Republican ratfink.

If the Republicans bother to go caroling at Bonini's house, it could only be to sing him a reminder of his similarity to that lowdown Grinch who stole Christmas, namely, Your heart is full of unwashed socks/Your soul is full of gunk/The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote/"Stink, stank, stunk!"

Bonini was the deciding vote Tuesday in the roll call that kept Tony DeLuca as the state Senate's president pro tem. The Grinch, voting for Rasputin.

The Senate has 21 members, 14 Democrats and seven Republicans. DeLuca needed 11 votes, and he got them from 10 of his fellow Democrats plus Bonini, or else the downtrodden Republicans could have been cheering de-last-of-DeLuca.

Bonini was the only Republican to cross over. Maybe he should be tested for Stockholm Syndrome. He took with him the first chance to give his caucus a meaningful voice in the Senate since the Democrats' occupation of the majority began in 1973.

The Republicans could have pulled it off by sticking together and making common cause with Michael Katz and three other Democrats -- Karen Peterson, Dave Sokola and George Bunting -- allied in favor of Katz as a pro tem dedicated to the proposition that all senators are created equal.

After the roll call, Bonini did not have much to say for himself. He pointed at the empty chair belonging to Cathy Cloutier, a Republican who missed the session, as if to say it was her fault, too.

Except Cloutier was expected to vote for Katz. Not only that, but she was out of town at the bedside of her father, who was gravely ill.

"I thought there were more than 11," Bonini said.

Honestly. Using a woman with a sick father for cover. Other senators showed they were made of different stuff.

Sokola, one of the Democrats backing Katz, was there to vote, despite being but five days removed from hip surgery. It was a statement of his determination, even if he could not quite stand up and be counted, to sit down and be counted.

Dori Connor declined to vote for DeLuca, even though she is a rare Republican who counts on support from labor and DeLuca holds great sway with the unions. Somehow Connor found it in herself to put nerve over nervousness.

It was a curious time for Bonini to cast a "yes" vote after years of cultivating an image as a principled "no" vote, willing to stand alone against taxes and spending and the Democratic monopoly.

Gary Simpson, the Senate's Republican minority leader, called Bonini's vote "disappointing."

Give Simpson credit for doing what he could to honor Ronald Reagan's commandment not to speak ill of a fellow Republican. Other Republicans preferred not to get caught violating the commandment by blasting Bonini anonymously.

"Big, strong, conservative Colin Bonini. He was going to stand up to everyone," one of them scoffed.

"Here was the Republican minority's one shot to make a real difference. Bonini can't hide in the back row on this one. This was one time he could truly have stood up and been counted, instead of casting all those meaningless 'no' votes," another Republican said.

The tumult over the pro tem could have serious fallout. It splintered both caucuses. It left DeLuca's grip on leadership precariously weakened. It is bound to color everything the Senate does, a prism for seeing if senators are on the receiving end of retaliation or reward for the way they voted.

The reason for Bonini's vote is a mystery. Whatever, the Republicans can kiss good-bye the renewal they envisioned with Katz as pro tem.

So much for securing some serious consideration for their bills, committee assignments and interests in redistricting. Especially redistricting. Stink, stank, stunk.